Studying at university is an exciting time but it can also bring its own challenges – especially if you are living with a mental health problem.
Mental health problems are experienced by 1 in 4 students at one time or another. From dealing with stress to anxiety and depression, it is important to know you are not alone in facing these difficulties and there are ways to help manage.
We want to help you make the most of your time at LCC and cope with the demands of your course to the best of your ability, so we’ve put together 7 ways to help yourself manage, or care for someone, living with mental health issues whilst at university…
Words by Jyoti Mann
1. Daily positive affirmations
It is common to have negative thoughts and self-beliefs when experiencing anxiety and depression. Positive affirmations can help to counteract those beliefs and retrain the subconscious into a more positive form. Write a list of 10 positive affirmations and say them aloud, or in your head, each morning. These will gradually improve your self-esteem, build up your confidence, and help manage in situations that make you feel uncomfortable. Here’s an example list to get you started…
- I love myself unconditionally
- I am strong, confident and able
- I am a great student and improving each day
- I am capable of achieving my goals
- Though this time may be difficult, it is only a short phase of life
- I’ve been given an abundance of talents that I make use of today
- I allow my fears to simply melt away
- I deserve to be healthy and at peace
- I have power to make change
- My choices have impact and my interactions have meaning
Here’s a link to some more by Huffington Post for some inspiration.
2. Breathing exercises
Deep breathing is highly beneficial in helping to manage anxiety and stress. More often than not, when a person experiences anxiety their heart rate rapidly increases, causing them to feel a loss of control and lack of focus. Deep breathing exercises can help to ground yourself in the moment, leaving you feeling centred and back in the driver’s seat. Here’s one deep breathing exercise that you can practice for as little or long as you need. The ‘5’ breathing exercise – you don’t need to find a quiet space for this one…
- Step 1: Slowly inhale for 5 seconds
- Step 2: Hold it for 5 seconds
- Step 3: Slowly exhale for 5 seconds
- Step 4: Repeat again until heart rate decreases
Try out other breathing exercises by Calm Clinic and find one that best suits you.
3. Practising mindfulness
At the height of anxiety, it is common to feel like the inner critic in your mind is on a megaphone, causing you to lose sight of what is actually going on around you. This ‘senses’ mindfulness exercise can help to bring your attention to the present moment and silence the voice that keeps trying to convince you there’s danger lurking.
- Step 1: Look around and mentally take note of what you see around you – what people and objects do you see?
- Step 2: Now, bring your focus to what you can smell – is it your own perfume, coffee from the person sat next to you?
- Step 3: Pay attention to the sounds that you hear
- Step 4: What can you taste?
- Step 5: Finally, bring your attention to what you can touch or feel – the carpet beneath your feet or the smooth surface of a table?
Check out some of the resources from Mindfulness for Students here.
4. Get moving
Physical activity is known for having significant effects on the mind and body, significantly improving the symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression. Try going for a walk to the local park and be amongst nature, without using your phone whilst there. Practice the ‘senses’ and ‘5’ breathing exercise whilst there and enjoy some quiet time to yourself. To ground yourself, try taking off your shoes and walking barefoot on grass.
Have you been to one of Visit London’s best parks? See the full list here.
5. Reach out to someone
Reach out and speak to a friend, family member or counsellor or GP. Speaking to a professional to help explore feelings and thoughts can significantly help if you are experiencing difficulties that are impacting your studies, well-being, and day to day responsibilities. LCC offers free, one-to-one, confidential counselling to students on campus, as well as at each UAL College and the Student Centre in High Holborn.
A new initiative has been set up to provide students and staff with invaluable support whilst experiencing a mental health crisis at university. The Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) network’s service is available to students, staff and visitors during office hours. As well as providing immediate support to people in crisis, volunteers can also be asked for advice and information from colleagues and students who are concerned about their own, or someone else’s mental health. A list of Mental Health First Aiders is kept at the front desk of each campus site. For more information on the mental health services available at the college visit the link here.
Below is a collection of useful websites recommended by UAL to speak to someone and get advice on mental health issues…
- Students Against Depression
- Mind Mindfulness for Students
- Mood Gym
- British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy
6. Self-care activities
Self-care is never selfish – don’t be afraid to turn down a night out to catch up on some well-needed me time. We spend a majority of our days interacting with other people, on the internet, learning and working. It is important to take some down time, free of distraction to contemplate and reflect on recent events. There are a number of self-care activities you can engage in. Here’s a few examples of things you can do…
- Keep a journal – write about what’s been happening in your life. This will also help to track your moods and emotions – have a pamper session – take a bubble bath, put a face mask on
- Read a book – not for an essay or assignment but for leisure, something that you’ve wanted to for a while
- Create a dream board – collage or list things that inspire and even scare you and use as a visual aid for motivation
- Re-organise your wardrobe – this can feel hugely rewarding after, especially if you donate some bits to your local charity
- Create – whether painting, drawing, colouring or baking
Here’s a list of some more by Psychology Today.
7. Reading self-help books
There are a number of cognitive-behavioural therapy self-help books which offer techniques and exercises that can help with a number of symptoms of anxiety and depression. Here are a few recommendations…
- Mind Over Mood – Change How You Feel By Changing How You Think – Christine A. Padesky & Dennis Greenberger
- Depression and Anxiety – Mark Greener
- Emotional Intelligence – Daniel Goleman
- Feel the fear and do it anyway – Susan Jeffers
See Overcoming’s comprehensive list of mental health self-help books here.
There are many ways of taking action and getting support with your mental health so please do not hesitate to get in touch with some of the recommended services throughout and below.
- Find out more about LCC’s counselling services
- Read about mental health services at UAL
- Read our Postgraduate Review of the Art and Mental Health Forum
This article was originally published on London College of Communication blog.