Maintaining positive mental health for new students - by Andrew Cullen

Picture this, you’ve just begun on your new course at University/College. It may be your dream course or it may be something you’ve decided on last minute. Either way, life may be seeming very different just now; new experiences, new opportunities and lots of new people. It’s understandable that things may seem out of control, unmanageable and that your mental health may be suffering as a result. 

As the new semester begins, you may be wondering how you can gain control of the situation and indulge in the new chapter of your life. So here’s some tips into making your first year a success! 

1. Begin by quieting your mind! 

Whatever negativity is currently in your mind or if there’s something constantly getting you down it’s so important to allow yourself time to clear your body and mind of any toxicity and negative vibes. To be able to manage this, you might be best to try several methods whether that be; meditation, mindfulness or through manifestation. Stop what you’re doing and take a deep breath. When you breath in, think of what you’d like to come into your life... this could be new friends, a hobby, happiness. When you breath out, release the negative energies and think about what you’re trying to move past. Relaxing your mind and making clear what you truly desire can help to focus you intentions when going forward. Positive thinking, attracts positive vibes.

2. Make sure you value yourself! 

You’ve made it this far and you’ve done it! You’ve gotten into your course, it’s a massive achievement and it’s time to appreciate and praise yourself for getting to where you are now! It may not have been your first choice, or it may not have been your chosen destination but regardless, don’t put yourself down. It’s important going into further education to accept that ‘failure’ is not a thing. It may be easy to self-criticise but you’ve got to remember you’re new to the experience, every single person will be feeling the same way as you. Practice makes perfect, and time is healing. Trust your own abilities and back yourself, walk into the room (or zoom) and know what you’re capable of. Treat yourself with kindness and try not to be too hard on yourself if things don’t go to plan. You’ve got years to perfect it! 

3. Take care of your body!

A healthy body is a healthy mind and such an influencing factor to your mental health. Whether you’re living at home, adjusting to student accommodation or travelling between. Make time for self care. It’s good to create a meal plan or to set times in the day for meals, study and rest. Without a solid plan it can lead to distractions, snacking or picking up bad habits. Take small breaks, drink plenty of water, and eat nutritious meals during your day. Your new course, may be time consuming and planning around it might be difficult! Therefore, creating a plan for the week with your timetable, meal times, exercise and sleep is essential! A lack of sleep or an unhealthy lifestyle, can effect your studies and your mental health. It may also be good to talk to others on your course and to make connections and learn of new cultures, try new foods and enrich your own knowledge!

4. Break up the repetition!

Your timetables, schedules and meetings will be a good way to increase efficiency and provide yourself with some reassurance but it’s good to incorporate time for changes. Allow for a variable with your time, allow an hour a day for ‘change’. This could be a new walking route, time to learn a new skill, or even just changing your room around! The smallest changes can sometimes make the biggest impact, it will spice up your life and provide some perks to your schedule! By breaking down a routine, it will allow you to feel more comfortable with change and the new experiences that your time as a student will propose. With the current pandemic and uncertainty, allowing yourself time to adjust to change will be so beneficial in the long run helping to reduce stress and anxiety around the issue. 

5. Surround yourself with positive people!

So we’re all familiar with the terms introvert and extroverts and all though these terms may seem very different there is one similarity between them, they both deserve to have positive influences in their life! If you’re staying in student accommodation, then you never know... your new roommate may become one of your best friends, a future partner or someone you simply cannot live without. It will be nerve-racking at first to introduce yourself, make plans or spend time getting to know one another but sometimes making the first step or making a small gesture can go a long way! Whether you’re living with others, living at home or with family you never know what somebody else is going through! Make the most of joining groups, societies and reaching out to others. The concept of reaching out to support mental health has always been highly recommended but it’s also crucial to reach in, dig beneath the surface and make personal and lasting connections with others. Having a supportive network of family or friends will make your university or college experience much more enjoyable! Try not to worry too much if this doesn’t happen at first or straight away, it’s a new experience for you all and some people will be more confident than others. Try not to focus on what others have achieved or who they’re friends with! Focus on your own connections and networking and go at a pace that suits you, it’s good to test and challenge your comfort zone but never feel pressured into doing anything that you don’t feel comfortable doing! 

All that’s left to say is, I wish you every happiness in starting your new student lifestyle! Be kind to your mind and live for the moment, grasp the opportunities that arise with both hands! Seek help when needed, stay strong and remember that mental health is not a battle to be won but instead it is a journey to keep walking. Once you start appreciating life, that’s when you realise what you truly have to live for you! 

Mind over matter, trust the process! 

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