The following tips are some ideas that have been found to be important to maintain and improve your mental and emotional health. There are five main areas to keep in mind: Social, Physical, Cognitive, Emotional and Motivation.
We know that people who are connected to others tend to have better mental health. These are some strategies that can be helpful:
- Stay in touch with friends and family – particularly in those early weeks of coming to university.
- Make contact with other people in your course or who live in your hall.
- Suggest possible activities such as having a coffee together or going for a walk at lunchtime and allow yourself to accept offers of activities that others suggest.
- Remember to speak to someone from student support services (or your student counseling center) for help if you are feeling socially isolated.
Caring for your body helps your mind to work better:
- Get into a good sleep routine
- Make sure you get regular exercise
- Eat a good diet
- Attend to illness as soon as you notice yourself not feeling well
- Avoid activities that you know are problematic or that could become a problem such as gambling, excessive use of alcohol, using drugs and letting the internet or computer games steal time from you.
- If there is a problem speak to someone at your student counseling center or your doctor.
Strong emotions will always arise at some times during our lives. Having ways to help manage these so we can think as clearly as possible is a good idea. These are some strategies that can be helpful:
- Learn breathing exercises, meditation or being in the present (mindfulness). Nearly all our anxiety is about something in the past or future.
- Use distractions such as going for a walk, listening to music or (if you are stuck in a lecture) count the bricks on the wall! Or you may find ‘channeling’ your feelings helpful e.g. if you are angry about something go for a run or sing loudly or try writing your feelings down.
- Notice the good times!
- If you continue to be distressed, seek out the help of a professional or a friend.
How you think about things is important in maintaining optimum mental and emotional health. Our thoughts and emotions are linked:
- Aim to think positively. Remind yourself of your skills and abilities.
- Avoid catastrophic thinking e.g. instead of “it’s a disaster that I got that mark”, think “it is unfortunate that I got that mark, what can I do about it”.
- Avoid absolute thinking e.g. instead of thinking “I always mess things up” think “I didn’t do so well that time, what can I do to improve”.
- Avoid comparing yourself with others. You usually end up feeling bad about yourself.
- If you are having troubles talk to someone at your local counseling center or another academic assistance professional.
We all lose our motivation for our study from time to time. These are some strategies that can be helpful:
- Visualize success. Imagine yourself getting your degree, or going out to celebrate – find an image that demonstrates your success and keep that image in your minds eye or find an object to represent success.
- Remind yourself of why you are here and what you hoped for when you started your course.
- Set small, specific, realistic goals.
- Keep good work practices – balance work with fun.
- Talk to others about what you are doing.
- Ask for help from your teachers, professors, or the counseling center if you are struggling.