By Shout 85258’s Clinical Experts.
Most people tend to think of peer pressure as something that only happens to younger people, but this fear of missing out (FOMO) can affect anyone. FOMO is something that a lot of students talk about, and this is often exacerbated by societal expectations of what a university experience ‘should be like’.
The last 14 months of lockdowns, social distancing and lack of face to face contact with people outside of our home, means that the attraction of making new friends, and meeting people might be even greater when we return to university. All of this is good in theory, but sometimes when we want to make a connection, we can do things that perhaps we wouldn’t do otherwise, for the desire to fit in.
Some of the key pressures which we may face at university may be substance use, peers, sexual activity, not prioritising university work, and not sleeping enough. Here are some key things to keep in mind as you navigate your university experience:
Alcohol and Drug taking
While at university, many students may choose to drink alcohol. Everyone is an adult, and has the freedom to make choices around this. However alcohol use can quickly become a much bigger part of our lives than it was prior to starting university. There might be ‘students’ night’ on a Monday, ‘sports night’ on a Wednesday, and ‘£1 drinks’ on a Friday, amongst other things. For some people, going out and not having an alcoholic drink is easy, and no matter what persuasion there is from friends, we can stand strong. For others, going out and being there, with a little encouragement from friends, we can soon have had 10 drinks before we realise. This pattern can escalate.
One way to avoid this, is to not go out on some of the days; plan other things in. You could suggest a movie night with housemates, encourage a gym session or let your friends know that you have uni work to do. Nobody should try to force you to do something that you don’t want to do.
A similar thing could occur with drug use. If you are offered drugs, and don’t want to take them, that is your decision. You have the power to make the choice that is right for you. But remember, drugs are illegal and being found with them in your possession could change your future. Practising how to say no, maybe in the mirror, can be such a good tool to have in your back pocket and can be used in any situation that makes you feel uncomfortable.
At University, we make connections with people so quickly. They can be new flatmates, course peers, and sports team friends. We are thrown into living with other young adults, and this may be something totally new to us. This can be such an exciting, life changing and empowering experience. We are there to make our own decisions and with no ‘parents/carers’ overseeing our every move. However it is not always positive. Sometimes after spending so much time together we can find that these new friends don’t share our values/ morals and realise that we actually don’t want to spend every waking moment with them. This can be a hard cycle to break. It is worth remembering that we can have multiple groups of friends, from different areas of university life, and spending time with others can keep the balance as a positive one.
Yes, we said it. Sex may be something that we have not experienced before, and seemingly everyone at university may be ‘doing it’. This is more than likely not the case, whatever people may say. Sex is a very individual choice initially; we are in control and have the power to retain or give our consent for sex. When we meet someone we trust, and care about, and ultimately want to have a sexual connection and intercourse with, it is our choice, nobody else should pressurise us into doing this. If we are going to have sex, then use protection (ideally a condom) and always seek medical advise if you have concerns about pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections
We are at university to study, and this is such an important thing to remember. Most people choose a university course which ties in with an interest or future aspiration. Attending lectures and seminars is key to getting the best grade possible. The same applies to dedicating adequate time to study, completing assignments and presentations. Setting out a plan or timetable for studying can help us balance our work and social life.
Often at university, very late nights can be followed by early morning lectures or seminars. This isn’t sustainable however, and can lead to us feeling unwell. We all need adequate rest so always aim to get some regular sleep. Fresh air during the day and engaging in some mindfulness and meditation exercises in the evening can help us achieve a better quality night’s sleep.
So in summary, once we become embroiled in a new and often exciting situation, like joining university, our original thoughts and behaviour can change. One way to manage this is to take a reality check, and speak with friends of family at home. They can help us to think through our decisions and to talk about what choices we might have made before coming to university and to compare them to what we are doing now.
University is absolutely a time for fun, but striking the balance between study, socialising and rest is key to making it an even better time! You do you!
If you feel that some decisions are harder to make than others and want to talk it through, text 'SHOUT' to 85258 and speak to one of Shout's trained volunteers, 24/7.
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