Being a student is hard, but reaching out for support helps

In this blog from Shout 85258, Abby shares her experience of being a student at university during the pandemic, and some tips on what students can do to look after their mental wellbeing during this time.


Hey I’m Abby, currently a Clinical Psychology Master’s Student. Now you’d think as a psychology student I’d be equipped with the coping strategies needed to manage life’s demands, but it’s never that easy.

Throughout the pandemic I lived alone, worked basically full-time as a key healthcare worker, finished multiple assignments, sat exams and conducted research and analysis for my empirical dissertation. Needless to say, I needed the support of family, friends, colleagues and my academic tutors to help manage my mental wellbeing,  but living far away from most of these people meant they were not always easy to access.


Prioritise your mental health. Everything else will fall into place.


At some points I felt very overwhelmed with all my responsibilities and needed to take some time away from work and volunteering to focus on my education as this is always my top priority. Ultimately, this relieved my mental distress too as I was able to give all my energy to my dissertation which I had neglected for a while.

I recently began sessions with a psychotherapist of my own which has been amazing for my mental health. I can offload and work through any negative thinking patterns or events that have occurred and be reminded to be compassionate towards myself.

Being a student is hard. You are away from home and the things you probably became accustomed to over the lockdown and summer months are no longer there. No one is expecting you to go through your degree without any struggles so reach out to those offering support. The academic staff genuinely care about you and want you to do well, if you feel like you’re drowning then tell someone. You family and friends love you and want to see you thrive in your independence, but no one will judge you if you need a helping hand along the way.

Prioritise your mental health. Everything else will fall into place.


Some tips from a Shout 85258 Clinician on looking after your mental health:


Take the pressure off

We are all dealing with a lot of stress during this time and it’s ok if you aren’t accomplishing as much as you would like. Practice gratitude towards yourself for all that you are managing right now.


Spark joy

A study from the British Academy of Sound Therapy found that nine minutes of music is all you need to inspire joy. Try putting music on while you study and take note of how different music impacts your mood.


Move your body

Exercise is great for the mind as well as the body. If you are self-isolating, consider trying an online workout regime, or start small by stretching for five minutes, doing five star jumps every time you wash your hands, walking around your room if you’re feeling overwhelmed, or taking two-minute dance breaks throughout your day.


Do something nice for others

Consider offering support to friends, family and neighbours through texts, calls, video chatting and letter writing. When you offer support to others you’ll notice you feel a sense of purpose and connection.


Establish a regular bedtime routine

The amount of regular sleep you are getting can directly affect your mental health. Establishing a regular nightly routine can help the body recognise that it’s bedtime and improve the quality of your sleep.


Take a break

You can’t pour from an empty cup. If you overexert yourself you’ll actually be less productive in the long run. Running on fumes won’t get you far. Here are some different types of breaks we urge you to consider:


  • Micro-breaks. Take short micro-breaks throughout your day. Micro- breaks are especially important while working at a computer and doing coursework. Every 20 minutes take a 60 second micro-break. During this break be sure you look away from your screen and change your body position. You can stand up to do a couple stretches, have a quick dance party, grab a drink of water or tea, or do a breathing exercise or meditation. Many people find it helpful to set reminders that alert them it is time to take a quick micro-break.


  • Longer breaks. It's important for your mental wellbeing to take longer breaks throughout the day while doing your coursework. If we live between our beds and desks we can begin to feel a lack of purpose and can become overwhelmed. Be sure to spend at least 30 minutes on an extended  break. Breaks are best if you change your environment. If you can, get outside and connect with others. Breaks can be even more effective if you incorporate a self-care activity like exercise or relaxation.


  • Media breaks. Another important kind of break is a media break. Take a break from the news. During a global pandemic we all experience a loss of control. Experiment with how much consuming the news helps you feel in control and informed vs. overwhelmed and hopeless. Find your most helpful dosage and set limits. Also, give yourself a social media break. Social media can add pressure and anxiety. If you notice you’re feeling worn down or stressed a good move can be to limit your social media usage. Set daily limit reminders in your social media applications to bring awareness to your usage.


  • Take time off. The last type of break that is crucial is a break completely away from your coursework. Take time on your days off and breaks from school to completely disconnect. You won’t forget important information. Instead you’ll rejuvenate and re-energise yourself. During time off, consider what you need to do to disconnect. This could mean removing email from your phone, making a deal with friends and family to not talk about school, etc. Consider what you need to do to shift your focus and disconnect.


If you are struggling to cope, you can always text SHOUT to 85258 to speak to one of our trained, empathetic volunteers. Our service is free, confidential, anonymous and 24/7.


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