By Gurpreet Singh, counsellor at relationship support charity, Relate
There is a direct link between positive relationships and your mental health.
It’s no secret that becoming isolated is easy without good relationships. Having a network of people around you means having the emotional support that’s vital for a positive mindset.
Of course, creating and maintaining good relationships with friends, your family or a partner isn’t always so simple. Here are some ways you can improve your relationships and mental health.
When you move away from home and into university accommodation, it can really feel overwhelming — you might feel separated from all the people you know and in a totally new environment. It’s not uncommon to find yourself beginning to feel isolated or lonely.
Isolation is a tricky thing because it can begin to build up its own momentum. If you’re feeling low and alone, you’re often less likely to reach out to others.
Sometimes, it’s easier to start things slowly. Instead of putting lots of pressure on yourself to meet loads of people quickly, try one or two things to connect with and meet new people.
That might mean going along to a society meeting or sports club. It doesn’t have to mean going to parties or the union bar — we know that can feel like jumping in at the deep end.
Perhaps there’s a low-key social event like a pizza or movie night in your halls that you could pop along to. It can even be something as simple as saying hello to someone in the hall or striking up a conversation in the kitchen.
If you know somebody in your accommodation that’s on the same course as you, suggest walking to the lecture together, hitting the library when you’ve got assignments coming up.
One slightly surprising tip when it comes to meeting new people is to try to show some vulnerability. This can feel like the last thing you want to do when you’re already feeling a little neglected. But sharing how you’re feeling with people can be a great way to build real connections, and it’ll encourage others to do the same with you.
Also don’t forget the existing support networks in your life. There’s no shame in calling home to get a little emotional support - or in travelling home for the weekend if it’s practical.
Depending on how your relationship is going, having a partner can be either a great source of support or create some challenges.
Arguing with your partner or feeling like you aren’t as happy together as you used to be can be stressful and anxiety-inducing. Research suggests that people in distressed relationships are three times as likely to experience a mood disorder, like depression, than those in healthy relationships.
That’s why giving your relationship the attention it needs is so important. It can be easy to assume that relationships should just take care of themselves, but that isn’t usually the case. Most couples need to communicate effectively, letting each other know if something is wrong and talking it through together.
It’s so important to let your partner know how you’re feeling and for you to listen to their feelings. Otherwise, you risk this source of unhappiness turning into resentment over time.
This can be an especially big risk if you and your partner go to different unis — as it can make it even harder to keep talking things through and maintain a sense of connection.
If you want to get more ideas about strengthening your connection, take a look at these communication tips to try with your partner. You can also check out our advice on how you and your partner can handle being at separate universities.
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