Monday 19-01-2015 - 16:48
This is a guest blog by Becky McCerery. Becky is currently studying a foundation degree in Applied Science at Northumbria University and will progress onto Environmental Science in September 2015. She also works for her university as a STEM Ambassador.
In May 2013, research conducted by NUS found that of 1,200 students surveyed, 20 per cent consider themselves to have a mental health difficulty, with 92 per cent experiencing mental distress at one time or another. Avoiding physical and mental burn out whilst at university can be difficult and more and more students are finding themselves bogged down with work and responsibilities during their studies. It’s no surprise then that there is a dramatic increase in the number of students accessing mental health services through their university and GP, but it’s not just those who suffer from mental difficulties that will benefit from taking more time to look after themselves at university - because when you’re at your peak of health and your stress levels are under control you perform so much better both at work and in your personal life. As a student looking after yourself has never been more important, your life is turned upside down with; deadlines, stress, new experiences and more stress.
January is a wonderful time of year as we are greeted by the prospect of new beginnings and fantastic experiences. On the other hand, for many students January means three things: partying, exams and time with family. This can be an extremely stressful time of year when you’re being pulled in three completely different directions so it’s important to keep track of looking after yourself over the festive period. Here are my top five tips for keeping your cool this January:
1. Manage your time
This is probably one of the most useful practices for keeping yourself in check all year round. It’s even handier in January when a lot of us are bogged down with revision for exams, assignment deadlines and the festive period is calling for us to get out and party. My top tip for time management is to find out what works for you - we all have different thresholds for pressure and work before we burn out, so recognising your limits and using them to your advantage is key! You can either use a timetabled structure to really plan out your days (this is especially useful if you’re super busy and routine makes you tick), or if you’re like me and a timetable is too restricting you can set daily goals for yourself and jot them down on a post-it note, then throughout the day you get to feel the pride as you cross things off your list!
2. Learn to say no (and yes)
There’s a lot of pressure to go out partying in the new year and catch up with old friends during your Christmas break but there’s also the pressure of exams so it’s important to learn to say no if you feel like you need to do some extra revision or if there’s an assignment deadline you need to meet. It’s even more important to make sure you allow yourself some downtime to avoid mental burnout as well as physical burn out.
3. Surround yourself with positive and supporting people
Having a secure support network and uplifting friends is invaluable, particularly when it comes to taking care of yourself. We all need people who are going to support our decisions, even if that means having to cancel plans and spend some time alone so you can recharge or get some work done. Unfortunately not everyone can be that understanding – another reason why it’s important to learn to say no and stick to your guns when it comes to what’s best for you.
4. Set sensible New Year’s resolutions (or don’t set any at all)
There’s a lot of pressure for people to set resolutions at New Year. With weight loss being a particular favourite, this is a difficult time in particular for those living with eating disorders. I tend to avoid the resolution bandwagon because I feel it can lead me to set unattainably high expectations for myself, which often leads to disappointment. Still, if setting goals for the New Year makes you feel good, by all means go for it! Keep your goals sensible and recovery focussed - for example, promise yourself you’ll practice mindfulness and relaxation more this year, or other activities to improve your wellbeing.
5. Do something that makes you feel good
Use this time to discover something new about yourself, start a new hobby or rekindle your love for an old one - anything that makes you feel good. As already mentioned, let yourself have some downtime. It’s good to spend some time with yourself and learn to enjoy your own company, and often the best way to do that is discovering a new hobby. Doing something fun and for yourself is usually the last thing on our minds at this time of year – but if you use this time to discover something new, you’ll have a new hobby that you can enjoy and use for downtime throughout the final semester and summer!