Mental health is something that I feel everyone should be trying to look after as much as you would look after your physical health. Mental health issues, mostly anxiety and panic attacks have been a part of my life for many years now and university life and stress has been a contributing factor more recently. They got increasingly bad around exam seasons and I eventually had to take part in some therapy during my first year of college due to an increased number of panic attacks after some mock exams going poorly. I then experienced more issues with mental health concerning university, I was anxious about going to a new city and whether I’d make friends and having to be more independent.
Whilst being here, I’ve devised some of my own coping mechanisms to help myself if I’m having a particularly bad day. I’ve been using them increasingly less during this year the more I’ve settled into university life but having them quick to hand have always been useful. I’ll admit that I’ve not always been the best at looking after my own mental health throughout the years. However, now I’m in a better mind set so I thought I’d give some tips to help anyone else who may be struggling. I can’t guarantee it will work for everyone because, of course, everyone is different but hopefully it can at least give some inspiration.
Note it down
I quite like to write down things that are worrying me and I keep a little set of worry sheets by my bed (as that’s when I tend to do the most worrying). Once I have noted it down, I then have a think about whether it is something within my control or not. If it is something I can control, I think about how I can solve that worry. If I can’t control it, then it helps to just have it out on paper rather than going around in my head. This process has really helped me, especially in my first few weeks of university when I had a lot of worries about starting my course and making friends. Being able to write down my worry and then properly stop and think about if I could control it, helped me realise that a lot of worries I either had no control over or they were quite easily solved. This helped me to put my anxieties into perspective and I was able to relax and get to sleep easier on a night.
MindfulnessIf you’ve had similar experiences as me, then mindfulness is probably a word you’ve heard a lot. It’s one of the most popular recommendations for looking after your mental health. When dealing with stress, anxiety or panic attacks, having mindfulness strategies at your fingertips is extremely useful. Especially if you can find a few that are your favourites or work the best and remember them and repeat them a few times a day, even when you feel like you don’t need then. That way, you will have the technique mastered so that you can go into them more quickly if you find yourself in a sudden situation where you need them. I learnt a breathing technique that really worked for me which became second nature in college. Through practice, I was able to automatically go into it when I was particularly stressed or panicked. This is especially useful if you get into a place where you’re not thinking the most rationally, as you won’t need to think to do it. You can find mindfulness videos on YouTube; both free and paid for books in shops or online and they’ll all give generally good outlines of how to use mindfulness both in day to day life and when you really need it.
Make tasks smaller
If I’m struggling to get certain things done due to a lack of motivation, then I make even the smallest tasks as small as possible. A good example for this is getting out of bed in the morning to go to university. If I need to get out of bed but I’m struggling to find the motivation, I break it down into smaller steps and really think about each step. It seems a lot easier if I first aim to sit up in bed; then to stand up from the bed. It can even be possible to make those tasks even smaller if it’s really needed to the point of just opening my eyes; propping myself up slightly; then sitting; turning so my legs are out of bed; feet on the floor; then to standing. This is a technique that I made for myself, so thought I would share and see if it works for you too.
I hope some of these tips are useful 😊