Over lockdown, my inbox was flooded with emails expressing concern over students’ mental health. Uni in general can be stressful, depending on how much time and emotional investment you put into it. Living away from home can be scary (though I’ve come to love it). That said, if you’re worried about feeling down or know your mental health is suffering, there are lots of things you can do to take care of yourself, which is the FIRST AND FOREMOST priority.
As you go through your degree, it’s really important to keep these two things in mind:
- You can get extensions. Taking care of your mental health is so important. Things happen, just reach out and ask for lecturers’ consideration. Remember, you’re what’s most important and lecturers tend to be extremely understanding about this.
- Take care of yourself. Don’t put so much importance on your degree so that you’re devastated if you miss a reading or don’t do so well on a test. Uni isn’t just about grades; it’s about friends, getting to know the city, making the most of the opportunities you have, accessing the resources around you, and getting to know all the wonderful people interested in interesting things. Also remember that one bad grade won’t ruin everything! It’s just a grade, out of a 3+ year degree, a single paper out of several, and in one semester. Take a step back and zoom out. You’ll see how much smaller problems are once you take away all the significance you add to them.
Now, onto practical advice.
- Don’t compare grades! Sometimes people ask me what I got. If I’m comfortable telling them, I do. Other times I don’t feel like sharing and I just say, “I’m happy with my mark.” I don’t like to ask people what they got so I don’t set myself up for comparison.
- Carve out a space in your day where you do things that make YOU happy. This can seem impossible at times, with everything on your plate and feeling you have to do it all at once. I spent way too much time trying to maximize the 12 hours of the day. Sometimes I overdid it and felt totally wrung out and overwhelmed the next morning, only to realize it didn’t set me at any advantage. Instead it left me burned out. The good thing about uni is that you can regulate your own time. Carving out a time in the day to do things that make you happy is so much more fulfilling than just spending that same time on your phone or procrastinating. It can be something as simple as going to bed early, watching something that relaxes you, calling a friend back home, or trying a restaurant you’ve been wanting to go to.
Get out and about. If you start to feel a little down, it’s good to get outside – whether it’s spending time with friends, going out for a walk and putting your earbuds in, or just mixing up your environment. I like to go to the Academy Cinema by the public library ($5 nights on Wednesdays) or go out for a run.
- Helping others is so rewarding and can help put your own problems into perspective. The university has a volunteer-week, but if you click on the link below you can see what sorts of volunteering opportunities are available all year through. Many clubs can connect you to volunteering, like the Animal Rights club. See: https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/for/current-students/cs-life-at-auckland/volunteer-hub.html There are many organizations available for as much or as little time as you can spare, if you are interested in distributing food to the homeless just leave me a comment below! (Tuesdays and Sundays outside the Auckland Public Library).
- Make use of the uni counselling sessions! They are free. It’s good to talk about what’s on your mind and hear the thoughts of someone totally neutral and impartial.
- Reach out and talk to people. I know this can seem intimidating at first, but just think about it this way; if someone reached out to you after a bad day, you’d be concerned and happy to talk to them. I’ve heard of so many people who get homesick or have a long day and are just down the hall from me, only to hear about it days later. If you live in halls, RA’s are also good to talk to, that’s what they’re there for! For the most part, everyone is super nice and super willing to have a chat, we’ve all been there.
- Make use of the uni gym! First year is free. I know everyone says this, but you really do feel great after going. It gets your blood pumping, your endorphins going, etc. Go with friends or go alone, and the walk back is always so peaceful.
- Remember it’s perfectly normal and perfectly fine to have bad days, just like in any other stage of your life. Going to uni doesn’t mean your mental health will automatically suffer. What’s good about university is that there are so many more resources available to you to take care of yourself as you complete your degree and navigate becoming an adult.