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How to cope with student life

Explains how you can look after your mental health as a student, giving practical suggestions for what you can do and where you can go for support.

Managing stress

You might feel like there is a lot of pressure to do well academically, as well as pressure to be sociable. In particular, mature students often say that they feel under stress if they are struggling financially and they have invested money in the course as part of a career change, which can create extra pressure to do well.

Try to build up strategies to manage stress before it gets too much, so it's easier to respond to additional pressure – for example, around exam times.

  • Try out some mindfulness exercises. There is a lot of evidence to suggest these can be really helpful, especially for managing stress. Take a look at our mindfulness pages for more information.
  • Try using a planner. This can help to keep track of deadlines and key commitments and organise your study.
  • Take time out to relax. Getting away from your desk, even for short periods of time, can help keep you calm.
  • Keep an eye on social commitments to avoid overloading your schedule around deadlines and exams.
  • Try online support and apps. There are lots of apps and websites available that can help you to manage your stress levels, such as those offering a daily meditation or mindfulness practice. For more information on online support, including apps, have a look at our pages on mental health online.

For more tips, see our video on managing stress as a student. For more information, see our pages on managing stress, or the Student Minds blog, to hear how other students have managed stress.

Looking after your physical health

Looking after your physical health will help you stay healthy and maintain concentration to study well.

  • Get good sleep. If you're tired, your worries can get blown out of proportion. Getting into a regular sleep routine can help you stay on top of university life. See our pages on coping with sleep problems for more information.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Eating a balanced and nutritious diet can help you feel well and think clearly. See our pages on food and mood for more tips.
  • Exercise regularly. Keeping active can help you improve your mental health. Even gentle exercise, like yoga or swimming, can help you relax and manage stress. See our pages on physical activity for more information.

"Tiredness is one of the biggest problems with the student lifestyle and it can contribute significantly to my mood. I feel more emotional and less capable when I am tired."

You may face additional struggles looking after your diet and exercise if you have eating problems or a diagnosed eating disorder.

Take a look here as Mary talks about common misconceptions around eating disorders and how to make the student lifestyle work for you.

Photo of Laura smiling and standing on a rugby field

Rugby tackling mental health

"Rugby was the one thing that always gave me some release from the whirlwind of my mind."

Coping in an alcohol or drugs culture

While alcohol is often associated with the student lifestyle, you don't have to drink if you don't want to. Students' Unions and student-led groups offer a range of social events and activities that are alcohol free. Remember:

  • Alcohol can worsen depression and cause other health problems.
  • Try to ensure you have some days without drinking.
  • Be careful if you are taking medication, as it's usually recommended not to drink or to limit the amount you do drink, while taking it.
  • Having a friend around when you are out, or establishing a buddy system, can help to keep you safe when you are drinking or engaged in drug use. Student Minds have further tips on staying safe here.
  • Don't accept drinks from someone you don't know and always keep your drinks with you to help avoid your drink being spiked (with drugs or alcohol). Take a look here for further information about drink spiking and what to do if you think your drink has been spiked.

For information on where to get help, see our page on useful contacts for drugs and alcohol support.

Illegal drugs can also have a serious impact on your mental health. See our pages on recreational drugs for more information, or see Frank for confidential information and advice.

Surviving freshers – coping with mental health problems at university

"I felt like I was the only one not enjoying myself..."

This information was published in September 2018.

This page is currently under review. All content was accurate when published. 

References and bibliography available on request.

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