How to cope with student life

Explains how having a mental health problem can impact upon being a student, and suggests ways of coping and where to go for support.

Your stories

Coping with depression at university

Helen blogs about the challenges of getting a university degree while struggling with depression.

Posted on 17/02/2015

My university life with anxiety

Kerrie blogs about how her anxiety impacts her university life and her decision to live off campus.

Kerrie Wilkinson
Posted on 23/09/2015

Talking about anxiety at university

Emmie blogs about her experiences of managing relationships and anxiety whilst at university.

Emma Togneri
Posted on 24/09/2014

How can I cope with the student lifestyle?

For most people, studying is a time where they socialise with a wide range of people and have many new experiences. While this can be positive, it can also feel overwhelming. This page covers:

For more ideas, check out the Mind Matters resource from Student Minds.

Managing stress

You might feel like there is a lot of pressure to do well academically, as well as pressure to be sociable. 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 using a planner 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.

See our pages on stress for more information, or the Student Minds course Positive Minds for ideas on keeping your university experience positive.

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. The Student Minds blog The Kitchen has ideas for cooking on a student budget.
  • 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.

Managing drugs and alcohol

While alcohol is often associated with the student lifestyle, you don't have to drink if you don't want to. Most Students' Unions 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 while taking it

For more information about alcohol, see:

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

Living with other students

If you have moved away from home, it is likely that at some point you will have to organise your own housing. You may not always feel you have a lot of choice, but you could think about if you want to live:

  • with people who you can talk to about your mental health
  • with a smaller number of people, perhaps in a smaller house
  • closer to campus or somewhere with better transport links
  • near shops and amenities to make it easier to be sociable
  • somewhere quiet with more privacy

Renting a house or flat for the first time is a big deal, but there is plenty of advice and support out there. Check with your university or Students' Union if they provide advice about accommodation, managing landlords and signing contracts. You can also contact Unipol, the student housing charity.

Read Emma's story about surviving freshers and managing her mental health at university. Emma uses her own experiences to give tips about dealing with peer pressure and depression at uni.

 

Want to add your story? Find out more about blogging for us.

Meeting new people

Being around so many other students creates a great opportunity to meet like-minded people. If you are finding it hard to meet new people, remember many other students will feel the same way. Here are some suggestions to help you get started:

  • Volunteering can help you meet people who share an interest with you. Your Students' Union may be able to help you do this. Alternatively, Do-it.org has lots of helpful information.
  • Clubs or societies can be a great way to get to know people and create a work-life balance. See what's on offer at the fresher's fair or, if you missed this, you can find out from your Students' Union at any time.
  • Course forums or email groups can keep you connected if you're studying online. Getting to know people online can also make it easier if the course has events like study weekends where you will all meet.

I don't have the usual student lifestyle because I know that would make me ill. Open University is great for people like me for that reason.

Loneliness

Lots of students feel lonely. Social media can give the impression that all of your friends are hanging out together and having the best time, all the time. This comparison can make you feel more lonely, and loneliness can have a big impact on your mental health.

  • Take social media with a pinch of salt – people usually only post photos of the positive times on social media, giving a false impression of how great things are.
  • Many students feel lonely. Even if you are shy, remember your peers are often in the same situation and appreciate you talking to them. Perhaps you could:
    • talk to someone, or just say hello, before and after each lecture or class
    • meet classmates in the library to plan a joint piece of work
    • chat to people you are living with while making food in a shared kitchen
  • Try peer support. There might be groups at your university specifically for students who are experiencing mental health problems. Student Minds run peer support programmes and mental health campaign groups at universities across the UK.

See our pages on how to cope with loneliness for more tips.


This information was published in February 2016. We will revise it in 2019.


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