Selfcare at Uni

I’ve noticed a lot of mental health posts lately, a lot of news stories of tragic losses, and a lot of awareness being raised by people who suffer from mental illnesses, and so I would like to say my piece.

First and foremost, as cliche as it may sound, you have no idea who is suffering, so it’s important to be kind and considerate to everybody. Unlike physical illness, mental illness rarely manifests itself physically: this doesn’t mean that people aren’t suffering. It also isn’t defined by how severe it is – people can suffer in different ways at different times for different reasons.

Secondly, it is important to listen to people. Of course everyone has good and bad days, but if you’re speaking or listening to a friend who sounds like they may be struggling more than other people then please make sure they know you’re there for them, and make sure that they’re aware that help is available.

Thirdly (and this kind of links to my previous point) listening to someone can make all the difference. Even if you can’t provide much advice or understand things from their perspective, just letting them know that you’re there, that you’re listening and that you will always listen and try to help them through struggles can make a huge difference.

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Going through a mental health illness for many is long term and it can be difficult to overcome when your first instinct is to shy away from people, or isolate yourself, or feel unable to bring up whatever’s on your mind.

It may help to know that this isn’t the case and most people are more than interested and willing to support you.

As a student, mental health is a word I hear constantly thrown around it’s only then that you realise how many people go through the same things as one another.

I’ve said in previous posts that moving away from home takes its toll: I’m at the end of my second year now and I still can’t wait to go home for a few weeks.

Uni can bring about a huge mix of emotions that I feel like a lot of people are afraid to talk about due to the expectation of Uni being the ‘best three years of your life’.

For me (so far) it is the time that I’ve learnt the most about myself: I’ve learnt things that I like and dislike about myself, ways that I’m stronger and more confident than I realised, but also traits that have surprised me and held me back in some ways.

I’ve had some amazing nights out with people and enjoyed the Leeds nightlife, but I’ve also had some amazing nights in just watching films or having me time. (You’ll be surprised at how many people sigh in relief when you suggest staying in for a night of films and snacks).

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I’ve (finally) learnt that having me-time is very important and that I don’t need to meet false expectations of going out multiple times a week and being a constantly bubbly and outgoing person.

In first year, there were patches where I didn’t feel myself at all – just kind of stumbling through Uni life, not quite knowing where I fitted in, navigating through what students should and shouldn’t do and trying to make the most of every single opportunity. This is so normal and so common.

The mixed emotions of having an amazing time and making new friends and discovering new things and being in a new city mixed with the nervousness and worries and overthinking was very confusing to overcome.

Having moved through most of second year, and feeling more settled in our house of eight and feeling established on my course and feeling like I have a real role in my society, made it easier and much happier. I feel more independent in many senses, and have a clear idea of what I want to get out of every opportunity I take.

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But there’s still that confusion of who you’re supposed to be and what happens next and am I doing my Uni years right?

Yes. Is the simple answer. Yes I am. Because I’m taking each day as it comes, and I’m spending the time doing the things that I want to do. And it may not be the way that other people choose to do it but that’s not the point.

It’s actually the advice that my mum gave me that had the most impact: to stop overthinking so far ahead into the future and just live in the now. And make the decisions that will make me the happiest right now.

I’ve learnt to avoid situations that I know will make me uncomfortable or unhappy, and sometimes that does mean turning down a night out or a trip to the pub. But figuring out these things can make your choices easier.

And it’s only through doing that I think I’ve found more of myself. In my two years I’ve gained such a satisfaction of independence and from that I’ve gained a longing to travel and possibly discover new parts of myself that I didn’t know about.

I’ve learnt that sometimes it’s okay not to be okay, and that turning to your friends for support or just taking some time to rejuvenate is the best course of action.

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The best remedies for me are:

  • stretching in the morning/doing yoga
  • putting on some candles or fairy lights and reading a book
  • listening to relaxing music (Youtube has some great playlists)
  • putting on some comfy clothing (usually pyjamas)
  • preparing a hot water bottle and cup of tea
  • taking a long bath/shower
  • watching a light hearted film
  • chilling with the girls I’m close to
  • writing down things that are bothering me

Essentially self care is about doing the things that make you feel most comfortable and most like yourself.

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Often the stresses of University or commitments and responsibility can make you feel detached from what matters the most: yourself, your family and your friends.

Creating your own safe space or finding your own routines of what works can help you to feel more of yourself.  Also having a routine of drinking water and eating three meals a day is really useful (it sounds obvious but it’s true).

I also think it is important to move away from social media for an hour or two if you’re feeling particularly low. Although this is a completely different line of debate, social media has a way of making you feel lonely and isolated, or like all your friends are out and about socialising constantly or living their best life.

I cannot stress enough that people will only post the best versions of themselves. Rarely will someone post a bare faced post of them in bed saying how lonely they feel – social media represents the version of themselves that people want to put across. Which is great and we’re all guilty of it and also very proud of our Insta feeds and Facebook albums, but when you’re feeling low it’s the wrong place to look for solace!

I hope this post has been of some help to anyone who feels a little low – you’re definitely not alone and I know of so many people who feel the exact same way.

What are your tips for people who may be going through the same? 

Sasha xx

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