Looking after your mental wellbeing at university

Clinical Director for Mental Health at Bupa UK
19 September 2016
Young woman eating pizza

Leaving home for the first time is exciting but also perhaps a bit daunting. It’s natural to feel a mixture of both anticipation and nerves. Looking after your mental wellbeing when you go to university will help you settle into your new surroundings and get the most out of uni life.

Below are some of the key things you might be worried about with strategies you can put in place to combat them.

Dealing with home sickness

  • Bring some things from home to decorate your room so you have familiar things around you. You could bring a duvet set, a few trinkets or ornaments, or some pictures in frames.
  • Continue with your habits and hobbies. For example, if you used to go swimming at your local pool every Tuesday evening, do the same in your new town or city. Or if you have more of a home-based hobby, bring it with you and continue in your new home.
  • Use your senses to soothe yourself if you’re feeling uncomfortable or a bit anxious. You could: watch the sky, the clouds, or the sunset; put on a favourite fluffy jumper or silk shirt; listen to a favourite song; moisturise with a favourite scented lotion, cook a favourite meal and enjoy the aromas and tastes.
  • Keep in touch with home by all means – a regular skype slot each week might be a good way to see and talk to your family if you’ve moved further away. But don’t overdo it either. You need to give yourself a chance to stand on your own two feet and get involved in your new environment.

Meeting new people

  • Ground yourself in the present moment. If you feel yourself start to withdraw from a group conversation, pick one of your senses and hone in on it. Focus on an object for a few seconds, for example, to bring yourself back into the present moment.
  • Put yourself out there – try not to avoid situations that make you uncomfortable. Instead decide what you’re going to do but make sure you plan in rest time afterwards to recover and recharge your batteries.
  • Join a club. This takes the pressure off – if you have a common activity or shared interest you’ll have something to do and talk about already.
  • Share your worries with others. You’re all human, even if others look completely at ease, everyone is in the same boat and going through similar feelings. It helps to remember this when you’re feeling a bit lost.
  • Share your stuff! Whether it’s a pot or a pan or a pack of Pringles, being friendly and sharing with others is likely to incite the same behaviour in others.

Living with other people in halls or a house share

  • Cleaning rotas might be a good idea. If you’re living in a shared space with new people, this can be a good way to stop anyone feeling upset about mess and hygiene. Rotate what room you’re cleaning each week so that no one gets lumped with the bathroom every week! Have a kitty where you can buy cleaning products and toilet roll for the household to keep things fair.
  • Living with others means there’s likely to be noise every now and then. Hopefully you’ll all be considerate to each other, but consider getting some ear plugs or listen to music through your headphones. If it’s a bit noisy and you’re trying to study or relax, it might be worth suggesting a communal rule about noise levels ie agreeing ‘quiet time’ at certain times of the week.
  • Be assertive. It’s important for people to understand that we all have different values and opinions. It is often the case that that 'there is not one right'. Therefore, while it’s important to listen and consider different views this shouldn’t mean that you feel pressured into changing your own views or wishes. As such, it’s really important to acknowledge the other view, but also to express your own or to express how the other person's action make or made you feel.
  • Resolve conflicts. Different ideas and personalities means you might sometimes clash with another person. Remember that ‘agree to disagree’ can sometimes go a long way. Always try to resolve conflict in its early stages – otherwise it simply escalates and cascades like wildfire. If you’re in the wrong, a meaningful apology goes a long way. The easiest way to resolve conflict is in a calm environment between the people involved; not in a drunken state in front of a group.
  • Bond with your new housemates. Do some fun things together such as a regular movie night, pub quiz or Sunday roast. You could all write down your suggestions and put them in a hat to draw one out each week.

Moving away from what’s familiar takes time – but you’ll get there. Do what you can along the way to make things easier on yourself and look after your mental wellbeing.

Here at Bupa we understand how important your family is. So with our family health insurance you can rest assured knowing that eligible treatment and support is available for your loved ones when you need it.

Pablo Vandenabeele
Clinical Director for Mental Health at Bupa UK

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