How to Look After Your Mental Health Whilst at University

A blackboard with text 'how to look after your mental health at university'


Hi everybody! I hope you're all doing fantastically well. I don't usually upload new posts on Thursday, but the day that this post is being uploaded marks A level results day in the UK. This is the day that students aged 16-19 at college will receive their A level results, and will likely be sitting refreshing UCAS at 8am to find out their grades! If that is you, then I'd like to take the opportunity to wish you a huge well done! If you got the grade you wanted and whether you are going to university or not, congratulations!! On the other hand, if you left the hall disappointed then it's important to remember that the letters on paper are not the end of your story. You are entitled to be upset and disappointed, but try not to dwell on it if possible as there are plenty more options including access courses, resitting modules and finding a different university during clearing.

Backtrack four years to my results day and I was super happy, I found out that I'd got into my firm choice before going into school to receive my grades. I was delighted that I was going to be studying at my university of choice, as I'd been hoping to study at a university local to me and commute daily.

The one thing that I hadn't anticipated when I started university in October was the fast decline in my mental health. I don't want this post to be one of those negative rants about my life, but it was really, really tough. I left my comfort zone entirely, a new place of education; more difficult work and my entire support network had split up to study elsewhere. I was an anxious mess. I hid my anxiety from everybody, hoping that I would 'settle in' to university and it would go away, but it didn't. Four years later, I still suffer from complex mental illness. There's so much about mental health at university that I wish I'd known about at the time, and this is why I really wanted to write this post. Whether you have a diagnosis of a mental illness at this time which you're trying to control, whether you're suffering in silence, or whether you're just reading this post in hope that you can help somebody else; I really hope that you are able to take something from this post.


Find out About Your Universities Counselling/Mental Health Services


It actually took me until the fourth year of my degree to find out that my university had free counselling for all students. When I was at breaking point, I booked an appointment to see a counsellor and I had an appointment the following week, from application. This length of waiting list is much smaller than that of the NHS, so it's worth knowing where you can go to sign up, even if you don't feel you need it at this present time. My counsellor was a fantastic listener, gave me a load of useful resources including online CBT and paper resources for calming an anxiety attack. I was also referred to the university's mental health specialist, so that she could look into exceptional circumstances. Many universities do actually make adjustments for mental health illnesses, whether it's extended deadlines or more time in exams.

Make Contacts with Course Staff


As a super shy individual, I found that this point actually really helped me. Make sure that you go to see your personal tutor (you should be allocated somebody when you start!) and openly discuss your issues and worries with them. Personal tutors should be trained in pastoral support so, therefore, they should be able to guide you in regards to the best points of contact for problems that are out of their control. Likewise, if you have difficulties with the actual course, make sure to get in contact with the corresponding module leader and either email them or use their office hours to gain access to the support that you need. The staff really are there to help, and they want you to do well!

Look After Yourself and Don't Give into Pressure


I know, the age-old cliché, but it's vital that you continue to look after yourself whilst at university. I think this is more so the case if you're living away from home and in halls. It's so important that you eat nutritiously, drink lots of water and keep up with your coursework. Here's some easy advice; be careful with the takeaways, buy fruit as snacks (bananas are super cheap) and take your own meals to the library rather than buying meal deals.

It's also really important that you are able to juggle your studying with looking after yourself and relaxing. This is something that I really struggled with, and believe me, to be overworked is not a nice feeling at all. What I find helps me is to make a timetable of work, so that I am able to schedule in time to relax and do whatever I please, whether it's reading a book (but under no circumstances can this be a text book!) or going to the shops.

Additionally, make sure that you have plenty of time to socialise, in whatever format makes you happy. But, please, don't give into social pressure! At university, particularly in first year, there can be a lot of parties, getting drunk and clubbing. But whether that's not your scene, or you just don't feel like it on some days, make sure that you're able to say no. I've had far too many nights out where I've thought that drinking will cheer me up, but I've ended up crying in a nightclub toilet at midnight. Not fun, and not cool at all. There's nowhere I'd have rather been than my bed!

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: My Evening Routine: Mindfulness & Self-Care


Maintain Your Recovery Plan 


This is more so aimed at individuals who already have a diagnosis of a mental illness and are actively treating it. Please, make sure to get in touch with services local to the university! Make sure you are registered with a GP nearby to where you're studying so that you can get your medication, and if you wish to do so then ask them for a referral to a counsellor/therapist. I know that some of my friends would travel home to go and visit a therapist they were with there, although whether this is plausible for you likely depends on a variety of factors including how far away you live, the frequency of visits and how well you feel like you connect.

Make sure you make the effort to keep in contact with family and friends as a source of social support too. Arrange visits to and from home to keep your head held high!

Are you going to university this year? Or, if you've already been, what would your advice be for new starters? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Chloe x

72 comments

  1. Thank you so much for your comment! It's so important to give yourself a break. So so important! If you don't, you'll never stop! <3

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  2. I’ve just finished my first year at univeristy and I can relate to how overwhelming it can be, loved this post! X

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  3. That is so exciting! Good luck Alys! xx

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  4. Thanks so much Molly! Glad you liked it! <3

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  5. This post really resonates with me as I had to seek for support at university this year for my mental health. I'm so happy that universities have wonderful student wellbeing centres and have helped me stay grounded during a difficult year. I'd definitely agree and advise that you should be seeking support as soon as you don't feel 100% yourself or feel yourself slipping into a bad mental health phase. The people who help out at my uni are so lovely and I wouldn't be able to carry on without them. Lovely post Chloe xxx

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  6. Thanks so much for your comment Charlotte! I definitely agree, it's better to seek help sooner rather than later. I wish I had! xx

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  7. Thanks so much for your comment Megan. Yes definitely, just ask!! I really hope you have a better year lovely <3

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  8. It is so important to look after your mental well being, especially when you're in college. If something happens, it can drastically change your college path going forward (eg. grades going down/etc). YES on communicating with others - especially course staffs. It's OK to say no! You're not obligated to go anywhere you don't want to. Thanks for sharing these positive tips!

    Nancy ♥ exquisitely.me

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  9. Thanks so much Nancy! I completely agree! xx

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  10. As someone who struggles with mental health and stresses easily and is about to start university, this was a really important post for me to read and I can't thank you enough for writing it.

    Rachael x www.geminiexplicit.com

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  11. This is a really great post for anyone about to start uni or maybe who’s been straggling, some really good tips! :)

    Lainy x ‪https://bookishbitsblogblog.wordpress.com

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  12. This is such an important post and I’m so glad you’ve written about it! There’s an unbelievable amount of pressure at university and it’s so important that people who suffer from mental health issues prepare themselves

    Tish | thesundaydiary.co.uk

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  13. I feel like anyone going to Uni will find this post helpful. In the lead up to going to university no one speaks about the mental health aspect of it but literally everyone I know who I went to uni has suffered with mental health problems.

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  14. This is such a great post on a really important issue. My mental health was fine whilst at uni but found it dipped after I left! I'm doing okay now. It's all the change...it really throws you off!

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  15. Thank you so much Rachael! I'm so glad you enjoyed it xx

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  16. Thank you, lovely! ❤

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  17. Thanks so much Tish! I agree so much, I wasn't prepared for university at all!

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  18. Thanks so much Sophie! It's really hard sometimes and definitely something that should be spoken about more! Xx

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  19. Oh bless you! I had a tipple when I left too but I wasn't too bad. It's definitely the change too I think! Xx

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  20. This is such a beautifully written post, mental health is so important and unfortunately my University seem to not have a mental health society...

    FATIMAH • ROSEYGOLDBOX
    www.roseygoldbox.blogspot.co.uk

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  21. Thanks Fatimah! Mine didn't have a mental health society either, but you could always set one up!

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  22. Thanks so much for your input Kayla! I'm glad you were able to approach him for support, it sounds like it did you the world of good! <3

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  23. This blog post is great!!

    I know when I first started university I struggled with the pressure and didn't look after my mental health so when I went into the second year I made it my priority to focus on my mental health, sometimes just taking a break and going home for a few days to have some home comforts and a hug from my mum. I think those that are going to university this September need to know that if they do need some time away it is okay, it isn't giving in it is just looking after yourself and giving yourself a break from all the pressure!

    Also, your points on speaking to your personal tutor are great. When I was struggling with personal issues I went to my personal tutor a few times and he was amazing!

    Amy xx | fleurdubelle.blogpsot.co.uk

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  24. I didn't go to uni, i did a higher education course at college but the measures in place for students mh was shockingly terrible. When students reached out to their tutors for help or to inform them of their mh struggles they really didn't care!

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  25. Thanks so much for your comment Amy! Going home can be such a good idea at times! Fortunately as a commuter I was always 'home', but sometimes it would do me the world of good to not go in for a couple of days if I needed to.
    xx

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  26. Thats' horrible to hear Ellie!

    Maybe it would be worth speaking to somebody about it, as that sounds like it could end up causing problems! x

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  27. This is a great resource for students! I live in the US, so this was also helpful to understand the process of testing and going to university. One thing that is universal, though, is how much stress can come from higher education. It’s almlst refreshing to know that people from all over the world have the same pressures, and that there are also similar, if not identical, fixes. Thanks for this!

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  28. Thank you so much Savannah! It's a shock that education is so stressful elsewhere aswell, although yes - I guess it's not just us! x

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  29. I've just finished my first year at uni and during that my mental health did take a big hit. The only thing out of this list I did was to look after myself. Hopefully, I can pick up some courage next year to speak to someone professional about it all if it gets too much, my mother keeps telling me too. I think the only thing that got me through first year and my mental health was talking to one of my friends about everything who understands exactly what I feel.

    These were some great tips!

    Sophie | Sophie's Spot

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  30. Well done on completing first year, Sophie! I'd really recommend that you go and speak to someone professional who'll be able to help you out! Big love and hugs <3

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  31. Omg I've been working on a similar post for my University's newspaper haha - great minds! It's so important to look after your mental health at University, and I was so clueless my first year. It wasn't until second year that I realised what I needed to do to make my mental health a priority. This was a great post!

    Jas xx | https://thoughtsfromjasmine.co.uk

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  32. Great minds think alike! ;)

    I was the same, it took me till second/final year where I actually realised that I needed to do something about it. Thank you! xx

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  33. Such a great post on such an important topic, i think you covered it so well! My boyfriend is at uni and says he really relates to everything that you covered. I look forward to reading more posts! xx

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  34. Aww thank you so much Liv! That means so much :) xx

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  35. Although I study with the OU and therefore at home, these tips are still really useful advice. The problem I find though is when the university aren’t forthcoming with the help and support. Can’t wait to read some more of your posts.xx

    angelwingsandpetticoats.com

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  36. Thanks so much Alex, I'm glad they still come in useful! Thats' such a shame to hear, I must admit I'm shocked to hear that!

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  37. As a uni graduate, I cannot agree more with you that university can screw your mental health. You have put so much detail and effort into this post, very very well done. I think the most important point you've made is the last one - because if you don't maintain a recovery plan then recovery is far more difficult. Another important thing is not obsessing with getting the best marks and not comparing your progress with other people's. It takes a while to adjust with university marking! Bad grade doesn't make you a failure.

    P.S Your guest post was great on Sunday Diary x

    Laura / https://laustworld.blogspot.com/

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  38. I'm so glad I came across your post! As someone who suffers from mental health issues and going into their second year of University this post is so important for me. thank you so much for sharing x

    Jess || www.secretdiaryofjess.com

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  39. Thanks so much Jess! I'm really glad it was useful for you xx

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  40. Thank you so much Laura! I'm really glad you liked the post <3

    Oh yes, definitely! I lost so many marks on essays because of silly mistakes, and trial and error was needed to iron them out! xx

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  41. This was such a good read! I graduated back in 2016 - oh my god doesn't time just fly by! - but I remember my first year and how bad it was for me. I already suffered with anxiety so it didn't surprise me too much when I went to University but not even being able to leave my bedroom in halls was how bad it got for me.

    You're absolutely right though, there's a lot of help that you can get at Universities. Great Advice!

    Love your blog!
    Chloe Chats x

    http://www.chloechats.com/

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  42. Doesn't it just! It all seems to merge into the quickest time. I'm so glad you agree <3 xx

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  43. This is so important!! University can be massively stressful and self care takes a major back seat sometimes, it's so important to make sure you look after your mental health!!

    https://onemorelightlb.blogspot.com

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  44. Thank you so much lovely! <3

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  45. Wow, this was such a nice post. University can be all fun but at the same overwhelming. For me, to be honest, My campus life has been fun as I was still exploring and learning about other cultures ( I study abroad) but until I got into my last year(currently) that is when things took a 360 turn. I got into deep depression because of some issues that were happening in my life but thank God, I got through it majestically.

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  46. Thank you so much. I hope you're doing well, I'm so sorry to hear you have found it tough <3

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  47. Another really helpful post!!! Thank you x

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  48. Thank you! <3 xx

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  49. This is so true and so important! I remember feeling really embarrassed about telling my University I was struggling, but they were so supportive and it felt like such a relief to tell someone! I think it's so important to know that it's okay to ask for help. Thank you for sharing this! :) x

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  50. Thanks Lissie, I'm really glad you spoke out! <3

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