Looking after yourself at uni
Being at university can be a really exciting time, but it can also feel stressful or overwhelming at times. Here are some ways you can look after yourself at uni.
"The best years of your life"
It's something we've all heard: your time at university will be "the best years of your life". This may be true for some people, but chances are you will go through some difficult times while at university, just like you might at any other time when big changes are happening in your life. It can be a lonely time, especially if you’re away from home and missing your family and friends. And you might feel under pressure to make friends, fit in and meet deadlines. On top of that, it might seem like everyone else is coping fine and having the time of their lives.
It is important to remember that almost everyone struggles with life at university at some point. In fact, a 2018 study found that:
- one third (33%) of students surveyed felt lonely often or all of the time
- almost nine in ten (87.7%) students struggled with feelings of anxiety
- over three quarters (75.6%) of students hid their mental health symptoms from friends.
So, if university life is making you feel overwhelmed, anxious and unhappy, you are not alone, and things can get better.
If you’re struggling to cope, the most important thing to do is to talk about it. Here are some places you can turn to for support.
Where can you find support on campus?
The mental health services available will differ between universities, but here are some places you can look for support:
If you’re struggling to cope, a good first step is to talk to your GP - make sure you’re registered with one at your uni. It can help to write down what you’ve been going through before your visit.
Most universities have counselling services, which will give you the chance to talk through your experiences in a non-judgemental space. Find out more on your uni’s website.
Tutors and student welfare officers
There may be a tutor assigned to give you pastoral support, or a student welfare officer you can talk to.
Student Minds run support groups, especially focusing on depression and eating disorders, which are led by other students. Find out if they have groups at your university: www.studentminds.org.uk
In an emergency
If you’re about to harm yourself or have already done so, phone 999 or go to A&E and explain that you’re at risk.
There is a list of more places you can turn for support at the bottom of this page.
Tips from our activists
Here are some tips and advice from our bloggers and Activists on how to look after yourself at uni:
Blogs, tips and advice
For more real stories about mental health at university, as well as lots of helpful tips and advice, have a look at our blogs:
There are things you can do yourself to help look after your mental wellbeing at university. Our blogger Josh shares the self-care tips that helped him:
Jogging, running, swimming, anything that helped get my endorphins flowing.
2. Accepting that I was ill
This was difficult because mental illness isn’t as tangible as a physical condition. However, trying to pretend I was fine only made things worse. I had to be kind to myself and put in the correct self-care.
3. Maintaining relationships
Socialising seemed like a pretty arduous task at times, but it helped to stay connected with the world.
4. Cutting down on alcohol
Drinking might have made me feel better in the short term, but it only masked the problem rather than solving it.
5. Looking after my body
This meant improving my diet, sleeping well, and drinking plenty of water.
6. Speaking to others
This was the most important thing I did, and by leaning on those close to me, I was able to get the day-to-day support I needed.
Where to get help
Helplines and services available
- provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK if you are experiencing a mental health crisis - just text YM to 85258
- all texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors
- texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus
- if you're in distress and need support, you can ring Samaritans for free at any time of the day or night.
- freephone (UK and Republic of Ireland): 116 123 (24 hours)
- email: [email protected]
- if you're under 25 you can talk to The Mix for free on the phone, by email or on their webchat. You can also use their phone counselling service, or get more information on support services you might need.
- freephone: 0808 808 4994 (1pm - 11pm daily)
- see if your university has a nightline listening service
- the services and opening times vary from institution to institution, but often there is a phone, text, email and live chat service
- this is a free, confidential listening service for you to talk about anything that is on your mind