10 ways to look after your mental health at university

7th October 2021
Student sitting on their bed writing in a notebook with a pen

The topic of young people’s mental health came to the fore last year, with many facing uncertainty over school closures, predicted grades, virtual classes…and not to mention the prospect of self-isolation.

And although the light at the end of the Covid tunnel is beginning to shine through, it’s important not to take the spotlight off mental health – especially with NHS research showing that 1 in 6 young people had a mental health problem in 2020. Students can be particularly vulnerable to mental health issues, as there’s a lot of emotions and new experiences to get your head around.

So, ahead of World Mental Health Day on Sunday 10th October 2021, here are our top 10 tips for putting your mental health first at university:

1. Create a support network

A good way to care for your mental health is by establishing a support network, so you never struggle in silence. If you have a pre-existing mental health condition, we recommend disclosing it to your university – as they’ll be able to signpost you to the best student well-being and mental health support services.

Even if you haven’t got a pre-existing condition, having that trusted network is still important. This could be your family and friends back home – remember they’re only a call or text away! And, if you feel comfortable doing so, we recommend reaching out to your new uni friends or flatmates – after all, you’re all in the same boat, and are likely experiencing similar emotions about moving away from home and tackling ‘adulting’ for the first time.

Students sat talking together

2. Be kind to yourself

Remember that it’s completely natural to miss home in the first couple of weeks (and, indeed, that odd pangs of homesickness can even appear throughout your uni life). Don’t put extra pressure on yourself by feeling guilty or embarrassed, or comparing yourself to others. Check out our top tips for dealing with homesickness here.

3. Find an outlet

There’s lots to keep up with at university, but it’s important to find a stress-busting outlet that works for you – this could be running, yoga, painting, or simply setting aside time to watch your favourite TV show. You could also consider downloading a mindfulness app, such as Calm or Headspace.

What’s more, if sport’s your thing, it’s worth thinking about getting involved with a university team, as it’ll not only help boost your mood, but will also help you settle in and make new friends with similar interests.

A foot being rested on a bench in the park while the shoe laces are being tied

4. Learn how to say ‘no’

University is packed with new experiences – people to meet, events to attend and places to explore. But remember that you don’t have to say ‘yes’ to everything. If you take on too much, you risk burning out. Remember to set aside that ‘me time’ from tip #2!

5. Create a calm space

Another way to enhance your mood is by surrounding yourself with a calm and welcoming environment. Your university room is the perfect place for this – a relaxing haven away from busy lectures and student life. Check out our recent blog about ways to stamp your personality on your uni room – things like cosy bedding, photos of loved ones and warm lighting will help create the perfect space for any downtime.

Student sitting on their bed writing in a notebook with a pen

6. Get into healthy habits

Remember to look after your body! Try to maintain a healthy and balanced diet, as this can help boost your mood, energy levels and immune system. For culinary inspiration, check out our top simple student meals here.

Exercise can also lift your mood – from going for a walk, doing some yoga, or even having a good dance around the flat! And finally, make sure you're getting enough sleep – which brings us nicely onto the next tip…

7. (Try to) drink sensibly

We know, we know – partying is part of the student experience. But we recommend keeping an eye on your consumption levels. Remember that alcohol is a depressant! We recently wrote about some fun drink-free night-out activities for you and your flatmates to get stuck into – food crawl, anyone?

8. Get outside

Soaking up some natural light can have a huge effect on your mental well-being! According to mental health charity Mind, spending time in nature can improve your mood, reduce feelings of stress and even improve your confidence and self-esteem. Plus, it’s a good excuse to explore the green spaces in your new university town or city!

People gathered on a hill in the park looking at the sunset in the background

9. Check your sources

If you’re feeling anxious about the pandemic, it’s important to take care with where you find your news and health information. Social media is a brilliant way of keeping in touch with loved ones, but it can also be used to spread misinformation. Reliable information includes:

A young man and woman sat in a library with a laptop and books on the table in front of them

10. Know where to get support

It’s important to know when to ask for help. Don’t suffer in silence. There are plenty of avenues of support you can turn to, including our Student Advice Line from our partners at Health Assured. At Sanctuary Students, your health is our priority and that’s why we offer professional support to help you with any problems you may face from stress and depression to financial issues and coping. The phone line is open day and night, 365 days a year, and everything you discuss is kept confidential, so there’s nothing to worry about.

Call the freephone number on 0800 030 5182 – we’re here as often as you need us, for as long as you like. Learn more about Sanctuary Students well-being services.

You could also look at these pages for advice on looking after your mental health:

Here at Sanctuary Students, we’re here to help you enjoy the best university experience possible while living a happy and healthy life. Find out more about our well-being services here.

Find out more about World Mental Health Day and how you can get involved here.