January marks ‘Blue Monday’ – the third Monday of the month, which this year falls on 17th January. Said to be the peak time of year when people feel blue, it actually came about as part of a marketing stunt in the mid-noughties, and has since stuck in our calendars.
Here at Sanctuary Students, while we’re mindful of this date, we recognise that anyone can, of course, have ‘bad’ days on any given date – after all, poor mental health doesn’t discriminate. And January is as good a time of year as any to do a self-check-in as to how you’re feeling, drawing some awareness to it and taking steps to boost your self-care – read on for some handy tips on how to support your mental well-being throughout 2022.
1. #BeKind (to yourself!)
Have you heard of the saying ‘You can’t pour from an empty cup’? Self-care is much more at the forefront nowadays, but in a world that values productivity and hard work, this can be easier said than done – especially as a diligent uni student with a full timetable including lectures, assignment deadlines and, perhaps, an ever-thriving social life now that Covid restrictions have eased up.
Just as a cup can’t pour water if there’s no water in it, we can’t extend kindness or generosity to others when there’s no kindness or generosity given to ourselves – in other words, when you’re running low on reserves, your best bet is to focus on you above all else, with lots of compassion! Remember that it’s not selfish to put yourself first, so whatever the external pressures are from family, friends or tutors, it’s (more than) okay to prioritise your needs – guilt-free.
2. Boundaries are beautiful
On the hot topics of ‘doing you’ and ‘me time’, a little really can go a long way – and by that we mean getting in the habit of feeling comfortable setting boundaries and using the simple word ‘no’ when you’re at risk of burnout or something just doesn’t sit right with you. Your time at uni is fresh and exciting (so many opportunities, so little time etc.!) but it can be unhelpful to feel duty-bound to be the ‘yes’ person to everything and everyone, so why not try flexing that powerful little word if you just need some downtime to get your head straight and recharge your social batteries?
3. Detox, but make it digital
Talking of batteries, while all our life-saving lockdown apps are still very much firm favourites, it’s always good to mix things up and regularly set aside some quality time away from your smart devices and just…be! There’s no denying that there are many pros to technology – whether that’s instantly connecting with like-minded people or being able to check your student emails on the go – but it can equally be quite addictive, with the average Brit checking their smartphones every 12 minutes, according to Ofcom!
This dependency on tech is linked to anxiety, depression and poor sleep, and perhaps even nomophobia, where people fear being detached from their phone at any given time. On the flip side, a digital detox can mean a restful night’s sleep, the ability to feel more present in real-life social interactions, plus it frees up time to spend on forgotten hobbies. We know which option we’d prefer!
4. Nature holds the key
The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2021, led by the Mental Health Foundation, was the value of getting closer to nature – highlighting benefits such as being able to put things in perspective, taking the pressure off daily life, and embracing a feeling of calm and wonder. Getting a ‘green’ fix may particularly appeal right now, with the days gradually getting lighter and the tinge of spring in the air!
Regular exposure to natural light (as opposed to blue light) and vitamin D is super important, so whether you’re able to factor in some time in your local park as part of your daily routine or, if you’re self-isolating, sitting by your window each day to listen to the bird song or tend to a plant that you’ve grown can connect you with nature and give your mental health a brilliant boost. Why not try it today and notice how it makes you feel?
5. The power of connection
All of our tips have been helpful actions that you can self-manage, but let’s not forget that we humans are inherently social beings, and there’s so much positivity and power within a supportive community! While there are many things we can all take ownership of for our own mental well-being, it’s equally important to know when to reach out for help rather than feeling locked into your own mind and suffering in silence – whether you choose to open up to trusted friends and family or wish to have an unbiased safe space in which you can be heard without judgement, there’s so much support out there.
At Sanctuary Students, we’re more than just a room – your well-being always comes first. We have a Student Advice Line in partnership with Health Assured, offering professional support with anything from anxiety and depression to financial issues and general coping skills. Call our freephone number 0800 030 5182 for 24/7 help, 365 days a year, and please know that everything discussed will be kept fully confidential unless you’re deemed to be at risk of harm.
Other helpful information sources:
- Mind (mental health charity)
- NHS (National Health Service)
- Student Minds (student mental health charity)
- Samaritans (free listening service)
January symbolises beginnings and endings, and it’s perfectly natural to experience mixed feelings about all that’s gone on in 2021 – particularly given the ongoing global pandemic – and what might lie ahead in 2022.
Here at Sanctuary Students, we understand that life has its ups and downs at any time of the year, and we want you to know that you’ve always got our support, whatever life throws at you.