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Surviving Freshers Week – Mental Health Edition

Freshers’ Week activities have come a long way since our marketing manager went to university (back in 2001), but that doesn’t mean that her top tips for making it through those first few weeks don’t stand up today.

In September 2001, Kerri travelled up the road to Bishop Grosseteste College (now Bishop Grosseteste University) in Lincoln to begin her three-year degree in Drama. Despite the 19 years that have passed since that week, she can still remember that first night clearly.

“I cried, I cried all night”, she said.

Kerri had always been a pretty confident girl, she got good grades and enjoyed school, had a whole host of friends and a packed social calendar, but on that first night in a new, unfamiliar place, with no friends to speak of, she felt alone and vulnerable.

“I’m really close to my parents and my brother but facing my first night surrounded by people I didn’t know was daunting and I felt completely out of my depth.”

Thankfully, by the end of that first week she has started to settle in, knew her way around, made friends with the girls she would live with in second year and started to forged lifelong friendships with the people she spends much of her spare time with now.

Here are her top tips for surviving Freshers’ Week and beyond:

  • Develop a good sleep pattern, allowing for some “screen free” time before getting into bed. A consistent sleep routine can be more effective than additional sleep.
  • Regular exercise of 20-30 minutes is enough time for endorphins to be released in your brain that will make you feel happier and sleep better.
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet, meal planning and budgeting can be particularly helpful if you are living away from home for the first time.
  • Set manageable goals, don’t push yourself too hard. Set achievable goal, no matter how small these may be.
  • Start journaling, writing down what is on your mind is a great way to understand your thoughts, feelings and emotions.

All universities will have a range of support systems in place, so if you do start to feel down and it lasts for more than two weeks, seek them out and get some advice.

“Remember university is all about learning and growing, so expect to change and change again. Be kind to yourself and if you spot someone who looks like they might need a friend say hello”, Kerri added.

Book recommendations

Shawmind’s sister company, Trigger Publishing, is the UK’s leading mental health and wellbeing publisher. Here are a couple of their latest books which we recommend for students.

Stay Balanced – out now

Award-winning mental health specialist Dr Dominique Thompson explores issues around leaving home, exam stress, socialising, safety, sex, and drugs, to help you succeed and truly enjoy your time as a student.

Dominique says: “Being part of a community is one of the best things for your wellbeing- connecting with others, making friends and feeling like you belong.

“A great way to do this is to volunteer with a local charity- you feel great helping others, others feel great because they are helped, and you meet new, like-minded people. Win-win!

“Smile at people- it’s a great way to show you are friendly, and keen to connect, but not as tricky as starting a new conversation.

“You can smile in a corridor, in a library, in the coffee shop, for example if you recognise someone from a lecture (online or otherwise) and then they will recognise you (subconsciously) as a friendly person, and you can start to chat.”

For more information or to buy a copy, visit the Trigger Publishing site.

Stay Organized While You Study – out now

Prioritising your studies, social life, and everything in between all while looking after yourself can be tricky!

Written by Clinical Psychiatrist Lauren Callaghan, this guide will help you to stay on top of things and harness useful organizational tools so you can successfully navigate your way through the unique pressures and opportunities that student life brings.

For more information or to buy a copy, visit the Trigger Publishing site.

For our student guide to mental health, visit www.shawmind.org/our-mental-health-guides/