Good ole October.
The month of apple picking and crunchy leaves falling for some, deyas and lights for a few, pumkpin carving prep for several and the start of holiday jollies for many.
Personally, you can find me alternating between any two of those. October also puts me in a reminiscent mood though; I think of my university student life. Hey, it was just under two years ago that I graced the halls of my alma mater, UWE Bristol. It’s especially memorable, knowing that so many of you that hang out here, or that find me online are university students yourselves. (P.s., slightly jealy about all the chic stationery that you get to enjoy for lectures, by the way. Just a bit.)
With World Mental Health Day just wrapping up last week, cute stationery and freshers fairs aside, there’s got to be so many parts of uni life that can overwhelm you, especially if anxiety, chronic depression or OCD may have decided to jump into your suitcases for the move-in trip to your dorm.
If this sounds like you (I won’t tell, promise), let’s talk about 4 potential risks you’ll want to avoid (and how) while maintaining your wellbeing at uni.
Mental Illness Flareups
Signs of depression and mental illness will appear long before university. Still, you might not understand what they are or how to control them. Social anxiety reared its ugly head years before I started university but took on a whole new meaning when I started. Not only was I at a new place, but also in a new city within a new country. In the first months of uni, I was a ball of nerves each day, opting to eat lunch in the library under the guise of ‘studying’ (and seriously, who truly study during their first semester?) or skip lunch altogether. Anything, anything to avoid being around classmates who, in my head, must think I’m weird, ugly, awkward, and want nothing to do with me. Add to that the pressure coming from home to have and keep great grades, my mind was playing a tug of war with me, between “Will they think I’m a snob if I don’t go to the pub crawl?”, “What will they think of these shoes at the pub crawl?” and “What if I don’t finish this essay on time, after the pub crawl?? I’m bound to fail this course.”
I was in a constant state of fear of either being shunned at school, or being a total failure at school. Or, both. Frazzled and stressed were my middle names, and more often than not, I didn’t balance the two well. Looking back, having a few solid coping mechanisms and stress busters in my corner would’ve been helpful. Learning how to deal with the stress and how to blow off steam is essential. Otherwise, those harmful thoughts creep up on you and change your personality to the point you do things you never imagined.
Back to the subject of pub crawls, a mainstay in uni life nowadays. I’m secretly side-eyeing you if you’ve never been to at least one. (If we had to compile a top 5 university essentials list , can we honestly say cider won’t be right up there in the top three? According to a Frontiers in Psychiatry study, 83% of university students in the sample used showed symptoms of problematic alcohol use. Of the total, 11.5% had medium to high-level problems.
In short, alcohol is a major part of student life and can lead to all sorts of issues, from dependency to failing exams. Being around it all of the time is a risk, especially if you are easily influenced. Some of us can bounce back from a wild night out with a good fry-up the next morning or some top ramen, but it’s not that simple for everyone.
If you do find drinking is getting out of control, an online resource I’d recommend is https://www.rehabclinic.org.uk/
Although it’s a taboo subject that most shy away from discussing, it’s one that women need to be aware of when they move in on campus. America has a particularly big problem with abuse and Britain isn’t an exception. Even though reported rates are low, Times Higher Education believes it’s because people don’t want to speak out against friends or friends of friends. Remember that unwanted groping and being peer pressured into sexual activity isn’t right. Should you experience any abuse, be sure to tell someone and speak out privately. Also, take precautions such as going out with a trusted friend-circle and avoiding unlit walkways.
Being around hundreds of people in close quarters means there are germs (and desperately needed earplugs, and extension leads going missing, and lots of top ramen, but mostly germs). Plus, there are unhygienic games such as beer pong (yep, I’m still stuck on the pub crawl). The simple fact is you’re going to get sick, particularly in the first year. All of the partying and drinking impacts the immune system and you’ll feel run down. The flu might not be scary, but it doesn’t stop there. Cases of mumps and other contagious diseases spread in universities so it’s important to be vigilant. (No one wants to be stuck waiting to see the campus nurse for hours on end. Missing a class or two might be fun, but not that fun). If the symptoms persist after a few days, you should speak to a doctor or see the nurse.
What other wellness pitfalls do you try to avoid while at university? What are your fail-proof wellness and wellbeing tips? Share it with me below.
Till we chat again, girl.