Hello again, dear followers.
With University orientation just around the corner, it seemed appropriate that I continue on from my previous blog post with some additional advice for those commencing/returning to tertiary studies in 2017.
My last entry focussed heavily on tips for surviving the transition to University, including helpful orientation advice. Now, I’d like to talk about something equally as important and that many of us tend to neglect, especially as we get caught up in our busy lives: self-care, and particularly self-care in regards to studying.
Before I begin, I would like to disclose that I am in no way a professional on the issue of mental health. Any advice I offer you cannot replace that of a psychologist, psychiatrist or general practitioner. The focus of this blog post is to share some of my own experiences when it comes to self-care and studying, as well as including some helpful links to overcome any obstacles you may be facing.
Starting a new chapter of your life is often an exciting time; the road ahead lays full of endless possibilities. However, change can also be unsettling, and not knowing what lies ahead can make us feel anxious and even a little scared.
Every year since I first started my schooling, the new year ahead seemed both exhilarating and terrifying. A new year meant a new teacher (or teachers in high school) and a classroom full of different faces. It also meant buying fresh stationery (yes, I’m sorted of addicted to all things stationery, especially highlighters and pens). But the start of a new school year was also nerve-wracking: would I handle the amount of work given to me? And what would happen if I couldn’t?
Suddenly I was at University, and the assignments were piling up. I was still trying to manage my transition from small-town country life to living in the city, while also staying social and looking after my physical health (trying to eat healthy on a student budget is tricky). But managing so much at once can become quite challenging, especially when you’re not allowing yourself much of a break. I was always studying and did not allow myself to rest as much as I should have and as a result, I ended up feeling very run-down and got sick more than once with the flu. Mastering how to balance your life while simultaneously looking after yourself both physically and mentally can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Here is some advice on managing stress while studying, as well as sites and pamphlets I found to be helpful:
Plan and plan effectively
Planning, while being a mundane task, can make your life much less stressful. Buy a planner or a diary (I recommend purchasing one with a week to an opening) and begin each week/each day with a list of the tasks you have to complete. Start by completing the smaller tasks first so that you feel you’re accomplishing your goals. Soon enough, you’ll be crossing off the much bigger tasks and will feel less anxious.
Breakdown your assignments
Assignments can be the most daunting things upon the first glance. 2000 words? How am I ever going to write 2000 words when I have all these other things to work on? Breaking down an assignment into smaller tasks can make it seem less scary and will allow you to have more time to distribute evenly across your other units. A great tip a lot of students like to follow is writing 250 words a day towards a major essay- it makes it far more attainable.
Give yourself sufficient time to recharge
Try and get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Studying all day and night can take a toll on your body, and it is important to recharge yourself so that you can do your best the next day. It’s also good to give yourself small breaks in between each study session to clear your mind.
Don’t forget to move
If you’re a bit of a hermit with your study habits and prefer to stay inside at your desk, make sure you get up every few hours and move around. Take a walk outside of your building or around a walking track. Walk around campus for a bit of a break if you’ve been studying in the café or at the library. Get your body active and try to clear your mind!
Eating well as a student can be challenging, particularly if you have a low-budget and your staples are Mi Goreng and junk food. Try to eat a healthy portion of fruit and vegetables each day, as well as some nuts (almonds are great). Steer clear of highly caffeinated drinks when you’re feeling stressed, particularly energy drinks as they tend to make you more agitated and anxious. Also, drink plenty of water.
Make your room/study space relaxing for you
Whether you live in a dorm room or a share-house, decorating your room/study area can make you feel so much more comfortable and relaxed. In my study area, you will find lots of motivational quotes, photos of people who inspire me and of my loved ones. I also like to keep a few books and movies that I love on my shelves and retreat to them whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed by work.
Talk to someone/ask for help
This is probably the most important piece of advice of all- you are never alone. When things get too much, do not be frightened or too embarrassed to ask for help. Everyone is different with who they prefer to reach out to- some people prefer to contact a family member, whereas others may choose a close friend or even a counselling service. You are not in this alone and there are people who will be there to help you. Universities even have special services on offer that allow for you to talk to someone about how you’re feeling, even if you’re just stressed about an upcoming assignment. There is no shame in asking for help.
There are also a number resources I found particularly helpful with learning how to balance stress and studying:
Staying Sane on Campus
This booklet which was produced by the Mental Health Project Team is full of tips and techniques for taking care of your mental health while studying at University. You can even download a .pdf copy to your laptop for future reference.
Headspace is a great place to go to find information and advice on all things mental health. There are also appropriate links where you can find information about talking to a professional or finding a Headspace centre in your area.
Study support services
Every university (no matter which one you’re at) will have some form of support services available to students. Below you will find some of the webpages that deal with support and counselling services from each of the universities.
I hope this post has been helpful for those starting their first semester/trimester at University, or even for those returning students.
I wish you all the best, and never forget, it is more than okay to take a break from studying if it means taking care of yourself.
Mental health is just as important as physical health.
Until next time,
– C x
If you are in need of urgent help in regards to your mental health, please contact any of the following services:
For emergency – 000
Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636
Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800
Lifeline – 13 11 14