Four tips to maintain good mental health while studying

Starting tertiary education can be a challenging and exciting prospect, especially for those who have just finished high school. While university creates the potential for new friendships and further independence, for some students, the experience can be a stressful and daunting one.

Evidently, a recent national survey conducted by Headspace and the National Union of Students into the mental health of tertiary students, revealed that 70% of respondents rated their mental health as poor or fair. The survey also revealed that 83.2% of students reported feeling stressed and unmotivated, and 35.4% reported thoughts of self-harm and suicide (Headspace, 2017).

While these figures appear alarming, it is not surprising that young students are feeling this way. The significant transition between high school and university can be challenging. For most students, this means greater independence, financial responsibilities and obligations. Therefore, it is imperative that students attempt to maintain good mental health and reduce the influence of stress while studying.

Below are four tips to help reduce stress and maintain good mental health.

1. Regular exercise
Physical exercise is not only great physically, but it helps improve our mental health. When we engage in physical activity our body releases chemicals, such as endorphins and serotonin that help improve our mood. Fitting exercise around a busy study schedule can be challenging. Try walking to class, riding your bike or engaging in a physical activity that you find fun. That way, fitting in regular exercise around your schedule may be less tedious.

2. Organise your time
With upcoming deadlines and assessment, it is easy to get overwhelmed by your study commitments. Try creating a study routine to get yourself into the habit of studying. Put all your assessment and deadlines on a calendar and plan your time effectively to ensure you give yourself amply time to complete big projects and prepare yourself for an exam. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your lecturers or tutors if you are struggling. Most universities have support services to access if you are struggling to keep on top of your studies.

3. Strive to eat healthy meals
Substantial research has shown a relationship between diet and mental health. Eating a nourishing diet helps improve an individual’s sense of well-being and maintain healthy brain functioning for studying. As a student it is easy to skip breakfast and opt for the unhealthy fast food option when we are stressed. Try preparing your meals for the next few days in advance and keeping healthy snacks on hand.  Try to incorporate fruit and vegetables in your diet as much as possible.

4. Get adequate sleep
Juggling work commitments, university obligations and a social life can be challenging and time consuming. Therefore, it is tempting for students to stay up late or sacrifice sleep time to finish assignments. However, ensuring adequate sleep is imperative for staying health and for adequate brain functioning. Establishing a sleep routine that ensures you are getting at least 8 hours a night is essential. Try to ensure that your sleep and study spaces are separate to reduce the influence of study on your sleeping pattern. Avoiding caffeine before bed also ensures you get adequate sleep.

Feeling stressed while studying is completely normal. However, if this stress is negatively impacting other areas of your life, such as sleep or your happiness, you may find it useful to speak to someone about strategies to reduce the influence of stress in your life. Call Baypsych Consultants (07) 3488 0483 or email us baypsych@bigpondnet.au to make an appointment with one of our psychologists.

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