We’ve enlisted the help of students and alumni to provide their top tips, tricks, and practical advice when it comes to dealing with mental health struggles.
There is nothing quite as important as looking after numero uno. Maintaining your own mental well-being can be a daunting task, and it’s something that takes patience and practice.
After all, it can be hard to find the time to breathe in between moving away from home, making new friends, sustaining yourself financially, maintaining relationships, completing your degree, continuing your own creative and career-related endeavours – and everything else that life throws at you! That’s why it’s important to take a moment to make sure that you are looking after yourself, and that you are doing ok.
Kashi Chellen, BIMM Institute Brighton:
My favourite thing to do when I’m struggling with my mental health is to run a hot bath and listen to a podcast or read a book, or I’ll do some creative activities like painting. I might spend some quality time with my loved ones who ground me, or sometimes I even bake!
I find that with anxiety, it triggers a massive sensory overload, so I tend to gravitate towards things that ground me with my senses. I light candles as the warm light is calming, I open the window for cold fresh air, and I try to keep some lo-fi music on a low volume in the background while I refocus my senses.
Having been through therapy, I’ve learned to keep a diary to document my emotions. I find keeping a record of any spike of emotion – both positive and negative – really helpful, especially when I can go back and read it once the moment has passed and I can view it through fresh eyes. Sometimes, the most helpful thing is to just get the thoughts out on paper so they can no longer clog up head-space.
The most important thing to remember is that these low moments do happen and that they’re not a reflection of your worth. It’s ok to feel this way. Your feelings are valid, and the low times will pass. It doesn’t always feel that way, but it will get better.
Esther Afikiruweh, BIMM Institute Bristol:
My best tip for World Mental Health Day would be to get out in the fresh air, whether it’s cycling around on a bike or going for a walk in the park. Once you are in nature, life’s toughest tribulations just seem that much more manageable.
Since lockdown, I have been cycling more to give my brain a bit of a break. I think it also helps to change your surroundings, and there’s nothing more soothing than breathing in clean air and giving your brain space to consolidate your thoughts. It’s also said that when cycling around, it helps you to create new thought patterns, enhancing creativity whilst enabling you to let go of any negative emotions. Win-win!
Once you finish your walk/cycle, I recommend nipping to the shop and getting the ingredients of your favourite meal and cooking it from scratch when you get home. Cooking, eating and cycling are some of my favourite things to do.
Connor Ramsey, BIMM Institute Birmingham:
Keeping a social side whilst you’re at university helps you feel less alone. It’s a good opportunity to be more inclusive and welcoming to people from all walks of life. It’s good to mix with other students regardless of interests; it’ll help you feel less isolated.
Make sure you organise all your folders and download Moodle powerpoints onto your laptop. You can always refer back to lessons when there’s a hand-in, and also continue learning at a later date.
Use Student Support or message lecturers if you’re feeling overwhelmed or snowed under with work. They’re there to help you out and give you guidance. You’re not meant to know everything from the off. It takes time, so be patient. Also, use Student Mentors. I’m a Student Mentor at Birmingham, and we’ve probably experienced issues you have too, so feel free to message us for help.
Most importantly, enjoy your time at BIMM because it goes fast. Attend Masterclasses, get involved in as much as possible, and you’ll get out as much as you put in.
Zoe Fearn, BIMM Institute Manchester:
My best tip on dealing with mental health struggles at university is to ensure you don’t lock yourself away. Staying in bed all day will only make you feel worse. You need to keep your mind occupied, so get yourself outside in the fresh air. Maybe go for a walk or develop a hobby. I personally went for a swim at Manchester Aquatics Centre on the days that were beginning to feel unbearable. This helped me clear my mind and helped to keep myself healthy. I always felt better after.
If you don’t feel like this is for you, then make sure you talk to someone – whether that be a friend, a family member or one of your Student Support team. Do not bottle things up. I know it can be hard to open up and express your feelings at times. Sometimes, you feel as though nobody would understand even if you did. That’s not true. There is always someone out there who wants to help and listen. How are people supposed to know how you feel if you keep your feelings trapped inside? A problem shared is a problem halved. Remember that you are never alone.
Patrick McNaught, BIMM Institute Brighton Alumni:
Hi, I’m Pat. I’m 29, live with two invisible disabilities, a cocktail of mental health issues, and I spent the first three-quarters of my 20s putting on DIY punk shows and alt nights. My path to self-care and healing from teenage trauma was a long and bumpy road. But although I still struggle, I am far happier now than I’ve ever been.
I’m not an expert by any means, but here are 10 bits of practical, honest and accessible advice about self-care and mental health that I wish I had heard at 20.
- Keeping hydrated is the most important thing you can do for your mental and physical health. Gulp it up like it’s free beer.
- Nothing good ever comes from partying till 8 am. You will always wish you went to bed with a pizza at 2 am. Partying won’t make you happy in the long run!
- Alcohol stays in your system and makes you depressed and anxious for two to three days later. Try to cut down on drinking if you’re sad. Again, partying won’t make you happy in the long run.
- Meditation isn’t just for hippies. It benefits every aspect of your life. It’s like tidying your room, so you don’t lose your keys all the time. A clearer brain equals a happier brain.
- Most people’s judgement and negativity is a projection of themselves. Don’t let other people put you down.
- The language you use subconsciously alters your mood and outlook on life. Saying things like “I can’t do this” isn’t going to benefit you or get you to where you want to be.
- Hobbies and interests in things other than music are REALLY important. Creative hobbies you work into your music (i.e. graphic design, promoting, making zines) are incredibly fulfilling. DIY culture probably saved my life.
- Social media is a distorted perception of reality and is purposely manipulated to keep you hooked.
- Not everyone is going to like you, but don’t let that drain your mental energy. Focus on the people that bring you positive experiences.
- And the most important point: don’t depend on others for your own happiness. No relationship, person, job or object is going to make you feel better if you need to work on yourself.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, speak to our friendly Student Support team – they’re there to help. If you think that your life is in danger, call Samaritans helpline on 116 123 or visit their website.