Written by Alice Lambert, University of Leeds, September 2023
Staying fresh: looking after your wellbeing at university
Your first year at university is a brilliant experience – but the opening few weeks can be challenging. As you navigate this new chapter, don’t forget to keep in touch with your mental and physical wellbeing. These tips should help.
Find a society
Whether you want to meet like-minded people or branch out and try something new, university societies provide a great opportunity to do either. There are dozens, even hundreds, of groups you might fancy: everything from sports and music, to crafts and simple shared interests in TV and film. And don’t be worried by out-of-date reputations from American college movies: most societies aren’t primarily about partying, and plenty are alcohol-free.
Try local activities
Tempting as it can be, don’t confine yourself to campus. You may be living in a whole new area, not just a different building. Local sports leagues, gyms, and park runs can help your mental as well as physical health, or you might want to extend your network through volunteering opportunities in the community – it all helps to give you an extra sense of purpose, as well as more chances to meet people.
It sounds so simple, yet so few of us do it. Planning your weekly food shops and dinners can help your budget and your wellbeing. It allows you to focus on studying and socialising. And it doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself… just maybe not every evening.
Dive into podcasts
Stressed? Apps such as Headspace or Calm offer guided meditations, allowing you time to relax and reconnect with yourself. Or, you could listen to a podcast during your walk to lectures/ seminars/the lab/the pub. Sometimes you need to disconnect from the outside world for a bit, and there are so many genres and formats available.
Keep a journal
No, we aren’t talking about those cringeworthy pre-teen diaries full of drama, although it can still help to write down your feelings at times. A journal is a way to organise your thoughts at a time when it’s easy to feel overloaded, because starting university means contending with so many different new things. So. Many. Things. Plan your week or just release stressful thoughts onto paper or screen – you’ll be surprised how much it can help.
Use university support services
Don’t be afraid to speak to your lecturers about any concerns, academic or personal. But if you feel it would be useful to talk to a professional, then investigate your university’s counselling and wellbeing services.
Stay in touch
Meeting new people is great and all, but there’s nothing quite like reaching out to old friends and family when you’re feeling lonely. One quick FaceTime can do you the world of good.
Have a night in
You should never feel peer-pressured into going out if you’re feeling tired or overwhelmed. Give yourself time to relax. Everything feels easier on a good night’s sleep!
Talk it out
Lastly, don’t feel afraid to open up to new friends about challenges you experience at the beginning of university. Often, they’ll feel the same way. Together, you can navigate and support each other through your new start as a fresher.