Advice

Succeeding in university means managing mental health

Just as important as showing up to exams

Succeeding in university means managing mental health photo by : Dalhousie University Archives
Photograph of an unidentified person with a dog and puppies at Howe Hall (c) Dalhousie University Archives
written by Alexandra Geist
September 2, 2017 10:21 am

University is the best, worst, thing for your mental health. The best, because you meet a ton of lifelong friends, learn more about yourself, and have the opportunity to develop a passion into a career. The worst, because schedules can be erratic. Sleepless nights and copious caffeine consumption become the norm. Hustle is prioritized over health, and sleep deprivation turns into a competition. 

“I wish I had gotten 6 hours of sleep… I only got 4.”  

“This is my THIRD coffee of the day, and I didn’t even have time to eat breakfast.”  

It can be tough to develop a routine that keeps you mentally healthy right from the get-go. 

Orientation week is an exciting time but don’t be afraid to take breaks. FOMO is real, but it’s okay to sit out from some of the events for: naps, lunch, checking in with friends, unpacking, or calling home. (Your Mom is dying to check in with you!) 

Seriously. Call your parents. 

This is now home, it’s important to feel comfortable in your space and are settled in before classes start.  

While some people are just hitting their stride in university, most people are confused and a little lost. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. This is the best time to introduce yourself; I can’t think of another time in my life where people have been as open and excited to talk about their major, their hometown, and their siblings in the span of about 15 seconds.  

If you’re having trouble with anything, or have any questions, ask an upper-year student, or an RA. Post-frosh blues, or burnout, is very real, and you don’t have to do it all to have a great university experience. 

Go to class. That’s why we’re here!  

Stress management is a huge part of taking care of mental health. It’s easier to identify what areas you need help with, and what classes you need to spend more time on, when you actually go to class. Trying to learn two months’ worth of material the night before the midterm is never fun (I’m lookin’ at you, first-year Calculus.)  

Talk to your professors – they have more tricks and tips up their sleeve, and they’ll appreciate your dedication to learning. Plus, they can be killer references for that summer job, or grad school later down the road.  

Building relationships with my professors, and being honest with them about my mental health challenges has been majorly helpful for me over the past three years of my degree. Having a relationship with my professors makes it easier when I need to ask for help. Not all students are comfortable sharing personal information with professors, and that’s okay. A simple ‘hello’ to touch base during office hours can do wonders. Whatever you have going on, they’ve seen it all. Trust them, and don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself! 

Find one thing outside of class that excites you. Is that a business society? Mastering your improv stills at Dalprov on Wednesday nights? Finding a gym buddy and going to fitness classes at the Dalplex to de-stress? (Fitness is a huge part of self care.) Sex Toy Bingo at the Grawood every second Thursday? Having something outside of class is great to help you meet new friends and keep you grounded when school gets busy and midterms are in full swing.  

Don’t forget the importance of basic self-care. Cleaning your apartment, washing your sheets, taking a shower, sleep hygiene – these are all vital when you are feeling overwhelmed (plus, clean clothes are just the best am I right?)  

Remember to stay hydrated and nourish your body with food that will fuel you – being busy isn’t an excuse for skipping meals when the cafeteria, Tims, and Pete’s are right on campus. Your mind works at its best when you are getting enough sleep, water, and nourishing food. Take care of yourself.  

First-years, this might be the first time you don’t have a parent around reminding you that it’s getting late, or to eat your veggies, but your health needs to come first. 

Remember that you’re doing just fine.