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University students often have many issues to deal with at once. You need to juggle an intense timetable of classes as well as maintain your social circle. All of this pressure can become daunting for some and can lead to mental health issues which can be debilitating.

Many students do not put their mental health first and according to a recent study, almost 40% of these students do not seek help. Issues such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and stress often are left unchecked due to a lack of mental health awareness in university students.

Today we unpack how you can manage your mental health at university.

Set aside time for yourself

University can be a busy time for students. You might feel as though you need to take part in every social activity available or spend all of your time with your friends. However, it is vital to set aside time for yourself to avoid mental burnout.

Spending an hour or two alone regularly can help you to decompress and quiet your mind. You can choose to spend this time meditating and practising mindfulness, reading a favourite book or even taking up a new skill such as drawing. Having time alone can help to relieve stress, but remember, it is also important to have a support network of friends who you can reach out to in times of need.

Take up physical activity

Physical activity helps your brain to release endorphins. These endorphins can have a significant effect on balancing your mind and body’s negative reactions to stress. An activity such as running can also help to improve your physical fitness, which can improve overall confidence and contentment in young students.

You could choose a social physical activity, such as tennis or fitness classes, in order to meet new people. Some of the anxiety and mental health issues that students experience stem from loneliness and having to leave school friends behind. By taking p a physical activity, you can meet new people and make new connections. This can help to relieve some of the anxiety you might be feeling.

Improve your sleep and diet routines

Having enough sleep is vital to improving your mental health. However, as a university student with deadlines to meet and friends to spend time with, it can be difficult to reach enough hours of sleep to feel rested. Managing your time effectively means that you will be able to sleep for at least six to eight hours.

Your diet is also important to monitor. Often, students will choose to eat fast foods or pre-packaged meals due to time constraints, however, these are often not the best choices. You should opt for eating fresh fruit and vegetables where you can, or choose frozen options if there is limited access to fresh options. Try to cook your own food where you can, but if you do not have access to a kitchen then look for healthier ready-made meals.

Ask for help

In order to improve mental health in South Africa, there needs to be education around asking for help. You might feel that, as a student, you have a high tolerance for stress and anxiety, but failing to seek help when you need it most can be detrimental. Many universities and colleges today have on-site counsellors who you can speak to about any problems you are experiencing.

If you feel that your issues are more serious, you will need to contact a professionally trained practitioner. They will be able to guide you to a healthier mindset and provide you with advice on how to deal with stress and anxiety. You will find that speaking to someone outside of your family and friends circle can help, as they will have fresh ideas and an objective perspective on the problems at hand.

Don’t forget to look after your mental health while studying. Talk to your mental healthcare professional or call Life Path Health’s 24-hour helpline at 072 7900 506.

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