5 freshers wellbeing tips to help you ace university
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Putting yourself out there and ensuring a good night's sleep are just two top tips for young people heading off to university this year.
For young people, starting university can seem overwhelming especially in the age of the pandemic when classes were online and in-person interactions were limited. Ezra Hewing, head of education at Suffolk Mind, offers up some advice to those who may be feeling a little apprehensive about the next big step in their lives.
Join local clubs and activity groups
Ezra explains that to be healthy and to stay on the well side of the wellbeing continuum, young people need to feel connected to the wider community and make meaningful connections with others. Leaving friends and family behind can be a challenge, but young people must take an active role and put themselves out there.
"It’s really important from the outset to be looking at ways to form connections with other people. Young people should bear in mind that some of the people they meet at university are going to be life long friends," says Ezra.
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"Take advantage of student union events and finding out about local clubs and activity groups where there are shared interests.
"If young people don’t feel confident to do that then speak to the student’s union or student wellbeing support to see if there is anything in place to introduce young people to others – a buddy system for instance," he adds.
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Since the pandemic, social interactions with others may not be as frequent as they once were and young people may feel anxiety around social situations – which is completely normal. However to break out of this anxious cycle, Ezra encourages young people to think back to a time when they did make friends.
"Maybe it’s the first time you went up to secondary school or the first time you joined a football club. Try and identify three positives memories of having met people face-to-face for the first time and established friendships and connections with people.
"These memories will give you the motivational fuel to get connected with other people and remind yourself that you’ve done it before and that you can do it again," adds Ezra.
Get a good night's sleep
Ezra explains that getting a good night's sleep is very important for mental wellbeing. He suggests using blackout blinds or eye masks to ensure restful sleep. Look away from screens for at least 45 minutes before bed and doing relaxing things will also help.
"Sleep is evolved to protect our mental health and we need to be really disciplined about that," he says.
"By doing this it will help us to wake up and feel refreshed and calm the next day and able to engage with studying and meeting up with other people with a positive mindset rather than feeling anxious and worried about deadlines," he adds.
7-11 breathing exercise
When things become stressful for young people, Ezra recommends the 7-11 breathing technique to combat feeling overwhelmed.
"Breathe in for a count of seven and then out for a count of 11 seconds," says Ezra.
"When we breathe in our heart rate lifts ever so slightly and our body becomes a little bit more alert - our sympathetic nervous system becomes activated. But when we breathe out, it switches over to the parasympathetic nervous system and our heart rate calms down and our stress levels lower," he adds.
Make two lists
Ezra explains another way that young people can feel a little more in control, which is especially important in these uncertain times. He says draw up two lists; one of things we can control and one of things we can't control.
"Things we might not be able to control might be government decisions about lockdowns, the pandemic, the weather. Things that we can control are what socks we’re wearing that day, when we’re going to sit down and do some writing, when we get up to take regular walks and breaks.
"Make that list about what you can control reasonably long, maybe 10-15 things and just focus on giving attention to those.
Finally, Ezra stresses the importance of getting to know all the student services on offer to young people.