Mental Health & Studying
JUGGLING WORK, LIFE & HOME
Written by Caroline Roberts
Caroline is studying BA Hons English. She wanted to get involved with Student Life to gain real magazine-writing experience and to have the chance to be a voice for mature students at the university.
As a full-time, mature student and mum I juggle lectures, study and deadlines with the school run, clubs and running the house. Although my other half is incredibly supportive he works long hours, so it’s inevitable that a lot of the organising is done by me. With a family to look after I’m like most students with caring responsibilities – I just keep going.
I’ve come to realise though, that you can only do this for so long. I’m in my second year of study now and have learned the hard way that sometimes I just have to give myself a break.
If I don’t, my mental health suffers and the tension builds up so much that I feel stressed and anxious, and this exacerbates my reflux and my night-time teeth grinding. Both bring their own health issues which then negatively affect my study further: headaches, heartburn and sore throats. Then I feel more stressed because I worry I’m making myself ill and it’s hard to regain some sort of control. It’s easy to say, ‘find time to relax’ but it’s so difficult in reality. Any mature student, in fact any student, will know how hard it is to unwind after a deadline or to take time out when there’s a pile of reading to do or a presentation to prepare for. I really do believe though that making a bit of time to chill out is so important for my mental health.
The key to making that happen for me seems to be organisation and planning, which sounds like more work, but if I manage my time by scheduling in my reading, assignment writing and deadlines (and stick to them!) then just the feeling that the tasks are under control makes me feel better. If I know I’ve allocated the time to complete my assignments then I feel able to give myself some time off, whether it’s to spend a day with my family or just enjoy not having to feel pressured for a bit.
Getting a change of scene and a mental break refreshes my brain and stops me feeling like it’s just a constant treadmill of study and day-to-day family routine. I can enjoy my study more and in the long run I’m keeping myself well for when I really do need to ‘just keep going’.
NEGATIVE THOUGHTS MAKE IT REALLY HARD TO CONCENTRATE
Louise is a 6th Form student and part of the editing team on the mental health supplement of Student Life
Written by Louise Dickman
I know for sure that suffering from a mental illness/having poor mental health can affect school and your studies. I’m currently studying A Levels and I find it really hard to concentrate when I have a billion negative thoughts going around in my head! Being in a bad place doesn’t help when you are trying to complete tasks or revise. I was revising only a few days ago and about an hour had gone by and I had written about two sentences because I had so much going on in my head! The main problem around students with mental health issues is actually having the motivation to do some homework or go to class, and when it’s started, it’s difficult to keep the concentration going. But you have to know what works for you when trying to complete work. For example, for me, music keeps me in the zone and blocks out all background noise and thoughts.
However, there are more tips and tricks;
Study in short periods of time with breaks (if you can’t concentrate for long amounts of time – do it in chunks with 5-10 mins breaks in between so you don’t get too bored and distracted)
Work somewhere quiet and mess free. Also, try to eliminate any distractions like your phone or iPad or similar. (Unless you’re using for educational purposes!)
Use motivational methods.
Something that works for a lot of people is putting a chocolate or sweet every few pages in a text book so you have a reward for getting through them.
Prioritise tasks. Don’t do the easiest one first if it’s got to be handed in in a couple of weeks, do the tasks that are most important and need to be handed in sooner. Get anyone, whether it be your parents, siblings or friends to ask you questions on what you have just completed to make sure it’s really gone in!
Something else I also did was let my school know I was struggling and asked for extra help with the topics I couldn’t get my head around which was beyond helpful.
Remember, your mental health comes first. Don’t put yourself under too much stress or beat yourself up, it’s not worth it! I got so stressed and worked up last year that I didn’t do well and I’m re taking year 12. So remember there are always second chances and alternatives to make things right, even if it doesn’t feel like it now.
Written by LEANNE ARNOLD
Not too long ago my anxiety levels increased, and I started to find it more and more difficult to go into university and attend lectures. I had a scary experience with my physical health whilst attending a lecture and was rushed into hospital. Since this, my anxiety has been quite severe when in social settings and especially in university. I believe this is anxiety through association, sometimes when we experience negative things in certain situations we can often associate the negativity with the setting it occurred in.
My university friends and lecturers were extremely supportive and there was not a time where I didn’t feel safe in that respect, however I still wasn’t able to budge the awful looming feeling of doom. I would find it extremely hard to concentrate on content in lectures as I was so preoccupied with trying to ground myself and control my body from having a panic attack. I missed lots of content from that semester which caused the anxiety to double, worrying about being behind but worrying about being in lectures. It became a very nasty circle of continuous worrying and feeling anxious about just about everything.
The worst part? The fact that the physical health condition was only worsened by high levels of stress and anxiety. To be honest, everything felt pretty dark and I was unsure whether I had lost too much content to complete the essays that were due for that module. But along with the student counselling and therapy services, fantastic support and understanding from lecturers, and constant support and encouragement from friends in class I was able to complete a full day, then another, and another. It was tough! But what I want you guys to realise is that there is so much support available, there are many ways to aid you in achieving your grades and completing your essays. Peer to peer support, extensions, deferrals, tuition, tutorials, mop-up sessions. It is so important for students to realise that studying with a mental health condition is 100% achievable, that there are measures that can be put in place to aid you in this, and that your mental health condition does not define you and/or your abilities to study.
Keep at it! You got dis!