Self Empowerment

Scared about Your First Year at University? We’ve got your back! HC at uO’s Mental Health Advice

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Starting your new path to university can be overwhelming, exciting, and slightly scary. There are new people, a plethora of clubs and societies, and a campus as large as your hometown. And you’re in the middle of it just trying to not get lost!

It’s a fun, but typically stressful transition for most of us. As we all know, with increased stress, we tend to forget and neglect our mental health. So, we at HC at uO are here to give you some of our advice for keeping your mental health in tip-top shape when you start uni this fall!

Take it EASY

“My biggest mental health advice for first years entering university is to take the pressure off yourself! When I was in first year, I was so caught up in understanding everything about classes, clubs and more as quickly as I could. I realized that in the end, there was no need to rush and I still made inevitable mistakes along the way. So try not to worry too much and give yourself a break when things feel uncertain, after all, it’s a new adventure!”

– Gen (4th year Health Sciences student // HC at uO Health & Wellness Editor)

“Be present in first year because it really goes by way too fast! What I did was take one day at a time and I genuinely believe that having that mindset positively improves your mental health and stress! Another word of advice is to take as many breaks as YOU need to recharge. Everyone is different, so if you need to take an hour-long break from school after studying for 30 minutes, then do it. The last thing that helped me in my first year was identifying my “stressors” and “fillers”. There were specific aspects of my first year that were really big stressors and I found it extremely helpful to find and use fillers (the things that fill/uplift me with happy feelings). Some of these fillers include going on a walk, spending time with specific people, turning off my phone and reading a book. Find your stressors and figure out some fillers to distract you from the things that you’re experiencing for the first time as a first-year student!”

– Emily Crandall (3rd year Communications and Sociology student // HC at uO Writer)

“When you’re in school, especially post-secondary or graduate school, it is easy to become engulfed with lecture notes, assignments, and your social calendar. With this in mind, we usually end up putting our skincare routines, morning workouts, or whatever you do just for you, aside. Keeping up with these routines is just as important as your academics because they keep you energetic and happy. In my experience, I suffer from anxiety and OCD which means I get easily overwhelmed with the stresses of the student lifestyle. Regularly going to the gym has positively impacted my daily routine both mentally and physically. I find I have much more energy, and the added benefit is meeting amazing and inspirational people at the gym.”

– Jade (2nd year Social Science / Conflict Studies and Human Rights student // HC at uO Events Team Member)

“Be gentle with yourself. Coming into university can feel like a big switch and it’s very possible you will begin to pile on expectations for yourself. From feeling the urgency to meet new people and excel in this new world, everything can get overwhelming and start to feel like too much. My advice is to try and be as kind and lenient as possible with yourself during these new moments and experiences, and embrace everything. Embrace the awkwardness and discomfort, the nervousness and excitement. Allow yourself to feel the array of strange new feelings that will arise but try your best to meet them with kindness and affirmation, reminding yourself as much as you can that no matter how you are doing, you are doing. You are pushing and trying and that is amazing and all that is important. University is just like any other beginning you’ve experienced in your life, something that appears cloudy and tricky at the start but something that you get the hang of with time.”

– Alice (4th year Communications student // HC at uO Writer)

“Make time for yourself! Even if you have five million things on your to-do list, making time to prioritize your mental health needs to be number one, always. I find that creating routines that allow for sufficient me-time is super helpful! For instance, I’ll do a face mask and enjoy my coffee for a few minutes in the morning before I get to work. It’s all about balance.”

– Teaghan (4th year French-English Translation student // HC at uO Campus Correspondent)

Socialize!

“Find friends that you can trust in your program! Being able to see familiar faces in your classes and study together for midterms and exams can be so helpful (academic-wise and also for your mental wellbeing). It is a great feeling knowing that you have someone whom you can talk with about the specific struggles you may be experiencing and knowing that they will be able to understand what you are going through.”

– Jess (4th Year Life Sciences and Ageing Studies student // HC at uO Lifestyle Editor)

“There are so many preconceived notions of what “fun” is supposed to mean in university. Fun has more than one definition. Don’t be afraid to try new things! But also don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself if something isn’t working. Do what you enjoy in your free time to keep your stress levels low (or at least lower) in your academic/work time.”

– Emily Clements (Communications Graduate // Former HC at uO Fashion & Beauty Editor)

“Leave your residence or apartment every single day, even if that means walking to the library on a weekend.”

– Eve (4th year English Literature student // HC at uO Writer)

“Don’t be afraid to reach out to people! Loneliness is an overwhelming feeling that often comes along with big changes such as entering university. Try as much as possible to avoid being alone whenever you feel too sad and overwhelmed, join clubs, talk to floor mates, join your major’s association, and use the free therapy resources at the wellness center. Don’t be afraid to approach others because everyone is as lost as you are!”

– Ligia (4th year student // HC at uO Social Media Director)

GET A Good Night’s Rest

“I recommend sleeping at least 8 hours every day and not drinking too much coffee too late in the day! Identify the time in the day that you work best and set that time aside every day to focus on school. This way, you’ll be more efficient while you study and won’t be as stressed out for exams and assignments.”

– Gwen (4th year Health Sciences student // HC at uO Senior Editor)

“Never sacrifice your sleep. You might think an extra hour or two of cramming for your midterm the next day is worth pulling a late night for, but it’s not. As much as possible, protect those precious hours of sleep; they’re so important not only for your overall health, but even your academics. When you’re well-rested, you can focus better, and you’re not distracted by how tired you are. The best thing you can do for yourself is sleep. Your mind and body will thank you.”

– Sally (2nd Year Biomedical Sciences student // Hc at uO Writer)

Even though starting university may be scary and exciting, don’t forget to prioritize your mental health. Take it from us!

Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

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