Mental Health Series: A Guide to Preserving Your Mental Health in University
- Theodora Petrou
- Jan 12, 2022
Some of these feelings may be familiar to you: anxiety, nausea, lack of motivation, and burnout. The jump from high school to university is among the most difficult changes you will make in your academic career, so it is essential to organize yourself and mentally prepare.
Finding a healthy balance between school and your personal life is an ongoing struggle, yet it is manageable.
University schedules, in general, are not normal. Working and studying all day for most of the year, along with the expectations to volunteer, play sports, and have time for personal projects is a recipe for burnout. It’s unfortunate that finding a healthy balance is such a monumental task, but that is the life we as students live. My advice is to make the most of what you're given and develop personal systems that work for you and help you manage.
From one student to another, here are five different things I'd like to share with you.
Prioritize a good sleep schedule, drink water, and invest in good quality food
The most mentioned yet undermined piece of advice is getting good sleep at reasonable hours. Your brain functions better with ample rest, and creativity flourishes in a well-rested mind.
Your sleep habits are the underlying common factor for how you perform, both mentally and physically.
I firmly believe that what we consume dictates how we feel. The diet you follow often shows major differences in how you feel.
Drinking enough water is a healthy habit to implement in your daily life as it has proven to have countless mental and physical benefits. One benefit is focusing on and retaining information easier; look at it as an investment for studying.
Stay organized and follow a schedule
Half the battle of succeeding in university is staying organized.
A few examples on how to stay organized are: name your files and sort them on your desktop when you download them, have a calendar with all due dates on it, develop a filing system to keep your papers/assignments organized, make a daily schedule with your timetable included, and create to-do lists for the day, week and month.
Spend time with/call your family and friends frequently, and use breaks during the year to properly recharge
It's easy to get lost in schoolwork and extracurriculars, so remember to take breaks and spend time with people in your circle. Please make sure you communicate with family and friends often and lean on their support during the semester.
Christmas break, reading week, and summer vacation are times to catch up on sleep, eat home-cooked meals, exercise, and work on personal projects you may have put aside during the school year.
Understand that failure is a part of success
You may take an unconventional path yet end up with the same result as someone who planned every step. The key is to pick yourself up more times than you fall and to keep trying.
Pre-Ivey AEO2 student Cameron Brown is one of the students that took on the role of an Ivey Student Mentor this year, and I was lucky enough to be placed in his group. The student mentorship program is for dedicated students who are thinking of applying to Ivey while taking on their first two years of university and assists them along the way. Personal student mentors are another valuable yet niche resource that the university offers.
Cameron remarks, "it is easy to be influenced by those around us to devote our days to studying, writing essays, or if you are like me, making spreadsheets."
He shared with me his top tips regarding mental health and school, the first being:
"To preserve your mental health, you need to take breaks.
When creating a time block schedule, create a "to-do" list of what schoolwork you need to do that day. Then, specifically plan how you will spend your free time in order to have something to look forward to."
The second tip touches on using efficient systems that work best for you:
"Try different studying methods to get your schoolwork completed effectively (like my favourite, Pomodoro).
Completing work effectively and efficiently leaves you with more free time and helps with balancing your personal life with academics."
And last but not least, a reminder to take a step back and understand how far you've come:
"Take a second to appreciate your accomplishments.
Then, you can proceed to commit to your non-academic goals, regardless of how difficult or mindless they are."
Western has excellent resources for mental health support; your job is to seek them out. An example is $750 of counseling already paid for and available to students with licensed psychologists and social workers. Never feel ashamed to admit the workload is demanding and that you're struggling; we are here to support you. Keep in mind that your peers and professors are often some of the most helpful resources you could reach out to. Good luck!