Take Care of Yourself

Peter Neville confronts the reality that all the highs of university life can sometimes leave us feeling down, and provides some helpful tips on how to beat those collegiate blues. 

In first year, there is always one certainty – the free flowing stories amongst students of drinking, partying and socialising on a grand scale. However, amidst all the fun of college, it’s easy to overlook health and safety. Don’t worry – this article doesn’t aim to patronise. This is just a quick guide on how to look after your mental health whilst in college. Simply put, college can be stressful. Ask any second or third year – or even better, one repeating first year – about exams, and they will quickly change the topic. Study season is a proven stress machine, affecting each student differently. They seem a million years away right now, but as sure as a rainy Irish summer, they creep up on you. And suddenly, the good times end, and anxiety sets in. At times like these, counselling is a very beneficial option – University College Cork is an optimistic campus, with numerous services available to any student finding it tough.

Sadly, both nationally and worldwide, suicide rates amongst young people have become epidemical; and statistics show that at least 5,000 students in UCC are living with some sort of depression (that’s just under 1 in 4.) But how do you promote a positive mental state within yourself? Secretary of the Sláinte Society, Shauna Murphy, offers some useful advice: ‘If you believe that you’ll make friends and settle in, you will. Believe in yourself! A positive attitude creates a mind-set of solutions and enthusiasm. You can change reality by allowing yourself to act in a different way. Put positive post-it notes on your mirror and create positive expectations- it all starts with your attitude.’

It’s not as difficult as it may seem to make a significant change to your lifestyle and mental health. These are a couple of helpful tips from college students who have been in the same situation and survived it.

Don’t leave all your studying to the last minute 

Although hard to balance academic affairs with society, club and social events, it is important to try to get some work done each week. Try to avoid the college cliché of leaving it all to the last minute. Not only will you feel better about your situation, but you will also get better marks and hopefully avoid the dreaded August repeats.

Don’t feel like your problems are unimportant 

There is nothing worse than being faced with a difficult situation and feeling like it must remain secret. Trust me, the longer a problem stays in your head, the more it gains strength and eventually it seems worse than it is. Talk to a friend, or if you would prefer, UCC offers a fantastic counselling service.

Join a club or society 

Although slightly contradictory to the first tip, it’s important to have a social outlet. Most societies and clubs hold weekly events, which are a great way to let off some steam. These also succeed in bringing people will similar hobbies and interests together – be it History, Physics, or even Japanese – there is a society that would be glad to meet you.

Go to lectures 

This may sound simple to first years, but other years will be sniggering slightly to themselves. Many students miss lecturers, feeling that all the notes they need are online – don’t fall into that trap. Go to lectures, even if it is just a location to sleep off that hangover. You never know – you might learn something.

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side! 

College is the best part of your life, they say! So, it shouldn’t be a bore or a stressful demon. Relax and take each challenge as it comes – be it essays, exams, competitions, speeches or even romantic experiences. If you give it your full attention, you’ll quickly reap the rewards.

At the end of it all, your mental health should be a priority. Keep positive – these are the good times. Even when you are struggling in subjects, keep your head up and smile.