Your final year of study is never plain sailing. There is a myriad of things to think about, some highlights including dissertation, exams and of course, the dreaded career choices that lie beyond the safe cocoon of studenthood – to name a few.
Perhaps you are one of those students that crams a 3000-word essay into a seemingly endless night in the library one night prior to the deadline. Of course, with the help of a few trusty tins of Redbull as you vow to yourself, you won’t do this again – in which case you will know what it means to be submerged in a fit of jittery, self-inflicted stress. Or perhaps you play it completely by the book, working conscientiously throughout the year and meeting deadlines in advance (what?) and yet you will still feel the heavy weight of stress on your shoulders, nevertheless.
The bottom line here, how ever one approaches the final year of their degree, stress is a bullet that can scarcely be dodged. Indeed, one study found that 80% of those studying in higher education reported symptoms of stress or anxiety; where another established that 9 in 10 students experienced stress. There are, however, simple measures that can be taken to reduce some of the factors that may be taking a toll on students’ mental health. These measures, almost too obvious, go surprisingly ignored amongst students. Yet, their application into student life would unquestionably ease some of the most significant sources of stress for final year students. So, here are five tips on how to maintain your mental health in your last year of university.
- Pay Attention To Your Meal Plan
Eating clean foods is fuel for your body and mind, which might result in improved cognitive function, increased energy levels, and decreased digestive symptoms. This is not a call to ditch the chicken nuggets or that ice-cream entirely from your life. But planning your meals in advance will prevent falling into the trap of such easy, processed foods – foods which, according to numerous studies, have been linked with declining mental health.
Sitting down on a Sunday and planning five meals for the week that stretches ahead will be something that the weary, Thursday-evening-you will really appreciate. It will inform your shopping, making the nearest supermarket or fast-food restaurant seem like less of a minefield. There will be no need to stare vacantly at the shelves of a store after a late lecture, racking your brain for what ingredients you have at home and what you can make. There will be no need to rely on nightly bowls of cereal, which is sadly not as nutritious as we students would like to believe.
2. Prioritise Self-Care
Your diet is vital to maintain a healthy mind, but so too is what you do to your external body. In case you are feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed by everything that happens in your daily life, it’s essential to go easy on yourself and incorporate some proper time for self-care. Whether it is reading an uplifting book, long soaking in a bathtub, or taking time for your hobby, doing your favourite activities can help to distract you from present, cheer you up, and make you feel more calmed and relaxed.
A good idea to consider using CBD products to maintain your active lifestyle and overall wellbeing. Any product that has Cannabidiol (CBD) as its foundational ingredient will help to combat classic cases of student stress and anxiety, even improving concentration and enabling you to maintain good energy levels to be able to meet the deadline that has been looming over you.
CBD effects have links with improved health across the board – both mental and physical. In terms of physical health, it helps to reduce pain and various chronic aches by preventing and decreasing inflammation due to antioxidant, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory properties. If you are vulnerable to migraines – which certainly isn’t helped by the harsh glare of your computer that your eyes are exposed to at all hours of the day – CBD can tackle these, too. What’s more, the intake of CBD oil means improved mood, energy, and concentration, and decreased anxiety and stress, which is vital during studying.
There are numerous outlets and online stores boasting CBD-based products, the ultimate tool for self-care. Aside from prominent CBD oil, products also include CBD capsules, topicals, edibles – and much, much more.
3. Clean Room = Clean Mind
Try to ensure your working or living space is kept as neat as possible. Clutter is not conducive to working well, distracting you from full concentration and might cause unnecessary stress. Student rooms tend to be susceptible to growing piles of mugs and bowls. Instead, make a habit of taking used crockery back to the kitchen as soon as you’re done using it – or better yet, eat meals in the communal area if there is one.
Make time for a weekly wash of your clothes to prevent the overflow from your washing basket; the feeling that this brings of being on top of the game is not to be underestimated. Likewise, a washing basket spilling over with clothes, lurking in the corner of your bedroom can cause subconscious stress and poor sleep – this goes for the mess in general.
Too many housemates wanting to wash their clothes at once? Organise a schedule to avoid washing machine traffic jams. Allergic to cleaning? Take a simple wipe to your bedroom surfaces once a week to keep your room smelling zesty and your desk from succumbing to a blanket of dust. Housemates not pulling their weight? Time for another schedule!
4. Stay Sociable
Work is essential, of course, but a healthy mind also comes from social interaction. Spending hours alone with your laptop is not healthy – relish your final year. Grab a drink at the pub nearby or enjoy a film night with a couple of friends. Even a cup of tea in the company of housemates can prevent an impending meltdown.
For an especially wholesome housemate-bonding activity, keep a biscuit tin in the kitchen and a pad and pen beside it. Whenever you are feeling complimentary, or you appreciate something about one of your housemates – perhaps they merely lent you a saucepan – jot it down and drop it in the biscuit tin. Set aside some time in the evening each week to go through the biscuit tin notes and read out the compliments to one other. There is no activity more heart-warming or personality-affirming to pass an evening.
5. But Not Too Sociable…
Don’t underestimate the need for taking time for yourself. And no – doing work on your own does not constitute ‘you time’. Take a walk around the block, in the park or forest, and put your headphones in, sure. But checking in with your thoughts is also important. Don’t drown them out with abrasive music all the time. The sound of birds brings far more serenity and spending time outside is a proven method to reduce stress, enhance creativity, and boost focus.
If slowing down to meditate on your thoughts is not something you are accustomed to, the friendly voices of apps like Headspace and Brightmind can help with that.
Go out partying! You are, after all, a student. But do so in moderation. Heavy hangovers that occur with too much frequency and eat into the weekdays will not help with the fast pace of final year and will also plunge your sleeping pattern into disarray, which is also detrimental to your psychological health.
6. Stick To Regular Physical Activity
Whether indoors or outdoors, make sure to include different types of movement to sustain physical and mental health. We are all going to have to exercise in one way or another for a long time, so we may as well find ways that empower us and motivate us. But this is not something that can be changed overnight. Finding an activity that you like might help you to stay consistent with an exercise routine and improve your relationship with a physical activity which will translate into significant rewards for life.
For indoors activity, try out yoga, stretching, aerobic exercises like jumping rope, exercises like pushups and squats, or even household chores. Plus, when the weather is nice, it might be a good idea to have a short walk, run or cycle to breathe some fresh air. Beyond the physical benefits, such activities also boost mood and reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and anger which is particularly helpful during challenging times of exams.
It is easy to look at all this advice and feel intimidated by what seems to be a hefty checklist of things to do to stay sane. Ultimately, however, any of these easy measures would help in their own small way towards keeping a clean mind; the adoption of more than one is even better – all of them combined and it is likely that you are well on the path to a healthier head.
But there is no guarantee: taking all of these measures and still feeling suffocated by stress probably means there’s more to it and is beyond the healing powers of even a meal plan. Therefore, never be afraid to seek help with your University wellbeing service – every school should have one. There are also endless anonymous telephone services and one-off mental health check-in services attached to most UK universities, an example of such being Nightline.
Should you find that your university is letting you down in this regard, seek help privately if you are able to, or make use of more extensive services on offer, such as your regional Samaritans helpline. Mental health is everything, and the final year of your degree might be the most significant test to it you have thus far faced in your life, so making it your priority is of utmost importance!