Freshers, the time has finally arrived for you to pack your bags, buy your body weight in pasta and head off to college. It’s an exciting time for you all, but it can also be daunting to be in new surroundings. I have come up with some handy tips to mind your mental health, for those of you who already have mental health issues such as anxiety and those of you who are just feeling a bit under the weather at the thought of the big changes in your life.
I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in 6th year of secondary school and I am now about to enter my final year at UL. While I feel I have some valuable advice to give, these tips might not work for you and if so there are so many valuable resources both online and on campus in UL to help you with all your stresses or anxieties.
You are not alone
Dealing with your own health issues can get in the way of experiencing the college life and can hinder your education, no matter how much you wish it didn’t. Be comforted in the knowledge however that with the growing numbers of young people in Ireland who suffer from mental health difficulties you are certainly not alone. Being in a college as big as UL, you can sometimes feel lost in the crowd but what always comforted me was that I knew I wasn’t the only one feeling overwhelmed and lost in my first few weeks at UL.
Dealing with Assignments
Personally, the hardest challenge I faced in first year was the amount of assignments that were handed out like sweets and how they all seemed to be due at the same time. When you have a mental health issue, it can almost seem like a get out of jail free card and as an excuse for missed deadlines and failed exams. It’s something however that shouldn’t be relied on. If you use it to defend your shortcomings it will become a safety net and soon you won’t bother at all. Yes, it was difficult, and a lot of tea and chocolate was purchased to get me through long days in the library, but it was worth it for the sense of accomplishment when I handed in three 2,000-word essays at the same time.
One of the most exciting aspects of starting college is socialising, something that those with anxiety can find frightening. The important thing to know is not to push yourself too far. Sure, you can get out there in Freshers week and have a good time, but if it’s the third night in a row and you’re not in a good place mentally, don’t feel like you must go out just because your friends are. You know your limits the best, stick by them. Making friends in first year is so important but you want to have the right people by your side. While you may not want to go shouting from the rooftops that you are struggling, maybe just have a quiet word with a friend. Having someone around you who knows your situation will put you at ease. I certainly wouldn’t have made it through three years at UL without the support of my friends.
Good results are different for everyone
An important thing to remember is that an A1 might be great for one person, and a C2 might be unreal for another. You know your own abilities and what you are capable of. If you think you can only manage a B or a C in Sociology but your friend will only settle for an A1 then that’s ok. A first-class honours degree will be an achievement to some, but just passing and graduating from University for someone with mental health issues, will be an amazing achievement.
Help is always available
If you find yourself struggling with any sort of mental health issues in college, there are so many resources available around campus and in Limerick in general. Counselling and chaplaincy services are offered in UL and are an amazing support, so use them. The services are there, your friends and family are there and more importantly you are not the only one going through this. We are all in this crazy world together.