The new university year is about to begin. This means in just under a week, a whole herd* of Freshers will be invading Lancaster University (and universities across the world) to start a new chapter in their lives. My thoughts have turned to university life, and making plans of how on earth I am going to cope this year.
Being a second year at LU** means I do not live on campus anymore. This means earlier starts, later finishes and a completely different way of living compared to my first year. But that’s okay – change can be good! I just have to work out what the best ways of dealing with things are.
I hope this post might be useful for other students who are suffering with depression and/or anxiety, but everyone’s different, so I’d love to hear your ideas too!!
Freshers week – I may have taken on too much here. I have signed up to be a fresher’s rep with my friend (footballer) which essentially means I have to look after a group of 12 excited/homesick/drunk/hungover/scared freshers for a week. That in itself could potentially be a problem, however I think I can deal with the day to day stuff like showing people round campus and answering questions. I might have taken on too much because I have come to the realisation that I will have to go out NINE NIGHTS IN A ROW. That is insane!! However I have a way to deal with this: Firstly – I will not drink (at least excessively) on every night, maybe just on a couple. Secondly – If I feel like I want to leave during a night out, as long as it is after we have reached our final destination (eg. bar/club) I will go home. There is no point in me staying if I feel like poo – it will only ruin other peoples’ night anyway. Thirdly – I will try and enjoy it as much as possible, and try and banish these negative fortunes which I seem to predict for myself!! And finally – I will try and look after myself. This means eating proper, decent meals (including healthy food!!) and getting enough (or as much as possible) sleep.
The Course – Obviously this will be harder this year (there wouldn’t be any point otherwise!) I will try to be more organised in my work. This can be difficult when I have a lack of motivation, however I will try and create (and stick to) a routine. This means doing work when I get it, rather than leaving it to the last minute (resulting in panic!) I am also planning to study with friends on my courses, as it makes it easier to concentrate, and means we can help each other when we get stuck. Another important point is that if I am struggling, I will try to admit it. I will speak to my course directors if necessary, so that they are aware of my situation. This means I may be allowed extensions for essays (if I need them) and that they will take my depression into consideration when looking at grades and attendance. (Note: I do not want to ask for this extra consideration unless I really really need to because I don’t want to use my depression as an excuse.)
Friends – I am not too worried about this, but it can be difficult for people with depression or anxiety (or people in general!) I find that having a few close friends is much easier and nicer than trying to be friends with everyone. I’m not saying be horrible to other people, but don’t worry if you are not “best buddies” with everyone! I have a good collection of friends here – some from my psychology, some from my german, some from my college and some from societies. This creates a nice mix, and means that generally there is always someone to hang out with if I’m feeling lonely. In terms of friends knowing about my depression, my housemates (obviously) know, as it would be almost impossible to miss when I’m in a down period! Some other close friends are aware of the depression/anxiety, but generally most of my friends either don’t know anything about it or only know that I have depression and anxiety – not any further detail. Sometimes it can be helpful having friends that are aware of your circumstances because then you have someone to talk to, and your behaviour is explained. Some people choose not to tell anyone, and that is fine too, although it then means you have to deal with everything by yourself which is difficult (and not always possible.)
Being away from home – Last year was difficult at times as it was the first time I had been away from home for longer than about 10 days. Skype and phones are my saviours!! Also the 16 – 25 railcard was fantastic as it meant I could afford to go home sometimes, which can mean a well needed break from university life. Most people will be homesick at some point, so there will always be someone to talk to who will understand if you are missing home, especially in first year. I am very lucky that I have 3 fantastically lovely housemates who are all very understanding and good to talk to.
General Stuff – I’ve found that surrounding myself with familiar stuff helps to keep me calm, for example my room walls are now covered in photos and cards etc, and the surfaces in my room are home to many different objects (including many elephants and Bob) which hold memories or are things I like. Having such a positive environment around me in my room helps me to feel more positive, and the photos document happy times in my life, thus reminding me of the good time and why life is worth living! Above everything else I’ve said, I think the most important thing is not to completely isolate yourself. It is easy at times to hide away in your room for days on end, not attend uni, not see friends etc, but this will make things worse. By keeping busy I find that I don’t have so much time to ruminate my thoughts, and also I try to allow myself to be myself (especially around people I trust) because keeping a mask on 24/7 is incredibly draining and not a very pleasant experience.
I would like to wish all students good luck in their new academic year, and hope it brings everyone successes and happiness! I will be keeping you all updated with my own university experience and would love to hear about other people’s experiences too!
*I told you like I this word as a collective noun