Wednesday, 13 August 2014

August Awareness | Mental Health and Education


It's the reason people choose to study. It's not to socialise or because they get a kick out of waking up early and going to a place where a lot of the day is decided for them. It's results. It's about getting a step closer to where you want to be. It's about being able to say, 'I've achieved this'.

What happens when it becomes too much? What happens when you place so much pressure on yourself that your drive for results becomes an obstacle in your own life, affecting the results?

You fracture. You break.
(Amazing photo, I know!)

By fracture, I mean that you face increased anxiety, you find yourself being ill more often, you become sleep deprived from stress, you can't concentrate as well in your classes, your results dip and this just places more stress on you. It's a vicious circle but you need to know how to get a handle on it. If you don't, your mental and emotional health will deteriorate and no one wants that. It should NEVER have to get to that point! I've chosen to tackle this topic by doing a list of things you can do to improve/have a positive mental health with your education.

Be realistic.
I know that at the start of the school year you feel pretty invincible and you spend a lot of time on each assignment because the workload isn't so bad. You sign up to every activity going and spend a lot of time with friends. I call this the honeymoon period of education. Whilst it's good to try out lots of different things you need to be realistic and honest. How many of these commitments can you do, alongside studying, and having time for yourself? The amount of time you spent on your first assignment was impressive but are you going to be able to commit that level of time for every assignment? Give yourself the same time frame you will give future assignments. It will help you to become more productive in the future! Evaluate everything you have going on in your life. As nice as it is to go out and every day of the week, can it be reduced whilst you're studying? You may need a job to help support your studies but how many hours do you need to do? The recommendation when I went to Uni was to not go over 15 hours employment if you are studying full time and even then that's the absolute limit. Don't get greedy with money. Earn enough to support yourself and use the other time studying and balancing your life!

Don't compare.
I can't stress this enough. You only need to know your own situation. Don't compare what you do to others. Their life is different. They may spend more time on each essay, but this could be for many reasons. They may need more time to research than you do. They may have a different learning style that requires them to spend more time doing the exact same thing as you. It's not a competition of who can study the longest. Everyone has different aptitudes so don't assume that because someone has understood something that you haven't, that you never will. You will understand; you may just need to approach it a different way. Once you're comparing yourself to others, you're focusing on their life instead of your own. This won't affect them but, it will affect you.

Know when you're at your most productive and take advantage of it. If you work better at night then do your chores in the morning and study later. If you work best in the morning then get up a little earlier and make sure you go to sleep at a time that gives you enough rest.
Lists are beautiful things for me. If I have everything written down then I can work out what to do and when. I don't stress last minute because I've forgotten something. When I studied for my degree I also had a job so I planned my studying around it and made sure that after work I had time to socialise, because I had already done my studying. You don't need to plan every second of your day but you will be much more productive if you have some form of plan.

Be healthy.
A healthy, balanced diet can improve your concentration. This means you will be more productive. You will achieve more accomplishments. You won't feel as stressed. Keep hydrated whilst studying and have a little healthy snack within reach so that you're still receiving energy whilst you learn. Make sure you give yourself 'brain breaks'. If you're inside, go for a little walk outside. Some fresh air will do you good, honestly. You will be more productive with frequent little breaks than if you sit down and study for three hours without a rest. Exercise is also a great idea whilst studying! I don't mean flat out sprinting or completing a Tough Mudder obstacle course. Just try to do at least 20 minutes of gentle/moderate exercise a day. This could be a brisk walk around the campus or maybe meeting with a friend and doing yoga, it's up to you.

Make sure your life isn't just study and work. Make time to balance your day by seeing friends and family. Go and do something fun! I know exam time is stressful and you feel you have no time to do anything other than study but it will help to have these social breaks.

Seek advice and support.
If it has reached the point where you are beginning to fracture don't stay silent! Seek advice and support. There are lots of options available these days for students so use them! You are not weak for wanting support! Every building needs foundations or it will crumble! The more you struggle on, the more likely you will affect your health overall. Education isn't supposed to be a stamina test to see how long you can last. Talk to your school advisory team/staff. If it becomes tougher then speak to a counsellor or your GP. Talk to your friends and fellow students, they may have developed their own support that you hadn't considered.

I hope these tips have helped you and have you given you the motivation to keep achieving. I'm not saying this is what you need to do to succeed but it will certainly help! If you are keeping a balance but are still struggling with your health then maybe a break will help? A lot of institutes have the option to have a term/semester out and then return to study so speak to your advisor about it. If that doesn't work then consider returning to study at a later date or switch to part time if possible? Just because it's the right time for some, doesn't mean that it is the only time for you.

Make your own choices.

Toodlepip x