Written by Mitchell Falcke
“Are you okay?”
The phrase loosely asked each day to young Australians, usually palmed off with the common “yeah, I’m alright”. But, how often do we truly open up about how we’re really feeling?
Mental health is one of the biggest issues facing young Australians today with over 75% of mental illnesses occurring before the age of 25.
It is important that we define the concept of mental health. The World Health Organisation defines mental health as “the state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” Based on this description, mental health becomes an issue when it begins to interfere with and impacts your everyday life. This can happen in a variety of ways.
However, young university students in particular, experience circumstances which may contribute to weakened mental health. For example, exam stress, deadlines pressures, uncertainty about the future, financial struggle, or perhaps starting to be independent from family support – can have a profound contribution on one’s mental health. This article isn’t designed to simply give you the quick fix on feeling better. It does however, aim to provide some advice from QUT student Councillors, and other resources to help you cope with “day-to-day” life as a young university student in contemporary society.
1. Me Time
Life as a university student is full-on. It can be difficult to juggle classes and contact hours on top of working. This is why it is extremely important to set aside some time for yourself to relax and destress. Allowing yourself time to partake in one of your hobbies, watch a movie or listen to music in order to relax and slow down can, in turn, aid you in recharging your batteries and help you tackle the coming hours head on.
2. Exercise and Eat Healthily
Both exercising and having a healthy diet, can increase your mental health quite considerably. Firstly, exercising for around 30 minutes a day can be beneficial as endorphins are released to the brain, contributing to improvements in mood and concentration. This may be as simple as going for a quick jog, or walk in instances where a gym membership is not feasible. Secondly, while eating healthy can be challenging in a university lifestyle, in the long run, a balanced diet can provide more energy and strength throughout the day. This may be as simple as making a healthier choice in the food court, or bringing a packed lunch every now and then.
3. Set Small Goals
When suffering from mental illness, insignificant tasks can easily turn into mammoth challenges. That is why it is essential to set achievable, small goals during the day. This concept, no matter how small it may seem, can motivate you to get out of bed and make something of the day. Achieving goals such as cleaning your room, exercising, or going to your lecture can provide a sense of accomplishment, which may in turn contribute to achieving tomorrow’s goals and tasks.
4. Talk to someone
The final and perhaps most important tip is to speak out. Speaking up about how you are feeling to a counsellor or someone close to you can provide significant benefits for one’s mental health. However, if speaking to someone personally seems daunting or unappealing, there are a plethora of services, such as Beyond Blue or Lifeline, which provide anonymous phone call support or even SMS support to those struggling with their mental health. Overall, the main thing to remember is that you are never alone and there is always someone willing to listen.
So, hopefully a combination of these advice can help you cope with university life and make it easier for you to have a smooth transition into the workforce.