HEALTH NOTES

Evening Times - - IN THE PICTURE -

SMALL steps can make a big dif­fer­ence when it comes to tack­ling stress and home­sick­ness, says med­i­ta­tion ex­pert WILL WIL­LIAMS. Start­ing univer­sity is an ex­cit­ing new chap­ter for young stu­dents, but it can also be daunt­ing and stress­ful. There are dead­lines and liv­ing costs to man­age, the pres­sure to make new friends, not to men­tion that for many it’ll be the first time they’ve lived away from home.

“It’s the step into the un­known,” says Will Wil­liams, Europe’s lead­ing Vedic med­i­ta­tion ex­pert. “Last year, more than a quar­ter of Bri­tish stu­dents re­ported hav­ing a men­tal health is­sue, with de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety the most com­mon. Re­search on home­sick­ness shows 35% of new stu­dents ex­pe­ri­ence it, and a few will go on to de­velop de­pres­sion. You’re leav­ing the com­fort blan­ket of your home and school, which will nat­u­rally im­pact on your men­tal equi­lib­rium. The ef­fects can be quite sig­nif­i­cant.”

Here, Will shares nine top tips to help new stu­dents take care of their men­tal health... 1. Bring a piece of home with you “We’re not talk­ing about the kitchen sink, but it’s worth bring­ing a cou­ple of your home com­forts that mean some­thing to you. This at­tach­ment is known as es­sen­tial­ism, the idea that ob­jects are more than just their phys­i­cal prop­er­ties.” 2. Throw your­self into new chal­lenges “There’s no doubt tak­ing that first step into a lec­ture theatre or the stu­dent union bar can be ter­ri­fy­ing – but the very best so­lu­tion is to do it any­way. This is some­thing of­ten rec­om­mended by psy­chol­o­gists and is known as ex­po­sure ther­apy.” 3. Set bite-sized goals each day “Pro­cras­ti­na­tion di­min­ishes hap­pi­ness, but it’s the thing we do when we’re feel­ing ner­vous and in­se­cure. Whether it’s mak­ing all your lec­tures or tick­ing off the ac­tiv­i­ties on fresher’s week, work­ing to­wards your goals pro­vides a men­tal boost, while hid­ing in your room doesn’t.” 4. Stay healthy “OK, so we know that tra­di­tion­ally, you’re sup­posed to be liv­ing on cold pizza and ke­babs when you’re a stu­dent (well, that’s what we did in my day). How­ever, re­search finds that hap­pi­ness and men­tal well­be­ing are high­est among peo­ple who eat a good amount of fruit and veg­eta­bles per day.” 5. Get enough men­tal rest “Yes, we know, the lure of the late-night bar is very com­pelling – and the last thing we want to do is put a stop to your par­ty­ing. The trick here is find­ing some­thing to bal­ance it out.” 6. Be the one that helps oth­ers “When you’re stressed and wor­ried your­self, it might seem like you hardly have the time or the en­ergy to in­vest in other peo­ple. But you can help your­self by mak­ing it a pri­or­ity, since re­search sug­gests help­ing oth­ers helps re­duce stress lev­els.” 7. Go easy on your­self “We can be our own worst en­e­mies when we find our­selves in sit­u­a­tions of stress. While it’s good to be self-aware, be­ing overly self-crit­i­cal will only drive those feel­ings of in­se­cu­rity.” 8. Move it “Make time to be ac­tive, as ex­er­cise has been proven to re­lease feel-good brain chem­i­cals that may ease de­pres­sion.” 9. Cel­e­brate yel­low “When it comes to dec­o­rat­ing your new digs, try har­ness­ing the power of a yel­low hue. Re­search shows happy peo­ple tend to as­so­ci­ate their mood with this bright colour.”

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