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.”