When university gets too much for your mental health

We all get told on how university is meant to be the best years of your life, and how we have to enjoy every minute of it. And I do agree that university can be a wonderful experience due to the people you meet, the endless amount of opportunities that come your way and the level of independence and freedom you get. But we have to consider both sides of the picture. For a good number of freshers this will be the first time that they have lived away from home and they now have to be responsible for things that are generally done for them at home, such as cooking, laundry and budgeting. Moreover, students from later years face the pressure of having to balance an increased workload, house bills, job applications, commuting to university every day as well as a lot of other things. Suddenly, university doesn’t seem like the perfect fantasy that we were told it would be. With a lot of things to balance at the same time, everything can hit like a truck.

I am personally someone that can relate very closely to having too much to do at the same time. Will I get everything done? Am I doing enough? What else do I need to do? These are questions that enter my mind at a regular basis. Alongside a very intense and challenging degree, I have several other commitments and responsibilities that I have to juggle at the same time, some of which are very time consuming and difficult. Not only does it cause a lot of stress and pressure, it sometimes feels like a pressure bubble has formed in my head which I can’t get out of. 

I see my friends from other degrees that face similar problems. On top of lectures, those studying maths related degrees have multiple assignments and problem sheets a week. Those studying humanities degrees have long essays to grind out at a regular basis, not to forget the hours of reading that goes along with it. Those doing science degrees have full days of intense and gruelling lab sessions as well as lab reports to complete. That’s just a handful of degrees I have mentioned, and people in other degrees experience equal difficulty. Clearly, managing a degree on its own is hard enough. But when you add in things such as commuting and dealing with overcrowded buses, multiple job applications, never ending problems with landlords and even making sure that your housemates clean the dishes, it can seem that everything is impossible to handle. I know people that have dismissed this as something that you are expected to deal with easily at university. But it is not as simple as that. When this pressure you are faced with becomes unrelenting and never ending then it can trigger feelings of anxiety and can have a detrimental impact on your mental health. And sadly, this is becoming more and more common at university, with more students than ever disclosing a mental health condition.

However, despite all the challenges you face at university, there are solutions that you can regularly implement in your routine that can go towards improving wellbeing. There are the obvious and well-known ways that provide effective long term solutions to improve your wellbeing such as seeking counselling and wellbeing services at your university. But it is worth noting that this may not be the best solution for everyone, and that there are other ways in which you can take care of yourself. Activities such as sports and exercising have been scientifically proven to have a positive impact on your wellbeing, and it is something that may help you if you have the capacity to do so. But even small things which don’t require a lot of effort and time such as treating yourself to a meal out, making time to do a hobby that you love or even going for a walk can have a massive impact. Personally, I have always enjoyed socialising and I use that as a way to destress, but everyone has different things that work for them.

Furthermore, if there was one specific piece of advice I would give you, it would be to keep things in perspective. There is a lot that we have to do as students at university, and there are times where it gets too much to handle, but your wellbeing and mental health is very important. In the moment it can feel like the essay deadline or exam that you may have is the only thing that matters right now, and that everything else doesn’t matter. This can make it extremely easy to lose perspective, as your mental health is something that will have a bigger impact in the long run than any essay or exam. It is important to realise when the pressure at university is getting to a point where your mental health is getting affected, as your mental health is something that cannot be neglected.

I originally wrote this blog post for Student Minds.


22 thoughts on “When university gets too much for your mental health

  1. I never went to university but I can only imagine how hard it is. The amount of work coupled with money concerns, working and making new friends must be very tough.
    Thank you for sharing


  2. I never went to university (we call it college here in the US), but two of our kids did. Our son seemed to do well mentally as well as our daughter. I think the hardest part for our son was leaving home to go back.


  3. I went to university…about 20 years ago now (scary) and had some wellbeing and mental health issues in my final year. Keeping things in perspective is a great piece of advice.


  4. I went through uni myself. It prepares you for later life. You need to learn to multi-task as it doesn’t get any easier when you’re working and juggling everything else.


  5. Great article, I never went to University but i have friends that have, i can see how this can be so tough on your mental health and can be such a challenge to overcome,let alone succeeding your degrees.


  6. I remember that my transition to student life came as a huge shock and many of my peer group struggled. We were lucky enough to have an on-site pastor (this is Swansea University) and a doctors’ surgery on campus at the time (80s) so there was always someone to talk to. So there is absolutely no shame whatsoever in feeling like you can’t cope. After all, you’ve left friends, family, everything familiar to join a much larger and more competitive environment.


  7. You’re so right that you need to look after yourself first and foremost and it’s about getting the balance right x


  8. I didn’t go to university in the end but lots of my friends did and really struggled. Thanks for sharing what many people may be going through.


  9. I think school, college, university and work can all affect people’s mental health especially during pressurised times. I have felt very anxious over the last few weeks due to the situation and working as a key worker, so have stayed away from the news and social media for my own sanity


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