Back to uni: how to help look after your wellbeing

Uni can be stressful & hard but downright amazing, so it’s important to practice self-care

Living away from your family and the friends that you grew up with for the first time can be really scary, but going to uni is an exciting opportunity to learn to be independent, meet new people and of course get a fantastic education. It can also be overwhelming, a little lonely and stressful – which is why we’ve put together a little self-help guide to help you get the most out of uni life, and out of yourself.

Make your bedroom your sanctuary 

After all, living at uni can sometimes mean the only place where you can be alone is your bedroom – especially if it’s first year and you’re living in halls. So your bedroom needs to be the place you can go to get some headspace and relax. There are simple things you can do to make this happen like:

Fill your room with indoor plants

Not only will they look good, they help improve air quality and help you breathe more easily inside. It’s also good to have something small to be responsible for, so make sure to care for them properly by watering them as required

Try to take away your dirty plates

We’ve all been there, watching TV whilst eating our lunch and then popping the plate on the side to take away later. Or how about the window sill that’s full of glasses? If you take them into the kitchen and wash them as soon as you’re done with them, you’ll feel so much better about stepping back into your bedroom and it won’t be so much of a chore, it’ll just be part of your routine

Frame photos of your loved ones

If you’re feeling stressed or low, just take a look at all the wonderful people in your life that support and care for you – you’ll feel grateful and perk up straight away

Please your senses

Grab a few gorgeous smelling candles* or plug-in scents that hit you as soon as you walk through the door – soothing smells like lavender, jasmine, peppermint and lemon are helpful

*Never leave a burning candle unattended.

Self-care routines

The key to making self-care routines work is to focus on something small rather than something big, as taking on “too much” self-care could make you feel overwhelmed with how much you should be doing to feel good. So instead, start small and focus on making it a routine – remember to be flexible and don’t try to do everything overnight.

A few ways to help you dedicate time to self-care are:

• If you love reading but can’t seem to find the time, just read one chapter of your book each day 

• Wake up at the same time each morning (but be flexible at the weekends) and don’t check your social media for an hour after waking 

• Apply a face mask once a week and for those 10 minutes, just shut your eyes and gather your thoughts

• Put your clothes away every day (don’t let them pile up on that chair), you’ll thank yourself once your room is clutter-free

• Try meditating – Headspace is an app that makes meditating really easy for just three minutes a day. So find yourself a comfortable space and let yourself go

If none of this sounds like your cup of tea and for you self-care is all about being on the go then that’s okay, too. 

Step away from social media

Taking time away from social media is so important; we can become addicted to it without even realising. You can try a few simple steps to take time away from the screen, like not going on your phone whilst you’re walking to and from lectures (you never know what new sights you might see), or pop your phone in your drawer for an hour so you can really focus on that TV show you’re currently loving. 

Try and make your Instagram a safe and soothing space to visit – every time you see an image of something that makes you happy, click on the save button and when you’re not feeling great go into the save section and there you’ll find everything that makes you smile. If you’re anything like us, it’ll be full of floofers and woofs and happy puppers!

If you’re feeling lonely

First off, it’s okay to feel lonely but it’s not a good idea to keep it inside and not talk to anyone about it. Going to uni is a big deal and as much as you think you are, you might not always be prepared for life away from home. There will always be someone you can talk to at uni, whether it’s opening up to a lecturer you trust, speaking to a friend, calling your mum or going to the student services office and looking at what’s available to you. 

Don’t shut yourself away, instead try the following:

• Join a society you’re interested in and know you’ll find fun – you also never know who you might meet!

• Attend your lectures and seminars – conversations and creativity will flow naturally

• Do something with your friends – when you’re in a loneliness spiral you can sometimes start saying no to everything, instead make a challenge to socialise at least once a week to begin with and build yourself up from there

• If you have time, do some volunteer work with non-humans – animals are magical and can make us feel connected. There are plenty of animal shelters out there who will be happy to take on volunteers

Most importantly, ask for help. If you need to, speak to your GP about how you’re feeling or get in contact with the amazing charity Mind who offer free counselling sessions and helpful advice. 

Make sure you get plenty of sleep

And no, we don’t mean staying up all night and sleeping all day! A lack of sleep can make you grumpy, distracted and cause of lack of concentration. So being able to sleep well at night is important, especially before an exam. Try spritzing your pillow with a pillow spray that has a soothing smell. For more tips, we’ve gathered our top nine slumber saviours we can’t get enough of to help you drift off to sleep.

Don’t set your expectations too high

Try not to focus on having the student experience because there’s no one experience that will fit all. No matter how it looks, student life isn’t all fun and games or having the time of your life (not all of the time anyway). Realistically, a lot of the time you’ll be in your PJs, eating pizza and binging box sets – in between going to lectures, seminars and studying of course! So if you feel like your experience of uni isn’t what you thought it was going to be, banish your expectations altogether and take the experience as it comes.

Remember, you’re allowed to have bad days but don’t feel bad for having them. What works for some people might not work for you, so go with it.