Walking to wellness apps


Your uni toolkit for mental health

There’s a lot to get sorted when you’re starting university. You’ve finessed your wardrobe. You’ve got to grips with basic nutrition (with a little help from the local takeaway). You’ve figured out how to operate the washing machine. But sorting your mental health? It’s not always so easy.

When the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) published a landmark review of UK students’ mental health in 2021, it highlighted the huge benefits that higher education can have on your wellbeing.1 However, it’s not an easy transition for everyone. Last year, a study of over 12,000 UK students found that 81% had been affected by mental health issues.2 The figure rose to 91% among LGBTQ+ students.

Luckily, there are lots of resources you can draw on to smooth this transition into the next stage of your life—including some brilliant tools you can use for guidance.

What's the source of all this stress?


It’s complicated. Some of the triggers are age old. One study, for example, found that drinking booze and caffeine can lead to sleep disruption, which in turn may lead to anxiousness in some students.3 Another showed how loneliness and stress about studies can take a toll on students’ mental health.4

Some of the issues facing today’s generation are new, though. A national survey conducted last year highlighted “higher debt levels than previous generations,”5 while the RCP pointed out “the Covid pandemic has thrown up a new set of concerns” as lockdowns and distance learning made it tough for some people to handle new environments and social situations.1

Fortunately, there are plenty of tools available to help you to deal with the anxiety caused by unpredictable circumstances. EE LearnSmart is a great resource.

A group of people jogging

IRL help at university


If you’re worried about your mental health, what help should your university be able to offer?

The wellbeing services team is where you’ll find out exactly what support is available, from general wellbeing groups to counselling and mental health advisors. You don’t need an official mental health diagnosis to get help, and even better: you can make contact as soon as you’re offered a place. Some universities have their own wellbeing apps and online tools – just check your university’s website.

The question remains though: is this enough? The student campaign group #forthe100, named after the 100 UK students who take their own lives annually,6 argues that universities and colleges should have a legal duty of care towards students. Their petition, started in March 2023, calls for universities to step up their mental health support. It was signed by 128,292 people, and triggered a parliamentary debate.

In the meantime, what other strategies could you use to help keep your mind happy and healthy?

Make it mindful


There’s a lot more to mindfulness than soulful selfies and hippy hashtags (#blessed). It’s a proven tool for reducing stress and anxiety—so much so that mindfulness therapies are recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care excellence (NICE) as a treatment for depression.

It can be hard to know where to start, so check to see if your university has a meditation or mindfulness society to help you settle into the practice. There’s also Calm, the leading meditation and sleep app, which has loads of guided meditations of varying duration.

Still at school? It’s never too early to focus on mental health. Pearson offers resources to support young people, their parents and teachers during difficult times. From mindfulness webinars to a guided introductory practice, there are many tools available to help manage stress—including The Olympic Mindset Podcast, which shares lessons from elite athletes on how to develop resilience when overcoming anxiety.

A young woman meditating

Sweat/stroll/swim/stretch away the stress


A huge body of evidence shows that exercising our bodies has a positive effect on our mental health,7 especially when it’s done outdoors—so joining a university sports club might be a great idea. You don’t have to be a gym bunny—most universities have a wide range of clubs, from walking to wild swimming, so there should be something for everyone. Another benefit? Exercising with others has also been shown to have greater mental health benefits than exercising solo8. Win win.

De-stress your deadlines


When researchers delved into the reasons behind poor student mental health in 2022, they found a lot of associations with high academic stress. In other words, if the pressures of work are getting on top of you, it’s not unusual to find your mental health suffering too.

Organisation is key. EE customers on a Full Works or All Rounder plan can choose Microsoft 365 Personal as an inclusive extra. It provides access to the latest Office Premium apps from Word to Excel, as well as Skype and 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage—and can be used on up to five devices. Whether you’re working on laptop or tablet, or perhaps reviewing on phone on the couch later, you can work to your own beat. Great for staying on top of deadlines and keeping your work organised—and keeping stress at bay.

1    Royal College of Psychiatrists. Mental health of higher education students. (https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/docs/default-source/improving-care/better-mh-policy/college-reports/mental-health-of-higher-education-students-(cr231).pdf)

2    Cibyl. Student Mental Health Study 2022. (https://www.cibyl.com/cibyl-insights/student-mental-health-study-2022)

3    Peltz, J. S., Rogge, R. D., Pugach, C. P., & Strang, K. (2017). Bidirectional Associations Between Sleep and Anxiety Symptoms in Emerging Adults in a Residential College Setting. Emerging Adulthood, 5(3), 204-215. (https://doi.org/10.1177/2167696816674551)

4    Newcomb-Anjo, S. E., Villemaire-Krajden, R., Takefman, K., & Barker, E. T. (2017). The Unique Associations of Academic Experiences With Depressive Symptoms in Emerging Adulthood. Emerging Adulthood, 5(1), 75-80. (https://doi.org/10.1177/2167696816657233)

5    https://www.tribalgroup.com/blog/10-years-of-wellbeing-data-reveals-the-extent-of-the-mental-health-crisis-in-uk-higher-education

6    https://www.forthe100.org.uk/

7    https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/physical-activity-exercise-and-mental-health/how-are-physical-activity-and-mental-health-connected/

8    Harada K, Masumoto K, Kondo N. Exercising Alone or Exercising With Others and Mental Health Among Middle-Aged and Older Adults: Longitudinal Analysis of Cross-Lagged and Simultaneous Effects. J Phys Act Health. 2019 Jun 27;16(7):556-564. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31195882/)

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