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Nurturing your Mental Health

Mental Health struggles impact most of us at some stage. Because they often appear invisible, it can be difficult to see when we may need a little extra support.

Your mental health can be affected by things outside of your control such as your environment and the behaviour of those around you. It is okay to feel sad sometimes, but if these feelings are lasting a long time and don’t seem to be changing, you may want to either look at what the contributing factors may be and potentially reach out for some help.

Below are some tips on how to nurture your mental health and ensure you are doing what you can do and manage in order to keep your mood up during the course of your studies.

If you haven’t been able to find the information your looking for please contact us here - I'd Like Some More Advice   

  • Alcohol Intake

    It is well known that drinking alcohol in the first instance can lead to feelings of being relaxed, less anxious and increased confidence. However, these effects do wear off and when this happens it can cause chemical changes in your brain which can lead to more negative feelings, such as anxiety, depression, and anger. Student life will often involve a fair amount of socialising, this can include consumption of alcohol, but if you are feeling particularly vulnerable at any period, you may want to consider limiting your alcohol intake or pausing this entirely until you feel better.

    The above links provide more information on how alcohol can impact your mental health and how using it as a method of trying to escape mental health problems can in fact cause these to worsen.

  • Food and Diet

    A lot of students come to University satisfied with the idea of living on takeaways and pasta, however, our diet can have an impact on our health both physically and mentally.

    Eating often can help maintain a stable blood sugar and this in turn can help reduce tiredness, which therefore by extension can help with irritability and low mood. It is suggested that eating foods that are slow burning can help with this. Examples are:

    • High protein foods
    • Nuts
    • Seeds
    • Oats
    • Wholegrains

    Eating the right fats can help your brain function as it should. Fat contained in foods like the following:

    • Fish
    • Chicken
    • Almonds
    • Olive Oil
    • Avocado
    • Milk
    • Eggs

    Try eating protein rich foods; lean meat, fish, eggs, cheese, legumes (peas, beans, lentils), nuts and seeds.

    Drink enough fluids. Being hydrated can help with clearer thinking and concentration. Water and green teas are the best for hydration. Avoiding sugary carbonated drinks may also be beneficial.

    Eating a range of fruit and vegetables can help ensure that you are consuming a good mix of vitamins and nutrients.

    A lot of us love a good coffee or tea in the morning, but caffeine can make you feel anxious, impact your sleep and if you become dependent on it, you can even experience withdrawals. Trying to limit your intake of this could have great benefits.

  • Exercise

    There is no minimum or maximum amount of exercise that you need to complete in order see an benefit to your mental health. Though generally the more exercise you do, the better this will be for your mental and physical health.

    GP’s will often recommend exercise as a means of helping to deal with anxiety and depression as it has been shown to reduce these.

    Information provided on the NHS website states that it has been medically proven that people who do regular physical activity have lower risks of certain health issues with depression being one of them.  

    Something as simple as going for a walk each day could have a huge positive impact on your overall health. Walking is free and in the current climate, saving money and exercising at the same time is a win-win situation.

    Queen’s also has a large number of sporting clubs and societies. Information on these can be found by looking at the Students’ Union webpages.

    Exercise isn’t always something that everyone enjoys, but we would encourage you to give different things a go until you find something that may suit you.

  • Sleep and Rest

    The importance of sleep in relation to our mood should not be understated. Socialising alongside busy study schedules and other commitments can often mean not enough thought or consideration goes into a healthy sleeping pattern.

    Practising sleep hygiene is a great way to develop a healthy sleeping pattern. This means paying attention to things that may impact your sleep and trying to reduce or eliminate these factors.

    Poor sleep can cause you to be irritable and can result in an exacerbation of mental health problems such as depression and lack of motivation. It can also result in your being more irritable which is not how you want to be feeling or how you want others to perceive you.

    Some of the following things could be impacting your sleep:

    • Watching tv before bed
    • Alcohol and drug intake
    • Not exercising and therefore having an excess of energy
    • Caffeine too late in the day
    • Stress
    • A loud environment
  • Getting Out

    It’s okay to take a few days to yourself for a bit of relaxation, to catch up on your favourite show or to do things at home that need done. But, it is also important to make sure you are getting out, getting fresh air and seeing daylight.

    Go outside, enjoy a walk, a sit in a park or just going into the town to look around the shops.

    There are some great places to visit for outdoor walks in Northern Ireland that are not too far from Belfast. You can look at bus routes and train transport. Places like the Giants Causeway and even Cavehill are great spots if you have never been before.

    Getting involved with your University colleagues and becoming part of the community can make you feel a greater sense of belonging and help you feel settled. It can also help you improve skills and maybe even learn new ones.

  • Seeking Support

    Looking for help when you need it is important, often people suffer in silence through fear of asking for help, but this needn’t be the case. If you feel like you’re not doing okay, you should talk. Talk to friends and/or family, see what advice they may be able to offer. If you feel like it could be something more than a rough patch, then you may want to speak with your GP or the Student Wellbeing Service.

    If you have any questions or would like any advice, you can contact SU Advice here - I'd Like Some More Advice.