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Mental health checklist for the new academic year

In wake of the new academic year, Wellbeing Editor Jasmine Burke provides a list of actions to take to look after your mental health.

The first few weeks of University can be extremely overwhelming. There are Freshers' activities, (new) friends to meet, and classes to prepare for. With so much going on, we often forget to care for our mental health as well. In fact, when I started first year I had absolutely no idea where to start when it came to the mental side of things. Therefore, here's a list of steps that you can take at the beginning of the year to ensure that you are caring for your mental health.

I've split this list into general tips for everyone, and one more specific to those with conditions.

General tips for everyone

Bristol Botanic Gardens. Photo by Epigram / Jasmine Burke

Pre-prepare some meals while you have some time
The term tends to get hectic before you have time to fully register that it's started. Try preparing and freezing some meals at the beginning of the year while you have a little more free time. This works quite inexpensive, as you can buy cheap temporary containers from Poundland or Wilko and it's cheaper to make a larger meal and separate it into portions. You don't have to make loads of meals to last everyday, but preparing a few in advance means that you're covered if you're having a particularly stressful or lethargic day.

Look for spaces for alone time
Living with people - be that previous friends or complete strangers - is bound to be overwhelming sometimes. Research some places that you can go to reflect and calm down alone. This could be as simple as locking yourself away in your bedroom, or you could get some fresh air and explore some calming places around Bristol. Check out areas such as the Bristol University Botanic Garden, the library or a museum... Get creative.

Register for student health services
Registering for the student health services and ensuring that you have a doctor in Bristol is vital for both your mental and physical health. You can register any time, but it will probably be easier for you to do it at the beginning of the year while it's fresh in your mind. Registration can be completed online by clicking here.

Tips for those with pre-existing conditions

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Email your personal tutors
If you have a mental illness that you're worried will impact your academic performance, it is best to let your personal tutor know. Not only can they pass on this information to your various course leaders and seminar tutors, but will now know to check up on you with regards to your condition. Furthermore, you can seek comfort in the fact that somebody now knows what you're going through and is there for you to email about it. If you have not yet received the name and email of your personal tutor, you should soon.

Research extenuating circumstances
Bristol allows extenuating circumstances for a multitude of conditions. These can include extra time in exams, extended deadlines for essays, a seperate room to take your exams in and so forth. Explore the extenuating circumstances information here to see if you're elligible. It could provide you with some reassurance going into the academic year.

Sign up to some wellbeing activities
The SU set up various activities to do with wellbeing and mindfulness. Check out their website and explore what's on offer. This not only provides you with an avenue to explore how you're feeling, but a chance to meet and make friends in similar positions to you. You can find the list of everything offered by the SU during welcome week by clicking here, but for wellbeing specific events, check out:

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As part of Mental health awareness week we are posting each day different approaches to managing stress. Participating in Uni life is great for helping to manage stress and feeling part of our community. Bristol SU have a great resource to help you search for a society or group. There are over 300 groups ranging from sports, debating and performance - so why not have a look today to see if something is there for you. #mentalhealthawarenessweek2018 #mentalhealthawareness

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Most importantly...

Try and have some fun! The beginning of the year may be a stressful time, but it can also be an amazing one so try and enjoy it. Everybody's conditions are personal, and all of these steps may not apply to you. However, if you can tick off at least a couple of things from this checklist, it can help to ensure a smoother year.

Featured Image: Epigram / Jasmine Burke

Do you have any further tips for starting the year off right? Comment below or get in touch!

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