By Samantha Kilford, Second Year, English
The Croft// Freshers can be an overwhelming time for many students – especially those who are starting university with a pre-existing mental health condition. Samantha Kilford gives her advice on coping with this difficult transitional period.
It’s that time of year again; a batch of starry-eyed new students are flocking to the city, ready to begin their journey at Bristol. Starting uni can be challenging for everyone, but when you’re already living with a mental health condition, it can be even harder.
Suffering from anxiety, I found the transition of moving away from home to a new city full of strangers incredibly overwhelming. So much so that I actually had to suspend my studies altogether and return the following year. It was a risky decision, but it made sure that I was far more prepared for the academic year, the challenges ahead, and that I could ensure that measures were put in place to ease my anxieties.
I personally found talking with a therapist for a few sessions before moving away beneficial in ironing out my doubts and concerns so that I felt more capable to cope in such an intense environment.
If you have a mental health condition, my best advice would be to research what help the university can give you beforehand so that you’re not left entirely clueless about who to turn to when you’re in distress. At first, I felt embarrassed or ashamed about having to reach out and ask for help, but I quickly realised there was no need to be.
If you have a mental health condition, my best advice would be to research what help the university can give you beforehand
After an awful start the year prior, I knew I needed to prioritise the complicated rollercoaster that was my mental health. The Student Wellbeing and Disability Services assigned me a designated member of staff within my faculty to conduct regular check-ins to see how I was coping emotionally, and also to give me advice on what could be done to assist me if my mental health started affecting my workload.
It was so reassuring to have that in place before essay deadlines started piling up and it allowed me to feel a little bit more comfortable and secure knowing I had someone to turn to if I began to feel inundated with anxiety or panic.
It's natural to feel nervous or overwhelmed during the first few weeks – or even year – at university, and it can really take some time to feel like you've found your feet. Everyone will tell you not to worry and to get stuck-in. That can be an excellent way to combat your anxieties head-on, but as someone who tried to say ‘yes’ to every opportunity and event throughout Freshers, I know it can lead to feeling down and burnt-out if you’re not careful.
The most important thing to remember is to take care of yourself. Don’t feel like you have to force yourself to participate if you’re not feeling up to it or if you feel uncomfortable, and definitely do reach out to someone. Whether it’s a message to Wellbeing or your personal tutor, it’s important to establish a line of communication early on so that they can be there to offer support if and when you do hit that rough patch.
And know that there’s absolutely nothing wrong if you need to use a weekend to travel home to see your family! Moving to university marks a huge departure from the comfortable environments and lifestyles we’re used to.
Freshers can be very intense and having strangers popping in and out of your life for the first few weeks is unlike anything most of us have experienced before; as well as indulging in the busyness of freshers, make sure you are prioritising yourself and your wellbeing!
Featured image: Epigram / Robin Ireland