Michael shares four tips for minding and maintaining healthy mental wellbeing at university.
There has been a sharp increase in the demand for on-campus counselling services, whilst suicide risk among students has increased since 2000. Undoubtedly, higher education can be a challenging environment for those that, like me, struggle with mentally ill health. However, I believe that one of the best ways that fellow students can help one another is to share their experiences. Here are four of the most important things to help me stay grounded, mindful, and maintain healthy mental wellbeing at university.
1. Organisation & Discipline
Take practical steps to be more organised and disciplined.
The only certainty in higher education is that you will be required to juggle a number of different projects, assessments, modules, and the like. Being disciplined with your time management is key. If you can ascertain what is expected of you, and you can envisage the steps needed to meet those expectations, then pre-emptively breaking up your study time at the start of the semester for each module, for instance, will help immensely. Using a calendar/diary/phone app to track/plan study/research sessions enabled me to visualise tasks and avoid several months of immense stress toward the end of the year.
In a similar vein, I try and set aside as much time as possible for hobbies, socialising, and just being ‘away’ from my work. If you’re particularly vested in your degree sometimes it, and the stress that comes with it, can consume you. Taking time away allows you to come back to your work with a clear and revitalised mind.
2. Focus On Sleep
Be mindful of your sleep.
I frequently encounter problems with my sleep – the prime culprit being insomnia. Characterised by not being able to initiate or maintain long periods of healthy sleep, insomnia can make day-to-day tasks (not to mention, studying) seemingly impossible. There have been times in classes that I have phased through time, almost like I was never there. I then developed anxiety about not sleeping and missing more classes that, in turn, led to even less sleep because of worrying!
Most students will experience late nights. Whether out at clubs, or studying long hours, sleep deprivation among students is common and not particularly problematic in small bouts. It does, though, become a serious problem when you are too tired to concentrate, too restless to read, or too disassociated to listen to your teacher. Regular sleepless nights quickly became normal for me, and increasingly problematic as my studies progressed. Particularly with intense stressful assessment periods approaching, sleep might seem like the enemy because you cannot study, revise, or research whilst you sleep. However quality sleep is very much your friend during such periods. Where possible, regular sleep/wake times will dramatically decrease your chances of feeling encumbered when you’re awake so that you can study more effectively.
3. Realising When You Need Help
Try and establish a way of identifying when degree-related stress may develop into a mental illness.
I have found that part of the difficulty in dealing with mental illness at university is the fact that degrees are exceptionally stressful processes. As a degree requires you to face increasingly difficult challenges, it is easy to become caught up trying to meet the growing demands for self-improvement. I’ve become mindful that it can sometimes be a fine line between experiencing a ‘normal’ level of stress, and developing a mental illness. The difference between a couple of sleepless nights awake researching, and actual sleep deprivation because of insomnia, can become blurred. The distinction between a lack of motivation caused by boredom, and the feeling of hopelessness caused by depression, seems slight.
The key here is not to normalise debilitating levels of stress. Routinely set aside time for work, and set aside time for resting as part of a healthy work/life balance. Therefore, whilst I cannot measure stress like I might with a thermometer for a physical illness, trying to be self-aware of when routine breaks down, and when stress starts becoming ‘too much’, has been imperative. Further, being open about how I feel with family and friends acts as an additional protective support, because they are sometimes better placed to recognise when I am having difficulties, and can then help and advise accordingly.
4. Seek Help
Seek help if you need it.
If your mental health begins to deteriorate and you feel as though you are struggling, consider seeking out medical help from your GP, your local mental health charity, online services, or your on-campus mental wellbeing team. Failing all of this – consider telling a member of staff at University whom you trust. Approach your mental illness with the same sincerity and seriousness that you would do with a physical illness.
These tips all have one thing in common – they require some level of mindfulness. Whatever outlook you adopt during university, being mindful will, at the very least, ensure that your university experience is as smooth as possible.
For more information and advice on looking after your mental wellbeing, click here.
My name is Michael. I’m a postgraduate International Human Rights student at Birmingham City University, and will be commencing my doctoral studies in September. Having become personally aware of the mental difficulties that university life can bring, I am trying to become more active in bringing mental health issues to the forefront of discussion in higher education.
Adam shares five tips for identifying and accessing support for anxiety
- Adam Jones
Anxiety is something that everyone feels at different points in their life. However, the severity of it can differ from person to person. Sometimes, you may have to make that step to get help for when it gets out of control. When that anxiety builds, everything can feel scary. Nothing is simple. However, you’re not alone; there’s more people than you think that are going through a similar situation right now. Don’t’ ever feel like you’re a burden on anyone else. Get the help you need.
Here are five ways that you can get help when going through a tough period with managing anxiety:
1. Talk to friends and family
When times get hard, it’s important to talk to the people closest to you; the people you can really trust. Whilst it can be hard to acknowledge that you do need help for anxiety, speaking to your friends and family sometimes, can help.
Although they may not be able to provide professional advice, the people closest to you will know you inside out, and will be able to give you advice and look out for you, seeing as you may either live with them or see them frequently. If they don’t know about how you are feeling, they won’t be able to help as much. Please do speak up about anxiety when you feel comfortable enough to do it!
2. Get the external help you need
If your anxiety is quite severe, it could also be wise to seek professional advice. Booking a doctor’s appointment would be the first step in doing that. They’ll have a good idea as to what could help depending on the type of anxiety you experience and the severity of it. From there, they may refer you on to services like counselling where you will have the chance to talk about how you’re coping and how you feel. These counsellors will be especially trained to support the anxiety you’re going through as well as providing possible solutions.
Alternatively, a doctor could decide to prescribe you medication in an attempt to aid your anxiety. Without booking a doctor’s appointment, you may not be able to find out exactly what help you may need. Whichever route you take, it’s always wise to seek professional advice and help.
3. Find coping mechanisms that work for YOU
Everyone’s methods of coping with anxiety are different. It’s always good to test out different methods that suit you, and to not persist with strategies that you don’t find helpful.
Whilst you need to find your own ways of coping, it’s always good to research ways that other people deal with their anxiety. This is especially useful information to have when these tips are given by people who experience a similar type and severity of anxiety to you.
However, if these tips don’t work for you, don’t panic. Everyone is different. It may take a while to find your own coping mechanisms, but it’ll be worth the wait when you do find ways of coping!
4. Learn to respect the boundaries of anxiety – then test those boundaries
Whilst you may be very frustrated, like I am sometimes, at having very high anxiety, I wouldn’t be tempted to go completely out of your comfort zone to push its boundaries straight away. Doing this may give you panic attacks, which could have a long-lasting effect, or could make you feel even worse both physically and mentally.
It can be great to push the boundaries of the anxiety that you have. However, it would be a good idea to find coping mechanisms that work for you first, then gradually push them. That’s how I’ve learnt to deal with my anxiety, and I feel much better for it. You can overcome it!
5. Help yourself by helping others
Even if you may have received professional help for anxiety, self-help can be a really useful form of therapy. Often, the battle with anxiety is ongoing, so it’s always important to take care of yourself.
One way you can do this is by helping other people who are going through similar things. It can be very self-rewarding and help reassure yourself when you give these words of support to others. It can be as simple as listening to friends and giving them advice. Another thing that you could do is write about your experiences and share advice with the internet, in the form of social media and blogs. There are so many things you can do to help others where you can also help yourself.
You can find more information and advice on anxiety here.
Hello! My name is Adam. I study Journalism and Media Production (BA Hons) at the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham. Being a keen blogger and having several experiences during my academic studies, I hope that I can help people along the way whilst enjoying writing for you
Adam shares five tips for preventing loneliness and staying positive during the university summer break.
After finishing my first year of university, I was aware that I might feel quite lonely during the summer break. To prevent this from happening, I made lots of different plans to keep myself busy during the four months I’m away from university. You may be in a similar position. Here’s five things that you can do to prevent loneliness during the university summer break:
1. Meet up with your friends from home
Whilst, like me, you may have lost contact with old friends since starting university, I would advise that it’s important to re-connect with them. Not only will this help you escape possible loneliness, it will also show your friends that you still value them and want to keep in contact with them. This could be beneficial to both parties, with some of your other home friends possibly experiencing the same feelings of isolation and loneliness. Never be afraid to message people, even if you haven’t been in contact with them for a while.
2. Make the effort to meet up with friends from university
Personally, I think it’s important to meet up with your university friends in the summer, even if it’s just once. It might be expensive. It might be quite a way to travel. However, people will appreciate the effort you make to see them, even if they don’t necessarily say it.
Seeing your university friends will also allow you to build stronger bonds with them ahead of the next year. Maintaining a close supportive network of friends can only help in the long-term, especially if your degree entails a lot of teamwork. Don’t wait for others to arrange plans. Take charge and it’s more than likely that you’ll reap the rewards.
3. Build up your portfolio
Building up a portfolio can keep you occupied and can help raise your professional online profile. If you want to impress potential future employers, this is a good thing to do. It can also make you appreciate the knowledge and skills you’ve learnt at university. Whilst creating a portfolio of work may sound like a lot of effort, it can be very rewarding if you show off the range of skills you have. Plus, when you graduate, you can spend less time building a portfolio from scratch and spend more time looking for your first full-time job!
4. Create a vision for the next year
Setting ambitious targets for next academic year can help you find your direction and purpose. For example, as a journalism student, I’ve set myself the task of completing a certain number of articles next year on top of my university work. Aim high and you’re more likely to reach the top, I believe in you all!
Show your vision to others on your course, show it to your lecturers. Both will try and help you achieve your aims; you often need people by your side in order to achieve your goals.
5. Update your CV
As well as building your portfolio, regularly updating your CV with your latest skills and achievements is also very important. You never know when an opportunity could come around the corner. A fully updated CV showcasing all your skills will be useful to have at your fingertips. Whilst it needs to be short enough for a potential employer to read, include as many skills as you can to impress those who view it.
You can find more advice on looking after your wellbeing here
Hello! My name is Adam. I study Journalism and Media Production (BA Hons) at the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham. Being a keen blogger and having several experiences during my academic studies, I hope that I can help people along the way whilst enjoying writing for you
Emily shares four tips for managing and overcoming feelings of frustration if things don’t work out as planned after graduation.
- Emily Maybanks
This time last year, I finished my degree in Translation at Swansea University and thought I had my life planned out. I had a job lined up in China for fifteen months, I was finally free of deadlines and exams, and I could spend a few weeks relaxing by the sea before temporarily moving back home. A year later, my job in China didn’t work out; I’ve been in and out of temporary employment, and living with my family, thus having that independence that University and then living abroad gave me taken away. All of this has affected my mental health. As horrible, frustrating, and sometimes upsetting as this past year has been for me, I’ve learnt a lot about myself, and have some tips, advice and support for other graduates who may be experiencing similar situations and emotions, whilst feeling isolated and alone.
1. Be proud of your degree
It can be easy to feel disappointed and upset that you’ve worked hard for years to earn a degree, only to move back home, apply for job after job and attend interview after interview whilst you work out what you want to do with your life. However, getting a degree and graduating from University is certainly something to be incredibly proud of. It can open doors for you, even if those doors take a while to open! For many graduates, graduating from University is often the very first time in their life that they’re properly in the driving seat.
2. Moving back home isn’t forever
All that independence you’ve gained after studying at University and living away from home for years; learning to manage your money, time and commitments – when you move back home at the end, it can feel as though it all gets snatched away in the blink of an eye. Furthermore, your friends live all over the country or all over the world and it’s almost impossible to meet up. I have been in this situation for months and it’s had a negative effect on my mental health. Aside from becoming a dog walker and cat sitter for my parents, my confidence has rarely been lower and I miss being independent. I’ve found it useful to use this as motivation to make a better life for myself, even if it’s saving up little by little for my own place. Or, save up for a holiday for you and your friends!
3. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else
You’re scrolling through social media and seeing that other graduates have gone straight into the job of their dreams or onto other qualifications. But it’s important not to compare yourself to others – especially as what we post on social media isn’t always an accurate reflection of what’s going on or how we’re really feeling. Everyone feels insecure about what they’re doing and wondering whether they’re on the right path, which is okay and perfectly normal. Don’t compare your situation to others, live your life your own way!
4. Take your time
Graduating can mark an overwhelming period and a time of intense change. It’s okay to take a bit of time – do stuff you enjoy, volunteer for a while, relax. Take some time to figure out what it really is you want to do and then set some goals to help you begin to achieve that dream. If it means accepting employment in a different area in the meantime, then so be it. “Life is a journey, not a competition.”
“Life is funny, isn’t it? Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, just when you finally begin to plan something, get excited about something, and feel like you know what direction you’re heading in, the paths change, the signs change, the wind blows the other way, North is suddenly South and East is West, and you’re lost.” – Cecelia Ahern.
You can find more resources on looking after your mental wellbeing here.
My name is Emily (Em). Last year, I graduated from Swansea University with my BA degree in Modern Languages, Translation & Interpreting; I was also passionate about and dedicated to Swansea Student Media and the University students’ newspaper – Waterfront. I blog for Student Minds because I have experienced mental health issues as a student and now as a graduate, as well as other health issues, and I support friends who also have mental health difficulties. I am a passionate writer and writing has been important in my mental health experiences – both in helping me to explore and to cope with my mental health, as well as sharing my story in order to help others.
Jane shares five tips for succeeding in OCD recovery as a student.
- Jane May Morrison
For those of us who experience Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, our university experience can quickly start to feel downright nightmarish! However, there’s good reason to be hopeful about OCD recovery. Campus understanding of mental ill-health is improving, media depictions of OCD are raising awareness (see: Channel 4’s brilliant 'Pure' (1)), student health services (though busy) are better-informed on OCD, and every student can access resources like OCDAction’s 'OCD at University' (2).
Speaking as an (ancient, decrepit, 30-year-old) postgraduate, the changes to student mental health services over just the last decade have been huge. Things have improved! If you’re experiencing OCD symptoms, your chances of getting correctly diagnosed and directed to ERP (Exposure Response Prevention) therapy are better now than ever. ERP is the gold-standard treatment for OCD – the treatment you should be directed towards. It’s often considered a subtype of CBT (Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy). It can be done alongside GP-prescribed medication. ERP trains you to gradually confront your obsessive fears, without doing your usual mental or physical compulsions. In the long term, it can re-wire the brain (for real: it’s literally visible on a brain scanner). This can drastically reduce the intensity, believability and frequency of obsessive thoughts.
If your student mental health services don’t offer ERP, and you can’t find or afford a private therapist, you can still try self-directed ERP. However, it’s best to do this with guidance from an expert workbook (e.g. David Veale and Rob Willson’s 'Overcoming OCD') or a specially-designed app like nOCD (3).
Here’s 5 tips for succeeding in OCD recovery as a student:
1) Ask for support at your college/university’s Disability Services. Although mental healthcare varies between institutions, you’ll never know what is available at yours if you don’t ask. As a diagnosed case of OCD is a recognized disability, your university should make reasonable adjustments for it (e.g. extra time on essays or exams, an Independent Learning Plan, the ability to leave seminars early etc).
2) Do the regular ERP homework your therapist sets (even if you don’t want to!).
3) Go easy on yourself during the initial ERP period. It’s emotionally draining to push through high anxiety without your usual reassurances. Keep busy, but don’t volunteer for too many stressful extracurricular commitments; relaxed events that you can come and go from are better. Practice self-care. Keep your mindset strong with recovery-focused podcasts like ‘The OCD Stories’ (4)
4) Be selective about who you share with. Though OCD awareness is improving, flatmates and friends may still not fully understand the debilitating nature of it, nor fully acknowledge your amazing mental strength in fighting it off. They might think it’s just a harmless quirk, or crack hurtful jokes about how they’re ‘soooo OCD!’ themselves. They can even unwittingly trigger OCD anxieties with throwaway comments about your obsession topic. They’re not malicious – just misinformed. But there are good alternatives: OCD communities online, helpline support (5), university mental health groups, and many off-campus UK support groups (6).
5) Try to make lifestyle choices that help recovery, not hinder it. The newest evidence suggests brain inflammation as a factor in mental illness, and binge-drinking, insomnia and junk food are unlikely to help (7) (8). Many people with OCD report symptom flare-ups after heavy drinking. Nobody’s saying you can’t occasionally have a few pints, but if you DO decide the temporary buzz of getting hammered isn’t worth the OCD panic attack tomorrow, it’s 100% ok. You do you!
You can find more OCD information, advice and experiences here
Jane May Morrison is backcombed eco-goth, studying for a Human Geography PhD in the wonders of low-carbon energy/heat, at the University of Exeter. She also writes feminist fiction. Late-diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and OCD, she'd like to help make life a wee bit easier for others with these conditions. Find her on Twitter @JaneMayMorrison.
Laura shares her experiences of overcoming negative body image whilst recovering from an eating disorder.
“A body does not have to be a prison. Instead, our bodies can be precious vehicles for life.” - Jenni Schaefer
Recovering from an eating disorder has also meant attempting to rebuild a positive body image. My focus has been forced to shift from hating and starving my body to nourishing it with the food it deserves. It’s changed from cursing my arms and legs and stomach for being too ‘big’, to allowing my body to regain the weight it desperately needed to.
It hasn’t been easy, and I’m not there yet. I have never felt comfortable in my skin. I always, and wrongly, believed that if I was thin, I wouldn’t have a problem. I equated thinness to happiness, and I thought if I achieved what I perceived as a perfect body, I would also achieve a perfect life.
But when I fell victim to anorexia, for reasons far more complex than simply what I looked like, I realised I had been wrong. The voice in my head was never pleased, no matter how much weight I lost. I had to be thinner. If I wanted to feel better in my body, I’d just have to lose more.
It’s only now that I can see how wrong this voice was, and how disordered its logic. It’s only now, with hindsight, that I can see that at my thinnest, I was also the loneliest, saddest and emptiest version of myself. At my thinnest, I hated my body more than ever.
Over time, I’ve learnt that my body image is dependent on how I feel inside. On a good day, I can breeze through without a thought to my weight or shape; on a bad day, when I feel anxious or sad or stressed, I am painfully aware of the size of my body and the space I take up. On those days, I want to starve and shrink my body more than ever before. Perhaps I think if I am smaller physically, my feelings will be smaller too, or maybe I just want to disappear completely. Who knows the rationale behind an eating disorder? All I can do is tell myself it is wrong.
The thing is, we are all so much more than our bodies. We are the sum of the friendships and relationships we invest in, the hobbies we love to pursue and the talents and strengths we possess. As it turns out, your body image is just a reflection on how you feel about yourself. If you dislike who you are, you’ll dislike how you look, regardless of your weight or shape. I am learning to appreciate my body for what it can do instead of how it looks. Shifting our focus from the size of our thighs to the contents of our hearts can transform the way we see our bodies for the better.
Positive body image comes from the inside: nourish yourself, respect yourself, and slowly you can grow to love yourself.
My name's Laura and I'm currently studying for a Master's degree in journalism. I'm really passionate about improving student mental health having been unwell for a lot of my degree, and I'm one of the editors here at the Student Minds blog. I believe sharing our stories is one of the most powerful things we can do!
Annie shares her body image journey and fashion and sex have positively changed the way she feels about her body.
- Annie Bocock
As someone who has been consistently overweight for most of their life, the way I have felt about my body has been complex and has fluctuated between multiple extremes. This is okay! In fact it’s incredibly common to feel this way no matter who you are and what your situation is.
To explore my own history with body image I can tell you roughly the different feelings I’ve had about my body over the years and how the last 12 months have completely shaken the way I feel about my body.
“My body is alright” For many (MANY) years I would describe my body as “fine” and “okay” to myself and others. That’s because I really did think it was just okay. Perhaps a bit too large but it was nothing I couldn’t ignore or try to solve with diets I knew I wouldn’t stick to. My body did its job. I thought it was both pretty and ugly, therefore my perception of it was passive and neutral.
Feeling passive about my body didn’t build the foundations for good mental health, as I almost consistently viewed myself as incapable of being anything more than “okay-looking” rather than beautiful or worthy of any compliments that may have come my way. Over the years, this made me believe that my body was just acceptable, rather than something that could be loved or admired.
Summer of Body Positivity Comedian Sofie Hagen completely changed the way I viewed my body. Having discovered her through The Guilty Feminist podcast last year, I started to see the work she was doing to combat the idea that “fatness” is inherently a bad, shameful thing and it really made me rethink the way I thought about my body and the concept of “fatness”. I started to just view it as a descriptor rather than something I should be ashamed of. Seeing her and others across social media unapologetically be themselves really did inspire me to appreciate, be proud of and love the way I look.
Actively loving my body, combined with starting to find happiness at university for the first time, did wonders for my mental health. I felt a new sense of positivity and energy. Something that really helped with this is fashion!
Shorts, culottes, interesting band shirts, tops that make me feel sexy, summer dresses… The way I dressed myself in the summer changed with the newfound confidence I had and so did how I feel about my body. I grew more comfortable with my body and the things about it I particularly used to hate (like my body hair, the way my breasts are shaped and my stomach) all became things I loved about myself.
Sexual Odyssey Recently I became sexually active for the first time. The way I look and think about my body has been sporadic. Let me explain why.
Having had nobody show an interest in my body before (the magical yet haunting world of) Tinder it was suddenly the best thing in the world to find out others found me attractive. That’s the good thing about dating and sex, even if you think you’re beautiful, it’s just reassuring and (simply put) nice to hear people you’re intimate with say that they find you sexy and desirable.
The issue I’ve found is that I seem to need the approval of partners to have a positive perception of my body and this is a problem I’ve had with growing frequency. How do I deal with this? By remembering that I am gorgeous, desirable, interesting, funny and wonderful and that I don't need to be approved by anyone but myself (even if it does feel good). Yes it doesn’t always work immediately but I believe that my core perception of my body image is now strong enough that nobody could make me feel like I’m unworthy of believing I’m beautiful.
Having a complex (and sometimes difficult) relationship with your body is normal. The best thing to do if you feel like the relationship with your body is getting confusing and negative is to make sure you talk to friends/family/GP/university support networks/anyone else you feel comfortable talking to about how you are feeling about your body and how these feelings are impacting your mental health!
Hi! I’m Annie Bocock and I’m a second year mathematics student at the University of York. As a Press Ambassador for Student Minds I enjoying writing and speaking about my own experiences of mental health and the general complexities of mental health. It’s so rewarding seeing how others can gain something from my experiences.
Lorna shares her experience of body image at university and calls for universities to do more to promote body positivity.
University can be a really scary time. You leave all you have ever known and trek halfway across the country to live with strangers and work harder than you ever have before.
It’s not surprising therefore it’s a particularly risky time for the development of mental health disorders. Whilst universities are becoming increasingly sensitive to the need to reduce stress and support those facing depression and anxiety, I feel they continue to fail in regards to promoting positive body image.
I went to a particularly sporty university in the South West. Millions was spent on campus gym facilities, and the university prided itself on pumping out a significant number of Olympic athletes. This was great, as it brought huge funding to campus, and there was always a sense of pride when one of our own did well in national and international competitions.
A side effect of this focus on sport however was what I considered an institutionally warped sense of body image. All promotional images for campus contained individuals who looked like they had walked off the cover of a fitness magazine. I rarely saw people across campus who weren’t in sporting gear – at times it felt like skin tight leggings and running tops were some form of uniform!
Every single food outlet on campus served some sort of protein fuelled food, including shakes, bakes and meals. All menus contained calorific content, and some café’s even added protein to hot drinks at your request!
It was standard for people to spend long periods of time in the gym, pushing themselves way beyond any norms, and no one batted an eyelid. I know loads of people who continued to work out when injured, desperate to push themselves and maintain their place on their sporting team of choice. The gym staff never questioned anyone on their extreme workout habits, and were not trained in spotting the signs of dysmorphic or eating disordered behaviour – to the contrary, I feel they often promoted it.
To me, it came as no surprise to hear eating disorder rates at this university are extremely high, according to a recent survey. I too developed anorexia whilst studying here, having been left feeling inadequate whilst walking across campus alongside in what felt like a sea of models. I had never wanted to join a gym, but during my time at university not only did I join one, I became obsessed; going often and pushing myself even when exhausted.
I feel universities could do so much more to promote body positivity or a less dysmorphic way of thinking about body image. From educating students of the dangers of excessive exercise to helping gym staff spot the signs of disordered behaviours. They should be always willing to put the wellbeing and safety of their students above their sporting accomplishments.
I'm Lorna, a psychology graduate from the University of Bath. I love spending time with my two dogs, Poppy and Pippa! I'm passionate about challenging mental health stigma, particularly relating to Eating Disorders and Personality Disorders.
Caitlin shares her top 10 tips to be more body kind and how we should start being nicer to ourselves and our bodies.
For a lot of us - myself included - the way we perceive our bodies can often be distorted, and the things we say about our appearances can unfortunately be very unkind sometimes. We really can be our own worst enemies, but it is possible change this! It’s time we all started being nicer to ourselves and our bodies. Of course it’s not an easy job or an overnight success, so to help you, here are some little tips you can use which will hopefully encourage you to view your body in a more positive light and appreciate it for how beautiful and wonderful it really is.
1. Appreciate how your body works Our bodies really are miracle-workers. Just think of all the tasks and functions they perform every single day without us even having to worry - it’s incredible! We should be thanking our bodies for looking after us, and in turn, look after them. I think it’s also important to appreciate what our bodies can do and not what they can’t do.
2. Treat your body When I think of ‘treat’, the image of eating chocolate brownies and watching TV springs to mind. For others, it might be cooking up a new recipe, having a duvet-day or going out for a run. Whatever it is that makes you feel good - go ahead and do it! You deserve to feel happy and your body will love you for it.
3. Use social media to your advantage We all know the internet can be both a blessing and a curse when it comes to body image. So, my tip is to ask yourself whilst you’re scrolling through social media: “is this making me unhappy?”. If the answer is ‘yes’, stop. Make sure you’re having a good time! Try following body-positive blogs like nonairbrushedme, bbcbodypositive and i_weigh.
4. Talk to people Talking about body image can be quite daunting but it’s definitely worth it. Whether you’re sharing feelings about your own body with a friend or seeking advice from a GP or university support system, it’s good to start a conversation. You’ll not only be helping yourself but you may inspire someone else to be kinder to their body or even get help.
5. Set positive goals Setting goals and targets is something we all do, and many of these may be body-related. The best kind of goals are the ones which aren’t based on restrictions and instead focus on things you can improve on rather than omit. A challenge can be great, but keep in mind that both your mental and physical wellness is your priority.
6. Understand that your mind and body are linked I believe that the key to happiness is knowing that a healthy mind is a healthy body, and a healthy body is a healthy mind. They work together. Getting enough sleep, nutrition and exercise will make you feel happier, and if you feel good in yourself mentally, you’ll feel physically better too. As they say, it’s all about a healthy balance.
7. Celebrate your uniqueness Your uniqueness is what make you special, and body diversity allows us to celebrate our individual differences. Comparing our “weird and wonderful” bodies with others can be fun and interesting but it should never be a negative thing or feel like a competition. Be confident and happy in yourself exactly as you are. The things that make you you are beautiful.
8. Take those compliments! It’s easy to brush off or reject a compliment, especially if it’s about your body image. Though it may feel strange at first, actively try to respond positively and accept the compliment - and believe it too! Teaching yourself to do this is a great way to be body-kind and makes both the giver and the receiver of the compliment feel good.
9. Accept that your body changes As we grow and develop, our bodies naturally change in terms of how they look and how they work. This is just part of life, and accepting that your body is different now to how it was ten years ago or even ten months ago can help you see yourself in a more positive light. In essence, don’t compare yourself to yourself!
10. Know that beauty is subjective I strongly believe that we shouldn’t set our appearances against a certain standard of beauty because there isn’t one. It simply doesn’t exist. There is no one way we should look, no one way we should dress and no one way we should define ourselves. Create your own beauty and allow yourself to find happiness and strength within that beauty.
And there you have it - 10 ways to be body-kind. It might take time, but I hope these little tips help you feel positive about your body, as you deserve to.
Hello! I’m Caitlin and I’m a student at The University of York. I’m writing for Student Minds with the aim of encouraging people to be kinder to their bodies as well as their minds - and to have fun whilst doing it!
Michael shares three strategies for rebuilding after mental health difficulties.
- Michael Rigby
Getting back up from a dark place can be the biggest challenge. Whatever the situation, it will take time to repair. I haven’t written a blog for a long time because I’ve been focused on making changes in my life. At first, I made excuses and ran away from any confronting challenge that came at me. But over time I realised that wasn’t me and I can’t do that. I wanted to make a change. I understand that we all respond to mental health difficulties in our own ways. However, we can experience similar paths and benefit from similar strategies. Here is the three changes that I’ve made to help break the barriers of mental health difficulties.
1. Create a Routine
Start this routine slowly and build on it. Wake up, stretch, make your bed and drink some water. Carry out your day as you intend. This helped me to stay focused and on track.
2. Less Social Media
Limit the time you invest into your mobile. Use it for necessary reasons. If you look down at your phone whilst sitting/ walking in a park on your lunch break, how about look up? Enjoy your surroundings in the present moment, and create opportunities to connect with others.
3. Become Comfortable with Yourself
This includes everyday life. Be yourself in any situation. It’s easy to say, but confidence is built up. I tried to build up my confidence gradually. For me, I had to recognise and accept that nobody is perfect, and that we all make mistakes. Also, be comfortable with your ambitions in life. Create your own happiness where you can.
Small decisions can change your whole life. I’m still rebuilding, but I’m on the way to building my own fortress. We are all able to make positive changes. I understand that mental health difficulties can try to stop us, but we can all make small changes to rebuild our lives, ourselves and our situation.
For more information, advice and strategies for looking after your wellbeing, click here.
Hi, I'm Michael Rigby and I study Sports Business and Broadcasting at UCFB Wembley. I have experienced mental illness, including depression and social anxiety since the age of 14.