The advice below is written by a former student of St George’s who is also a champion for Time to Change. They wish to state that they are not a practising healthcare professional or St George’s graduate, and that their suggestions for navigating the current times are not intended to replace the advice of a qualified clinician or medical professional, but to give inspiration as we adjust to a new way of living during and after Covid-19.
The writer of the following article has personal experience of receiving wellbeing support during their time as a student at St George’s. They share tips and coping strategies as we adjust to this new way of living, working and studying.
Seek the support you need
It’s 2020 and no one told you life would be this way. Whoever you are and whatever your experience prior to the last few months of the Covid-19 pandemic, mental health affects us all, and it’s okay if you are having a difficult time.
Seek the support you need from a GP or specialist, speak to family and friends and remember that wellbeing services within the Students’ Union and Counselling Services within the university are there to support you.
It can be particularly difficult adjusting from living at home to living in a new environment and, for many, moving cities. One person could be missing the familiarity of seeing their family or loved ones regularly, and another might be an International or EU student who might have to travel further to study. Respect one another’s differences but also find what you have in common.
For many, University is a time when people find it difficult to communicate their feelings. Cultural and linguistic differences will vary even on a small campus. Find ways to have fun, let off steam and de-stress that work for you.
Perhaps the hardest thing to worry about at University is fitting in. You might have questions about whether you will like your new halls of residence, whether you‘ll get on with your new housemates or classmates, or about what you want out of the new few years. Whatever course you are on and wherever you have come from to study, be proud to be yourself. University in particular is a time that can affect how you feel about your identity and make you think about your relationships with your peers and your overall academic progress.
The great thing about the Tooting community, and St George’s, is how multicultural and diverse it is. It is important to be sensitive to each other’s attitudes to faith, language and cultures. Attitudes have changed immeasurably towards many issues in recent years and whoever you are and however you identify, don’t feel obligated to bow to social pressure.
Who would have known a few years ago that there would be so many apps available to people now to get the right sort of health and wellbeing support? Nowadays, we have Patient Access and My GP, not to mention the new Covid-19 app, and Calm and Headspace to name a few. Then you have Time to Change, funded by Public Health England, as well as Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. Check out what’s available online - for example, there are blogs and content on social media which describe people’s experiences. Online networks for people to connect with sufferers of other health conditions (physical, mental or otherwise) can be a great help.
Therapy such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Integrative Counselling or Gestalt are all available to use but experience of these are based on the individual person. As stated earlier, each person’s experience of mental health is unique – for some people it helps to listen to the soothing tones of Matthew McConaughey on Calm whereas others prefer walking, avoiding too much caffeine, or following online yoga sessions. Follow your doctor and allied health professional’s advice – you’ll be in that multidisciplinary team yourself soon or might have recently joined the healthcare workforce!
Take time for self-care
Make sure you take care of your own wellbeing and emotions. If you need to take some time out, try exploring a new part of the city, see what else is on offer in town and come back to Tooting feeling refreshed.
It pays to listen to what your emotions, body and mind are telling you. Take time to yourself – try to strike a good balance between socialising, studying and staying connected to loved ones back home.
Exercise, keep up your existing hobbies or take up new ones – if you’re a current student you might find that taking up new language or keeping up an existing one will help on your elective or with volunteering abroad.
Be flexible and don’t give up
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Pace yourself, don’t give yourself a hard time if you don’t know what you will do next, even if the future seems uncertain. The current situation is greater than all of us and the impact is being felt across all sectors.
You’ll survive, whether you are living with a mental health condition or are just having a really tough time managing stress – it will be okay, believe in yourself and make use of the support of the services around you.