For university students, we’re coming up to another period of assessments and assignments, and it can be tricky to manage your mental health when you’re so focused on university. In this article, I will discuss some ways you can balance your mental health and university work during this time of lockdown, including study tips and self-care tips.
Always plan ahead: visualise and prepare
Sometimes visualising your deadlines can really help when planning your time, whether that is writing your deadlines on a calendar, putting them on post-it-notes to hang in your room, or downloading a countdown app that lets you know how many days until the deadline.
I know you’re probably told by everyone, “Don’t leave it until the last minute!”
But it really is important to make sure you have enough time to manage all your deadlines. Setting out time for individual assignments is key when you’re juggling multiple modules at a time, and leaving your preparations and study until days before the deadline can be extremely stress-inducing, and can often have a negative effect on your mental health. So always plan ahead!
I’ve often found myself getting frustrated and bogged down by my inability to plan out my assignments, but making lists is the one thing that has always helped me. So, even if you struggle to create a traditional assignment outline, this approach might work better for you too!
- Thoroughly read through your assignment requirements in the module handbook. It may help to make a list of the different aspects required to achieve full marks, so that you can refer back to the list when writing your assignment to make sure you haven’t missed anything out.
- Take a look at the recommended reading in your module handbook; check out which books would be helpful for the respective assignments and try to access them before you start writing. Then, make a concise list of the topics that you would like to find quotes for, as having this list with you when you start reading can help keep you focused on the content that matters. Sometimes, making a list of quotes before you start writing your assignment can be useful too (I have a whole notebook of quotes that I think may be valuable to my assignments).
- If you’re taking a practical course that requires you to complete a project in which you need access to specific items or software, such as a short film, then you should also make a list of what you need, how you can access them, and then plan out when you will access them. Always leave enough time to prepare, create, and check your project before the deadline!
Request a one-to-one with your lecturer
Do you have an idea for your assignment but you’re not sure if it’s too ambitious, or you’re worried about whether it fits the assignment brief? Request a meeting with your lecturer to go over your ideas – don’t let your worries eat you up and stop you from doing your best work!
Your lecturers are there to support you in your studies, which means they will help you however they can. It’s quick and easy to send an email to your lecturer, requesting a meeting. Here’s an example:
“Dear [Lecturer’s name],
I’m worried about Assignment X due [day/month] for X Module, and was wondering if I’d be able to organise a meeting with you to talk through my ideas.
Separate your leisure and work spaces
If you’re chilling out in the same space you’ve been working in, it can be hard to truly relax. Likewise, it may be hard to switch from leisure to work-mode if you’re watching Netflix in the same place you’re writing your assignments.
If you have a desk in your room, try to save that desk for work only, and use your bed to chill out.
Maybe you have a gaming set-up on your desk and you work and game from the same computer; separate your work and leisure by timeframes – only work between certain times each day, and allow yourself to game outside of those times.
If you enjoy studying with other people around, and you can actually get your work done with them (I know I can’t), then try working in a communal space like the kitchen, living room, or dining room.
Some people can work for hours before they need a break, others can only work for half an hour, however much work you can get done before you need a break, it is essential that you take one – don’t let your work get in the way of your everyday needs!
Make time for meals, stay hydrated, and take screen breaks to rest your eyes. Going out for a quick walk around the neighbourhood is also a great way to stretch your legs and get those ideas flowing.
If you’re not sure when you should take a break, start with a five to ten minute break every half an hour, and if that seems like too much, then take a fifteen to twenty minute break every hour, and so on. Experiment with break times to find the perfect balance for you.
For Support: contact Student Services or the Student Union Advice Centre
Through the Intranet you’ll find that Student Services offers a wide range of support, including:
- Disabilities and Learning Diversity Advisers
- The Mental Wellbeing Team
- Student Academic Support
- Student Life Advisers
- Students and Money.
The Student Union also offers the Advice Centre for students to access support, with their dedicated Student Union Advisor available for appointments. They can help with:
- Academic Advice
- Wellbeing Advice
- Housing Advice
- Money Advice
So, if you’re struggling to balance your mental health and assignments, then reach out to one of these services for support.