Our mental health and wellbeing may begin to deteriorate due to various factors, such as stress or loss. Tough times in life are inevitable and we all go through them, wherever we are in the world. How we respond to challenging circumstances when they arise could be the key difference between coping and not coping; good mental wellbeing and low mental wellbeing. But how are we supposed to get through these times in a healthy way? It could be helpful to think of it in terms of the weather.
When the sky is clear, the sun is shining and it’s warm, we wear summer clothes that keep us cool so we can enjoy being outside. If the weather were to suddenly change and turn cloudy, rainy and cold (as is often the case here in the UK!) our summer clothes would not be any comfort. We might complain that it shouldn’t be raining, and feel annoyed and upset that we are now cold and wet.
What if we responded differently? Imagine that you brought a bag with you and packed a raincoat just in case the weather changed. You put it on and now the rain doesn’t seem as bad because you knew that it could rain, and prepared for it. Although you may still rather it hadn’t rained, you are wearing suitable clothing to help you weather the storm and make it home somewhat dry and safe.
So, how can you prepare for the rainy days in life? Think of the raincoat as part of your wellbeing toolkit. This is a simple resource you can create as a reminder of what helps you through tough times. It is a great act of self-care because it involves actively thinking about what you need when not feeling your best.
To get started, write a list of things you enjoy and find helpful in remaining calm and balanced. This may consist of activities you like doing, people you like speaking to, and motivating or reassuring phrases such as, ‘I know I can do it’. This list makes up the tools in your wellbeing toolkit. They are often the first tools to go missing when feeling stressed but are important to keep sight of. Some people like to keep these self-care tips in an actual container, a special box, so you can both practically and figuratively reach for your wellbeing toolkit.
It can also be helpful to reflect on how you recognise when you’re stressed so you can spot the signs early and act sooner rather than later. Do you stop doing things that make you feel good? Become irritable? Experience physical symptoms such as tension?
Once you can spot the signs of feeling low, you can go to your wellbeing toolkit and pick out a tool you already know helps you to feel better – call that friend for support, go for a walk, reassure yourself. Even if you don’t think you have time, make the time. It will probably be more efficient in the long-run.
This is just one suggestion that might be helpful in terms of looking after your mental wellbeing. There are many others and different things work for different people. Inspire fellow students and share your wellbeing advice so we can all support each other in taking care of our mental wellbeing.
Remember, the University of London is affiliated with TalkCampus, the app-based peer support network for students.Go to the 'Wellbeing' tab in your Student Portal for more information.