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Looking after number one and how to prioritise your mental health


Saturday 10th October is World Mental Health Day, an international day dedicated to recognising and raising awareness of the importance of mental health as well as challenging the stigma around mental health issues.

Find out more about World Mental Health Day and this year's theme here.

You may have found this year more challenging than most and you may have found that your priorities have shifted - but making time to look after yourself and your mental health is more important than ever. Here, we share our top tips for prioritising yourself and your mental health

1. Don’t be afraid of asking for help



This is essential. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength and courage. You’ve made the first step of recognising that you need support, so what now?

As a University of Plymouth student, you have access to the following two services dedicated to supporting you during your time with us here.

SU Advice Centre

The Advice Centre is not part of the University. We are here to support you through your time at University, we provide free, confidential and independent advice on a range of issues. As a member of the Students' Union, you have free access and we can support you with a variety of matters. You can talk to us in confidence, knowing that nothing will be shared with anyone if you don’t want it to be.

University of Plymouth Student Services Hub

The University of Plymouth Student Services Hub offers a wide range of support services including counselling, mental health support, faith and spiritual support, advice for international students and so much more.

To view a full range of their services, click here.

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2. Limit your screen time



Whether it’s keeping an eye on the news, Zoom calls or scrolling through the endless cycle of social media - over the last few months we’ve become more and more reliant on the digital world.

With a lot of students now also studying and working online it’s more important than ever to make that divide clear and take some time away from the screen. Set yourself a time each day to shut down the computer and do something else, you could read, go for a walk, listen to a podcast – the opportunities are endless!

Tune in:



3. Make some time for yourself every day



What do you love doing? Maybe you love cooking, going to the gym, catching up with friends, watching films, reading or just catching up on the latest episode of your favourite show.

Put some time aside each day to do something that you want to do. Not something that your flat or housemates want to do or something that’s on your to-do list, be selfish for an hour or so and have some time for you.

If you don’t have any hobbies or you can’t think of anything you love to do, then get creative and try something new. You could try one of the taster sessions being offered by our brilliant clubs and societies, try meditation, check out the Give it a Go scheme, or learn a new skill!


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4. Be kind



The coronavirus pandemic has changed our way of life and brought countless challenges, some shared by the whole population and some individual or unique challenges based on our own personal circumstances. Be compassionate about what other people are going through. Evidence has shown that helping others can have a positive impact on your own mental health so whether it’s reaching out to a friend who may be struggling or getting involved in volunteering take that step and be kind.

Crucially, accept that (particularly at the moment) there are some things that are just out of our control. Don’t hold yourself to account for things you can’t change, be kind to yourself and recognise that you’re doing your best.


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5. Get active and get outside



Exercise releases endorphins – the feel-good brain chemicals - and stimulates parts of your brain that aren’t as responsive when you’re feeling low.

You don’t need to sign up to run a marathon, just build exercise and activity into your day. This could be going for a walk, taking an online exercise class, joining the gym, joining a sports club or taking part in a taster or Give it a Go session.

Not only will exercise break up your routine and get you moving but it’s also a great opportunity to get out of the house or flat. Getting out in the daylight and increasing your exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of serotonin. Low levels or serotonin are linked with conditions such as depression and low mood – so get outside and soak up some sun. 


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6. Reach out



With social distancing it’s very easy to shut yourself away and switch off from the world outside. Sometimes having time to yourself is good but sometimes you can start to feel lonely, but you are not alone.

Reach out to friends and/or family and just check-in, find out how they’re doing and talk about how you’re doing. If you’ve recently started University and you’ve not had the opportunity to meet many new people, or if you’ve returned to study and you’re just missing that human connection – then be proactive and find new people and join a community.

This could be by attending events, joining clubs or societies, getting involved in volunteering, going for a coffee with someone from your course, bonding with your flat or housemates. You will not be the only person feeling this way and by asking that person for coffee not only will you be benefitting yourself but just being asked could also make their day that bit better. 

If and when meeting up in person, make sure you’re aware of the latest government guidance around COVID-19 and make sure that you stay safe. 


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7. Look after your physical health



Your physical and mental health are more closely linked than most people think. Poor physical health can put you at higher risk of developing mental health issues and vice versa.

Make sure that you’re eating a healthy and balanced diet, the odd takeaway is fine as a treat but if you rely on them your physical health and your bank balance won’t thank you.

"Eating a balanced diet helps me feel more focused and have a clearer mind, I find it easier to concentrate and I find I am more productive as a result. It also helps if I drink enough water too."

Tanisha, 2nd year Dietetics Student.

Stay hydrated and look at your lifestyle habits. Alcohol and smoking are both proven to have a negative impact on both your physical and mental health. If you need support with cutting down or quitting either there are so many resources available through the NHS websites below.


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8. Take a break



Make time to just stop. Take a break from studying, switch off and relax. Being switched on all the time is detrimental to your mental health, it can lead to stress, placing unnecessary pressure on yourself and ultimately exhaustion. Step back and take time out from the pressures and challenges of daily life.

Taking a break gives you a chance to recharge, refresh and reset. Your break could be active and involve a change of scene, travelling somewhere new or it could involve doing nothing at all. It’s your break, you do you.

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9. Get plenty of sleep



A good night’s sleep sets you up for the day, we’ve all had those days where we’d love an extra hour in bed in the morning, but our responsibilities and daily life don’t always make that possible.

Poor quality of sleep, or not enough of it, can lead to extra worrying, anxiety, struggling to focus and an inability to get through our daily activities as well as we need to so it’s vital to prioritise your sleep and get those zzz’s.


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10. Be thankful and appreciate the positives




It’s all too easy to focus on the negatives and at the moment it may be even more difficult to find the positives in life. But take a step back and recognize your achievements. What have you done well or that you’re proud of in the past day, week, month or year?

Be thankful for everything that you have, whether that’s a roof over your head, friends, family, your course, your community. Congratulate yourself on where you are today and the hard work it’s taken to get there.



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