Anyone who is studying knows that it can be hard work focusing on your education while also managing all the other aspects of your life. At times of stress, it is even more important to look after yourself by eating well, getting enough sleep, getting away from the books to do some physical activity, and keeping up with activities you enjoy (although perhaps for briefer periods or less frequently than usual).
While everyone at times feels down, stressed or anxious, it is important to recognise in yourself and in your friends when these feelings could be signs of a more serious problem.
Here are some signs to look out for in yourself and your peers:
Persistent trouble falling or staying asleep
Feeling unhappy, irritable or moody most of the time
Loss of interest in things usually enjoyed
Loss of appetite and losing or gaining weight quickly
Having a lot of negative and self-critical thoughts
Difficulty concentrating or paying attention
Persistent worrying and excessive fears
Withdrawing from family, friends and social gatherings
Lowered performance at uni/in other activities
If you recognise any of these symptoms in yourself or a friend, a good first step is to talk about it with someone you trust. This may be a family member or a close friend. Many people find it scary to start a conversation about these feelings, but it can be as simple as telling someone ‘I’ve been feeling a bit down’, or ‘I’ve been worrying a lot lately’.
If you or a friend need some help, GPs or a youth mental health service are a great place to start. There are some great online resources on the beyondblue (www.beyondblue.org.au/) and headspace(www.headspace.org.au/) websites which can help you think through the way you are feeling and get some practical tips. Online or telephone services such as those offered by eheadspace(www.eheadspace.org.au/) may also be a good option.
There may also be services available at your university campus. The people who provide these services will know what to ask and how to support you once you let them know that you have concerns about how you are feeling.
Don’t hesitate to tell someone if you’re worried about what has been going on in your life. No problem is too big or too small to ask for help. Spotting these signs of distress and getting on top of them as early as possible is the best way to keep yourself productive and happy while studying!