Working on your mental and emotional health… while studying

There are five main areas to look at – Social, Physical, Cognitive, Emotional and Motivation.

Social Strategies

– staying connected to others

  • Stay in touch with friends and family – particularly in those early weeks of coming to university if you have left home to study.
  • Make contact with other people in your course. Suggest possible activities such as having a coffee together or going for a walk at lunchtime and allow yourself to accept offers of activities that others suggest.

Physical Strategies – care for your body

  • Get into a good sleep routine (go to bed & wake-up the same time every day)
  • take regular exercise
  • Eat a good diet
  • Attend to illness as soon as you notice yourself not feeling well
  • Avoid activities that you know are problematic or that could become a problem such as gambling, excessive use of alcohol, using drugs and letting the internet or computer games steal time from you.

Emotional Strategies – coping so you can think clearly

  • Learn breathing exercises, meditation or being in the present (mindfulness). Nearly all our anxiety is about something in the past or future.
  • Use distractions such as going for a walk, listening to music or ‘channel’ your feelings if you are angry about something (for e.g. go for a run or sing loudly or try writing your feelings down).

Cognitive or Thinking Strategies – remember our thoughts and emotions are linked

  • Remind yourself of your skills and abilities.
  • Avoid catastrophic thinking e.g. instead of “it’s a disaster that I got that mark”, think “it is unfortunate that I got that mark, what can I do about it?” – problem-solve instead.
  • Avoid absolute thinking e.g. instead of thinking “I always mess things up” think “I didn’t do so well that time, what can I do to improve”.
  • Avoid comparing yourself with others. You usually end up feeling bad about yourself. Instead focus on what you can do instead.

Motivation Strategies to continue studying

  • Visualise success. Imagine yourself getting your degree, being presented with your course certificate, or going out to celebrate – find an image that shows your success and keep that image in your minds-eye or find an object to represent success.
  • Remind yourself of why you are here and what you hoped for when you started your course.
  • Set small, specific, realistic goals – make a schedule and stick to it (this avoids procrastination and/or perfectionism).
  • Keep good work practices – balance work with fun.
  • Talk to others about what you are doing.
  • Ask for help from your teachers, or the student counselling service at your school, college or university if need be.



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