Top Mental Health Tips for University Students
Posted by Medavie Blue Cross on October 18, 2022
Going to university can be one of the most exciting times in our lives, but it can also be overwhelming. Being apart from family and friends, taking on new responsibilities, and managing your finances can all create mental challenges. Couple this with the added stress of academic pressure and it can create unique challenges to your mental health. Left unmanaged, this can take a heavy toll on your mind and body.
Eating foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, protein, and fatty acids will help maintain your overall health and wellness. Most university cafeterias offer a wide range of healthy food choices. Aim for 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day and stay hydrated. Eat regularly throughout the day to control your sugar levels and prevent sugar crashes.
New research has shown that our bodies can handle less alcohol than previously thought. Even a handful of alcoholic drinks a week are shown to have long-term negative side effects. In the short term, alcohol can negatively alter your sleeping patterns and affect your memory. It can irritate your stomach and cause digestive issues and, acts as a depressant and can affect your blood sugar, leading to increased anxiety and feelings of depression.
Exercise, even if it's daily brisk walks from your dorm to your lectures, can boost your mood. Exercise releases endorphins — our body’s own anti-depressant — that are clinically proven to help improve your concentration, sleep and mental wellbeing. A study of university students who engaged in short-term aerobic exercise found that exercise lowered their stress levels and enhanced their mental health.
Pulling off all-nighters to cram for exams or partying late can be part of the university experience. However, research has established a clear connection between lack of sleep and mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression. A goods night's rest, on the other hand, can positively affect learning, memory and mental resilience. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep a night and resist the temptation to check your phone while you’re in bed or directly before going to sleep. The blue light emitted from phones, tablets and laptops can affect your sleeping patterns and prevent you from falling asleep.
Going to university can be a difficult balancing act. You’re expected to juggle studies with a wide range of social and extra-curricular activities. Make sure to indulge in time to yourself by meditating or doing yoga, which is a great way to calm your mind, or going out in nature to take your mind off things and recharge your batteries. A mindfulness app like Petit Bambou, offered through our Connected Care digital platform, can train the brain to focus and build mental resilience.
Extra tip: studying in a city and can’t get out to the forest? Find a local park or public garden and leave your phone in your pocket. Take time to absorb the sights and scents of small pockets of nature without the intrusion of electronic devices. It’s a proven way to improve mental wellbeing.
Social connection is essential to our mental health and general wellbeing. You can find it by participating in a club that shares your interests, volunteering for the student newspaper or campus security, taking part in social events. Don’t pass up on opportunities to make the most of your years at university. If you’re not up to “peopling,” stay connected with friends and family online via Zoom calls or social apps.
If you are struggling with your mental health, know that you’re not alone — and don’t cope on your own. Talk it out with a friend, family member, your dorm supervisor or your course tutor. Check to see if your university has clinical services and resources dedicated to student mental wellness such as individual and group therapy sessions. Take advantage of these resources. There is no shame in asking for help.
If anxiety or depression is interfering with your day-to-day living, seek professional support immediately. In-person and virtual counselling services may be covered under the health benefit plan you have through your university or through your parent’s group insurance.
Medavie Blue Cross offers timely access to quality care through Connected Care — our digital health service platform. Connected Care allows you to connect with an accredited therapist by video, text messaging or self-directed iCBT program. Our newest addition, Text Therapy, is a safe, secure and convenient form of counselling. Our mobile app is the highest-rated insurance app in Canada, enabling members to manage their health benefits and health care on the go and from the palm of their hand.
Up to 44% of post-secondary students reported having symptoms of depression and anxiety.
If you’re a post-secondary student, and you're struggling with anxiety, depression or other mental health issues, know that you're not alone and that there are resources for you to access.
Additional Mental Health Resources for Students
Mental health associations
Canadian Mental Health Association - cmha.ca
Student Athlete Mental Health Association - samhi.ca
Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention - suicideprevention.ca
Crisis Services Canada - Toll Free (24/7) 1 (833) 456-4566
Canadian Crisis Hotline - 1 (888) 353-2273
For over 75 years, Medavie Blue Cross has been a leading health services partner for individuals, employers and governments across Canada. As the country’s leading Blue Cross plan with over one million card holders, we are a premier all-in-one carrier that provides health, dental, travel, life and disability benefits to...