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Mental Elf

Elf Meme

RELAX... this is not a Christmas themed post (if you're already excited for Christmas though, there is a picture of an Elf so feel free to read on)

This post isn't about Will Ferrell in 'Elf' either.

Today I wanted to talk about Mental Elf AKA Mental Health.

Despite an increase in the focus on mental health in recent years, we still live in a society that attaches a lot of stigma to the issue of mental health and the affect it can have on someone.

We also live in a world where we are becoming more connected to our phones and isolated from real-life interaction, constantly wired with coffee and bright screens and rarely truly switching off. We also reach for food based on convenience rather than nutrition.

The screens we are attached to feed us the latest 'social' media posts which are effectively showreels of peoples lives - we judge our own lives based on the warped perception of reality created on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds.

Now, enough of the deep stuff. This blog post is a follow on from a Facebook post I made the other day on this subject.

It was off the back of a news piece featured on the BBC website about the mental health of students and the 'sharp rise' of mental health condition amongst university students.

Whilst I am not a part of this statistic, I definitely suffered with my mental health at university, particularly in my first year.

I love travelling and expected uni to be a relatively easy transition for me.

However I wasn't prepared for the crippling anxiety of meeting hundreds of new people in such a short space of time. Not prepared in the slightest!

Mental Health Words

This anxiety, and an inability to deal with it effectively, contributed to me leading a lifestyle that was not conducive to good mental health: a lack of exercise, poor eating habits, an increase in alcohol consumption and messed up sleeping habits.

The stress of uni work would lead to more of the above as a coping mechanism, albeit a poor one, and the cycle would begin again.

For 90% of my first year of uni, I was adamant I would not return. I couldn't go through another year. Another year of low moods, poor temper and a general lack of fulfillment and frustration at life.

But what's the point of this story?

Things did get better and all for a good reason: health and fitness.

One of the first things I did in my second year was sign up to the gym.

I would train 3-5 times a week and, not wanting to miss out on any progress, changed my eating habits as a result (more protein, more fruit and vegetables and healthy fats - not fried foods!)

The addition of exercise and some form of nutrition (compared to the previous year) meant I now had a focus and some sort of routine. I was no longer living just to go out and get drunk or stay up to 3am watching movies or box sets.

After a few months this routine meant I started to see results physically that in turn increased my confidence (which is an awesome mood enhancer FYI).

I would still go out socially and drink but, because my main focus was the gym, this was more controlled and wouldn't be as frequent as in my first year.

All of these changes meant that when it came to studying, my cognitive function was better and I stressed less - even though the work was harder than the year before.

For any students out there that are starting or returning to university this September my advice is this:

  1. Exercise 3-5 times a week (drunk dancing doesn't count!)

  2. Eat enough of the good stuff - plenty of vegetables, some fruits, lean protein sources and fats such as nuts, olive oil and avocado

  3. Get social - don't stay locked up in your room on Facebook or watching TV

  4. Drink loads (of water)

  5. Don't drink too much (alcohol)

  6. Make a routine that incorporates everything - lectures, studying, exercise, eating well, being social and going out and drinking (if that's your thing.

And if things do get too stressful and you feel like you can't do it, try and find someone to speak to such as a tutor, a peer, a family member because....

You definitely can!

If you know someone off to uni this year, share this with them!

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