Connect. Gain Perspective. Act. Develop Gratitude. Move. Eat, Drink and Sleep Well. Get Professional Help.
- In 2016, 8.8% of 15-24 year olds in New Zealand had high or very high levels of psychological distress - the highest of any age group.
- A UNICEF study found New Zealand has 15.6 adolescent suicides per 100,000 individuals aged 15-19, the highest of any developed country in the world.
University is Tough
In my fifth and final year of university, I have had my heart broken during exam season, failed tests and been stressed up to my eyeballs. You would think by now that nothing would get to me, but that is where you are wrong my friend. But I am here to tell you two things, first the story of how a slight inconvenience plummeted me into a downward spiral a few weeks ago. Second how I ‘Just Kept Swimming’ and how you can too.
My Bus Didn’t Come and I cried on Queen Street
What happened? I needed to be at the North Shore by 8am to watch a surgery so I woke up at 5:30am, waited at the bus stop for 45 minutes but my bus didn’t come. I froze.
- Should I call my course coordinator and tell her? What if she got mad at me?
- Should I call the practice? But what would I say to them?
- Should I catch an Uber? But what if traffic is bad and I am late anyway?
So, with all these thoughts spiralling in my head I did what any adult would do, I cried, became frustrated at myself for crying and naturally cried some more. The main thought going through my head? If I can’t catch a bus, how can I expect to do anything in life let alone graduate? God I am useless.
So, I went home, balled my eyes out, watched Brooklyn 99, called my mum, cried some more, went on a walk with a friend and finally calmed down. By that evening, I looked back at the events of that morning in shock over both the way I froze and the way I broke down to what really was a minor incident. Especially since both my course coordinator and the practice understood. It was no big deal. But as is often the case, I was already stressed by;
- Multiple looming assignments and practical assessments.
- A friend that was stressing me out.
- Family tension.
- A different course coordinator that was making my life very difficult.
All of this was topped with a couple of weeks of sleep deprivation, so maybe it makes sense that the bus incident tipped me over the edge.
How to Just Keep Swimming
I consider myself a generally happy, glass half full kind of person. It takes a lot to stress me out but I, just like everyone, go through rough patches. The reality is, we cannot control life or what it throws at us but we can control how we react to it. This is how I 'Just Kept Swimming'.
For the love of all that is good, don't lock yourself away. Connect. With people you love, even if it’s not about the issue that you are struggling with. With strangers, ask a barista how their day was. Or even go for a walk-in nature, buy yourself a coffee, read a book in the library. Get out of your own head and connect.
Will this matter in a week, in a month, in a year? If the answer is no, let it go.
Stressed about a deadline? Log out of Facebook, go to the library and get started.
Performed badly on a test? Email your lecturer for a one-on-one to discuss how you can improve.
Someone is treating you badly? Let them know.
Action is the best anecdote for anxiety.
If you cannot change your situation, sometimes you must accept it and focus on the good things in life. We all have much to be grateful for.
5: Move. Eat, Drink and Sleep Well
Dance, lift weights, run. Eat your fruits and vegetables. Sleep 8 hours plus. Looking after our brains most basic needs in hard times is the first step.
6: Get Professional Help
The University of Auckland offers six free counselling sessions that as a student we have already paid for and I am sure most universities have similar services - utilise them. I have gone to counselling several times for a variety of things, some big, some small and I have always walked out feeling better. There is absolutely no shame in reaching out, in fact we all should be.
Getting Through Hard Times was written by Y.M. from University Confessions. Mental health has always been a problem with the student demographic, which shouldn't be ignored. Together with University Confessions, we hope to make a positive difference.