Under Pressure – coping with student life

We’ve teamed up with our partners from MIND South East and Central Essex to pull together our top tips for coping with student life.

Under Pressure – coping with student life

We’ve teamed up with our partners from MIND South East and Central Essex to pull together our top tips for coping with student life.

Starting a new course or maintaining progression with your studies can take a toll on your mental health for a variety of reasons. We know some of our students are trying to balance a busy work schedule whilst studying, others have commitments at home and some people may feel disheartened when exams don’t go so well. The accountancy journey can be challenging too and it’s inevitable that some people will feel daunted by the road ahead.

So whatever stage you’re at in your studies, we hope these tips will help you to keep on top of life as an accountancy student:

Find the right course for you
When starting a new course, give some serious consideration to how you want to study. Do you want to study part-time or full-time? Be realistic and work out how you best fit your studies into the rest of your life. Many of our courses now offer online as well as classroom options and you can study using a blend of the two. This might give you greater flexibility to fit studying into the rest of your life but also think about how you like to learn. Do you prefer the interaction of classroom environment or do you prefer to study alone and under your own steam? Finding an option that works best for your learning approach and lifestyle is a good way to minimise stress later in your studies.

Make sure the centre is right for you
If you’re starting with us for the first time or changing to a different day or time, then make sure that it’s going to work for you. By this, we mean the really practical things; like can you get to lectures on time, will you be able park or is there a bus/train that can get you there on time? Stressing about being late or the cost of travel won’t help you get off to a good start and may mean you’re less likely to stick to your new course.

Advance preparation
There’s nothing worse than starting a new course or new module and having doubts. Our team of tutors and customer service executives are always happy to offer advice and can answer most of the questions you may have. You should also look at key dates such as assessments and exams and make sure they don’t clash with anything else you have going on at work or the rest of your life. Finally, think about when you’ll take breaks from studying, as this is really important. It can be useful to plan mini-rewards when you finish a module or exam, and this could be a simple as having a well-deserved PJ day.

Be as social as you want to be
Social interaction is good for your mental health but when you’re starting a new course, meeting new people can be a little intimidating. It’s important that you go at your own pace and join in, as you feel comfortable. Having a network of fellow students can really help when you’re finding studies hard-going, so it’s good to have at least a couple of people you can turn to, if you need to talk. If you’re studying online, this can feel a little lonely for some people but there are plenty of F.I and industry events you can attend to meet your fellow students. Look out for our e-mails with the details of these.

Organise your support
If you’re receiving treatment for a mental health problem, speak with your GP about starting a new course.

Speak to your Tutor about your needs – including how medication is likely to affect your studies. Reasonable adjustments can be made to accommodate the needs of students with mental health problems. Find out what options are available and how to access support should you have difficulties with your studies or become unwell.

Make a money plan
Work out your expected monthly costs: accommodation, tuition fees, food, groceries, clothes and leisure activities. Budget for things like gym membership, club or society fees and socialising. Social and leisure activities will support your mental health, so ensure you set funds aside for these.

Be aware that even part-time and online studies are time consuming, and you don’t want to feel constantly under pressure to meet deadlines. When planning work and study, leave yourself time to relax and socialise.

As a student, you should be entitled to various benefits. You might need to speak to a few organisations to find out about different allowances. Citizens Advice is a good place to start. Also visit themoneycharity.org.uk who produce a useful Student Money manual.

Students can also claim discounts – often this includes at retail outlets and for leisure activities. Your university or Students’ Union will tell you about this.

Manage your time
Planning your studies will reduce stress and help you feel in control. Use an online calendar or app to schedule course work, study time, work and leisure time – being sure to maintain a balance of work and downtime.

Work back from deadlines and set achievable daily goals. It’s tempting to leave things till the last minute (most people do!) but this isn’t good for mental wellbeing. Pace yourself!

Stick to a structure and routine as far as possible. Structure can help on days when you feel less motivated.

When studying or revising, try the Pomodoro technique: 25 minutes of focused activity followed by a short break of three to five minutes. Once you’ve completed four such cycles, take a longer break of 15-30 minutes, then start again. Look for online resources and apps based on Pomodoro and other time- management techniques.

Be aware of times you might feel less well and will have greater difficulties with your studies. Speak with your tutor or mental health advisor about this, especially if you’ll need help with planning.

Plan for exams
Plan your revision timetable as you’ve planned everything else. Build in time to revise at times of the day when you know you’re at your best. Remember to allow yourself time to relax. Ensure friends and family know that you have exams approaching so they give you the space and support you need.

Maintain a sense of control by finding out all you can about exams in advance. Know how you will be examined, look at past papers and speak with your tutor for advice about preparation and what to expect on the day.

Look after yourself!
Three things will greatly help your mood and resilience; sleep, healthy eating and regular exercise. Sleep is undervalued for its effect on mental wellbeing. Some people find that evenings are the time of day they feel most alert and motivated. If this applies to you, schedule your time so you can be productive but still unwind before bed. If you have difficulty sleeping, avoid caffeine and nicotine and find a relaxation technique that works for you. Some people use soothing scents such as lavender, others listen to calming music, meditate or use apps that can aid sleep.

It’s easy to enjoy a balanced diet on a student budget. It needn’t even take much time! Pasta dishes are cheap and easy, and even the old favourite beans on toast can be healthy. It’s a good idea to start your day with breakfast and have plenty of fruit, seeds and nuts (assuming you aren’t allergic!) around for snacking whilst studying. There are many resources available about healthy eating for students. Have a look at www.studentminds.org.uk

Sitting for long periods increases risks of health conditions and can make you feel lethargic. Regular activity supports mental health and can aid concentration. Build regular bouts of activity into your day. This could be as simple as getting outside for a walk or doing a few stretches. Find an activity you enjoy and are motivated to do – such as yoga, swimming, running or team sports.

Importantly; don’t do too much! Remember the mantra “do one thing and do it slowly”. Plan what you can, be flexible when you need to be, and make sure you prioritise time to relax every day.

Plan for when you are unwell
Be aware of how you are when you are well, how you are when you are unwell and what can trigger periods of illness or low mood. Write these down and share them with your tutor, mentor or mental health advisor if you feel able to.

Have a plan – for yourself and those that support you – as to actions that can be taken when your mental health is poor. Keep a list of phone numbers – your GP, helplines, student advice lines, friends and family – in a prominent place for when you need them. It can help to brief a mentor, or a few other people that you trust, so that they know what to do should you need help in a hurry.

Remember that should you contemplate suicide or self-harm, these are medical emergencies and you should go to A&E. Again, it can help to brief a few key people, so they can help in an emergency.

Should you become unwell and feel unable to continue with your studies, speak with your tutor or your Skill’s coach (if you are on an apprenticeship scheme).

Other ways to find help

MIND publications

Citizens Advice: 08444 111 444

The Money Charity Email: hello@themoneycharity.org.uk

NHS Choices – Student Health

Samaritans: 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org

Student Minds for information about student mental health: hello@studentminds.org.uk

UMHAN – National network of university mental health advisers

Somewhere to Turn – SECE MIND’s mental health signposting service: 01702 601123, 01245 345083 or email ies@seandcessexmind.org.uk

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