Adam Engel is a Psychology graduate at RMIT university

Beginning life at university is a very exciting time. Students get to explore new environments, meet like-minded people, and pursue a career in their desired field.

Students at university are expected to learn independently – a big change from high school – and this increased responsibility and workload can be very stressful, which makes it more important for students to take care of their mental health.

One in five people in Australia experience a mental health issue in any given year. With regard to the 1.4 million students who attend university in Australia, recent research tells us that almost 70 per cent of these students rate their psychological distress as high or very high over the last 12 months. It’s a cause for significant concern.

Students who push themselves too hard and who fail to manage their stress run the risk of becoming emotionally, physically and mentally exhausted – often referred to as ‘burnout’.  Burnout can lead to students falling further behind in studies; so clearly, it’s not worth running this risk.  It’s far better to take a balanced long-term approach to studying.

Here are some signs of mental health issues or not managing stress effectively:

  • Irritability
  • Depressed mood
  • Panic attacks, heart palpitations, hyperventilation
  • Lack of appetite, or sometimes over-eating
  • Tension headaches
  • Failing to meet deadlines
  • Social isolation
  • Difficulty sleeping

So what can you do to stay happy and healthy at university?

Do some exercise!

Whether running, swimming, cycling, or even just walking the dog, a little bit of exercise everyday is a great way to burn off that nervous energy. Plus, it promotes the release of feel-good chemicals in the brain, improves sleep quality, and promotes self-esteem and general wellbeing.

Get Organised

Sometimes the best antidote to worry and stress is planning. Write a to-do list, set up a study timetable and look at ways in which you can reduce some of the pressure on your schedule.

Meditate and/or practise relaxation exercises or mindfulness

Research repeatedly links relaxation exercises, meditation and mindfulness to positive benefits in mental and physical wellbeing. Taking 15, 10, or even five minutes out of the day to practise these skills can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Remember to have fun

Whilst it may seem like the last thing to do when you’re stressed, taking time off to unwind is essential to your mental wellbeing and is a very effective way to avoid burn out. Reserve at least one night each week to socialise, see a movie or anything else that gets your mind off your studies.

Don’t go it alone

It’s a cliché but there is certainly some truth behind the saying that a problem shared is a problem halved. Working with study groups and colleagues who are going through the same study pressures as you can be a great relief and an enjoyable way to stay on top of your study.

Everybody manages stress differently, so find what works for you. Check out the beyondblue forums to share your experience and to find out how others are managing their mental health.

If things get more serious, you can contact:

Related reading: The benefits of a digital detox

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