Resources for Students

Physical activity is a great way to increase your endorphin levels and creating a long lasting mood boost. Regular exercise will help to establish this over a long period of time. Mental health first aid recommends 30 minutes of exercise five times a week. This may be a walk, gym, swim, yoga or sport.

#DoesYouGood - see what’s on offer to help RHUL students keep active.

Sleep is really important when it comes to mental health. Sleep is the way that our minds process information after each day, recuperate energy and helps us to remain emotionally fit. Scientists aren’t sure exactly why, but if we don’t get enough sleep, our levels of anxiety, depression and emotional disturbance worsens. Sleep also helps us commit information to memory, studies show that if you revise and then sleep the night before a test, you will remember more information the next day, than if you stay awake to revise.

Student Minds recommends the following things to improve your sleep routine:

  • Regular sleep and wake times.
  • Reduce screen time before bed.
  • Do something relaxing before bed like yoga or reading.
  • Use an alarm clock rather than your phone, to reduce temptation to sit and scroll in the morning.
  • Keep your room tidy and change your bedsheets regularly.
  • Write down to-dos and worries before bed so it’s easier to switch off.
  • Diet

What you eat and drink can have a significant impact on your mental health. Read more about how diet impacts mental health here.

Eat regularly – maintaining your blood sugar levels with meals at regular intervals helps to prevent irritability, tiredness and depression. Foods that release energy slowly will also help to prevent mood declines. Slow release foods include: wholegrains, oats and nuts and seeds.

Keep your liquids up and stay hydrated – water is one of the best ways to do this and is cheap and healthy, but other fluids like tea, coffee, juice and smoothies also count towards your daily intake. You should aim for about 6-8 glasses per day.

Get your 5 a day – fruits and vegetables contain vital nutrients that help your body produce a healthy balance of chemicals which not only keep your body healthy, but your mind as well. Try and keep things colourful, and don’t forget that frozen and tinned fruits and vegetables also count towards your 5 a day.

Look after your gut – there is an increasing amount of research that indicates a link between gut health and mental health. How we feel emotionally can also speed up or slow down our gut, to maintain a health gut you should eat lots of fibre and have plenty of fluids. Probiotic yoghurts are also a great way to improve gut health.

Protein – protein contains amino acids which are vital to regulate the chemicals which control our emotional state. Good sources of protein include: lean meat, fish, eggs, cheese, legumes (peas, beans and lentils), soya products, nuts and seeds.

Caffeine – caffeine is a stimulant which can increase the energy levels temporarily but can also increase anxiety and depression. It is also prone to disturbing one’s sleep pattern which also has a negative impact on our mental health.

Friends and family can be extremely supportive when we’re struggling. Opening up to people you trust can lift a huge burden and open you up to new methods of coping. It can also help when you no longer have to hide how you are truly feeling in front of other people.

However, not everyone wants to open up to others or is ready to. Being around friends and family is still a positive action to take as there are numerous benefits to being around people. Make sure you keep in touch with friends, try joining a society or sports club, or just ask a friend over for a coffee. If you’re worried about missing time from studying, why don’t you ask a friend if they want to have a study session in the library with you?

You can find more resources and information about mental health self-care at these sites:

Mental Health Foundation Mind Student Minds

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is something that we all feel at some time. It is a natural response to potentially dangerous situations and helps us to avoid them. Anxiety also manifests itself as the ‘fight or flight’ response which creates the urge to run away or fight the possible danger. An anxiety disorder differs from the anxiety that we all feel in the following ways:

There are many different types of anxiety disorders, the main ones are generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. You can read more about these on the Mind Uk website here.

Symptoms of anxiety disorders

Anxiety can manifest itself in lots of different ways, both mental and physical, and can even cause physical symptoms in isolation- that is, without the persistent worry that characterises anxiety. Some of the key symptoms are listed below. Please note that this list is not exhaustive, and every individual will experience anxiety in a different way. You do not need to have all these symptoms to have an anxiety disorder.

Physical symptoms:

  • Palpitations, rapid heartbeat, chest pain
  • Hyperventilation
  • Dizziness, headache, sweating, numbness
  • Choking, vomiting, frequent urination, nausea, dry mouth, diarrhoea
  • Muscle aches and pains, restlessness, tremor and shaking
Psychological symptoms
  • Unrealistic and/or excessive fear or worry
  • Mind racing or going blank
  • Decreased concentration/memory
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Irritability/impatience/anger
  • Confusion
  • Restlessness/feeling on edge/nervousness
  • Exhaustion/lethargy/sleep disturbance
  • Unwanted repetitive thoughts
Behavioural symptoms
  • Avoidance of certain situations
  • Compulsive behaviours
  • Distress in social situations
  • Urge to escape situations that cause discomfort (phobic behaviour)

WHere to find support

If you think that you may be experiencing anxiety, you can access help by:

  • Contacting the Student Advisory and Wellbeing team at the University by emailing supportingyou@royalholloway.ac.uk - they can offer advice, and direct you to the most appropriate service within their team
  • Speaking to your GP about any concerns you may have. You can register with the on-campus GP surgery here if you haven’t already, or find other local GPs here. DocReady is a website offering a practical guide to get you ready to talk to a doctor about your mental health for the first time.
  • You can self-refer to the Berkshire Talking Therapies service here - they also have self-help resources available on their website.

Other resources

  • Anxiety Care UK offers mutual support groups, counselling and recovery support- get more information by calling 07552 877 219 or emailing admin@anxietycare.org.uk
  • Anxiety UK has a helpline open 9:30-17:30 on 03444 775 774 or by text on 07537 41690. They also have a range of support groups and therapy available at a reduced cost
  • The NHS has some self-help tips on their website to manage the symptoms of anxiety.

In case of a crisis:

  • The Surrey and Borders NHS Crisis Mental Health Hotline is available 24/7 on 0800 915 4644 or for those with speech or hearing difficulties, text 07717 989 024.
  • Samaritans offer 24/7 support, just call 116 123, or email them at jo@samaritans.org
  • No Panic offers a helpline from 10am-10pm every day on 0300 7729844, and a 24h recorded message to guide you through a panic attack on 01952 680835. They have relaxation resources available on their website as well.

Worried about a friend?

If you’re concerned that a friend may be struggling with their mental health, then there are a number of steps you can take to offer them support.

Check out our resource about starting conversations about mental health here for a good starting point. You may wish to share the support resources above with them, and e.g. offer to accompany them to a doctors appointment to make it less daunting.

Alternatively, if they are a student you can contact the Wellbeing team to report a concern- read more information about this here.

What is depression?

According to Mind UK, depression is a persistent long-term low mood which significantly impacts someone’s day-to-day life.

While it is common to experience periods of low mood from time to time, and especially as a result of difficult personal circumstances, when this becomes persistent and difficult to manage, it’s time to seek help. Depression can be life-threatening if it leads to suicidal feelings.

Depression is very common among university students; in one 2018 study, it was found that 1 in 10 university students reported a diagnosis of depression and 75% of these reported concealing their diagnosis from friends.

Symptoms of depression

Depression can present itself in lots of different ways, in both physical and mental/emotional symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms to look out for are:

  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Restlessness or agitation
  • Feeling empty, numb, or apathetic
  • Social withdrawal
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
  • Trouble sleeping, or sleeping more than usual
  • Lack of appetite, or overeating
  • Lack of libido
  • Feeling self-destructive or impulsive
  • Losing interest or pleasure in things you used to enjoy
  • Lack of self-confidence

Where to find support

If you think that you may be experiencing depression, you can access help by:

  • Contacting the Student Advisory and Wellbeing team at the University by emailing supportingyou@royalholloway.ac.uk - they can offer advice, and direct you to the most appropriate service within their team
  • Speaking to your GP about any concerns you may have. You can register with the on-campus GP surgery here if you haven’t already, or find other local GPs here. DocReady is a website offering a practical guide to get you ready to talk to a doctor about your mental health for the first time.
  • You can self-refer to the Berkshire Talking Therapies service here- they also have self-help resources available on their website.

In the case of a crisis:

  • The Surrey and Borders NHS Crisis Mental Health Hotline is available 24/7 on 0800 915 4644 or for those with speech or hearing difficulties, text 07717 989 024.
  • Safe Haven Woking offers a drop-in video call service for those in crisis every day from 6-11pm, which can be accessed
  • Samaritans offer 24/7 support, just call 116 123, or email them at jo@samaritans.org
  • Papyrus Hopeline can be contacted 9am-Midnight daily on 0800 068 4141, by texting 07860039967 or emailing pat@papyrus-uk.org

Other resources

  • Students Against Depression have lots of self-help resources, including exercises and worksheets on their website
  • Mind UK has a bank of resources for those needing immediate help available here including some fantastic self-help exercises
  • The NHS has an app called distrACT which is designed to help people dealing with urges to self-harm.

Worried about a friend?

If you’re concerned that a friend may be struggling with their mental health, then there are a number of steps you can take to offer them support. 

Check out our resource about starting conversations about mental health here for a good starting point. You may wish to share the support resources above with them, and e.g. offer to accompany them to a doctors appointment to make it less daunting.

Alternatively, if they are a student you can contact the Wellbeing team to report a concern- read more information about this here.

What is stress?

Feeling under pressure is a common experience, and almost everyone will feel stressed at different times in their life. According to Mind UK, stress can be characterised by both the situations that put pressure on us, and our subsequent reactions to those situations.

While stress is not a formally diagnosed condition in the same way that, for example, depression or anxiety is, it can present similar challenges, and have a big impact on our health if not managed properly. Stress can both cause and be caused by mental health issues, so it is important to learn how to identify and manage feelings of stress to avoid these.

Stress is common among university students, especially at particularly busy times of the year such as during the examination period. The Wellbeing team at the university have some top tips for dealing with exam pressure available here.

Symptoms of stress

Some key signs of stress to look out for are:

  • Feeling irritable or agitated
  • Unable to “switch off” or relax
  • Finding it difficult to make decisions
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Little appetite, or overeating
  • Tearfulness
  • Feelings of worry
  • Feeling unable to enjoy yourself or like you’ve lost your sense of humour
  • Headaches, chest pains or stomach aches
  • Experiencing panic attacks
  • Grinding your teeth, jaw pain

Where to find support

Resources for managing your stress:

If you’re finding it difficult to manage your feelings of stress on your own you can access help by:

  • Contacting the Student Advisory and Wellbeing team at the University by emailing supportingyou@royalholloway.ac.uk - they can offer advice, and direct you to the most appropriate service within their team
  • Speaking to your GP about any concerns you may have. You can register with the on-campus GP surgery here if you haven’t already, or find other local GPs here. DocReady is a website offering a practical guide to get you ready to talk to a doctor about your mental health for the first time.
  • You can self-refer to the Berkshire Talking Therapies service here- they also have self-help resources available on their website.

Worried about a friend

If you’re concerned that a friend may be struggling with their mental health, then there are a number of steps you can take to offer them support.

Check out our resource about starting conversations about mental health here for a good starting point. You may wish to share the support resources above with them, and e.g. offer to accompany them to a doctors appointment to make it less daunting.

Alternatively, if they are a student you can contact the Wellbeing team to report a concern- read more information about this here.

What is an eating disorder?

Lots of us have a complicated relationship with food. For many of us, university is the first time where we have total control over our diets and this can be incredibly daunting.

It’s completely natural to struggle and to be unsure of the best way to take care of your health and relationship with food when you’re on your own and support networks may now be far away.

Sometimes, the thoughts and feelings we have surrounding food may become more difficult, and our eating may become disordered. Often, those with eating disorders will use disordered eating as a means of dealing with stressful situations in their life, particularly those they feel they have no control over.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rates of all psychiatric disorder, and while they can be challenging to treat, there is help and support available.

Symptoms of eating disorders

There are a few different types of eating disorder, including Anorexia, Bulimia and Binge Eating Disorder. Each type of disorder is associated with the prevalence of different behaviours and feelings, however there are some common symptoms which are listed below. To read in more detail about the different types of eating disorder, check out the Mind UK website here.

Common symptoms of disordered eating may include:

  • Feelings of shame or guilt
  • Feelings of loneliness, especially if nobody knows about your eating problems
  • Low self-esteem, hatred towards your body
  • Feeling a need for control, or that you are struggling to stay in control
  • Anger if you are challenged about your weight, or food behaviours
  • Anxiety surrounding food and mealtimes

 

You do not have to be underweight to have an eating disorder- the thoughts, feelings and behaviours you have surrounding food are the most important factor in diagnosis.

Where to find support

Try talking to friends or family members:

  • Friends or family members are a good place to start, though it can be daunting opening up about your eating behaviours, especially if you have been hiding them for a long time
  • It can help to write down how you feel, how long you’ve been struggling and how you feel they may be able to support you best
  • You can read more on disclosing to a friend or family member on the Beat website here.

Seek professional help:

  • GPs are the first step in getting professional support with an eating disorder. They can help you figure out if you are experiencing one and refer you to specialists. At Royal Holloway, you can attend an Eating Disorder specific appointment with one of the GP’s-register with the on-campus GP surgery here. Alternatively, you can find other local GPs here .
  • Doc Ready is a handy website which can help you prepare for the appointment in advance, inform you of your rights and how to start a conversation with the Doctor.
  • You can self-refer to the Berkshire Talking Therapies service here- they also have self-help resources available on their website.

Other resources:

  • Beat offers specialist advice and support on eating disorders, you can call them on their student helpline at 0808 801 0811, or have a look on their website for resources, advice and FAQs on Eating Disorders. You can even direct friends, family and other supporters to their website for information for them.
  • Contacting the Student Advisory and Wellbeing team at the University by emailing supportingyou@royalholloway.ac.uk - they can offer advice, and direct you to the most appropriate service within their team
  • The University also offers a free counselling service. This can help if you are on a waiting list, or unsure what to do, or if you just want to chat to someone. You can request a specific counsellor if you’d prefer to speak to someone of a specific gender, or perhaps you didn’t connect with the person you saw before.

Worried about a friend?

See our article here on supporting someone with an eating disorder.

If you’re concerned that a friend may be struggling with their mental health, then there are a number of steps you can take to offer them support.

Check out our resource about starting conversations about mental health here for a good starting point. You may wish to share the support resources above with them, and e.g. offer to accompany them to a doctors appointment to make it less daunting.

Alternatively, if they are a student you can contact the Wellbeing team to report a concern- read more information about this here.