Looking after yourself while settling into university  

By Rachael Griffiths a current BSc Wildlife Conservation NTU student

Hi, everyone! My name is Rachael, and I am an undergraduate studying BSc Wildlife Conservation here at NTU. I am currently preparing to undertake my final year at NTU and finally get back on campus – it feels like forever, right? I am also a new Student Mental Health Champion, ready to share my personal knowledge and the advice that I have cultivated while being an NTU student.  

While we know that this past year has been, well, let’s just say… different, I wanted to share some of my most valuable top tips and confidence boosters for all of you 2021 Freshers settling into the university environment. I will be focusing on the importance of mental stability and maintaining your wellbeing. So, I hope that you can take something from this and implement it into your own life, even something small.  

I hope that you have an amazing time becoming a part of the NTU community. 

Invest, evolve, and enjoy! 

Prioritise your mental health & wellbeing 

We at NTU understand that university can feel overwhelming, daunting, exciting – even a mixture of all the above! Trust me, I know. I’ve been there myself. While experiencing all these new emotions, as well as lifestyle changes, living independently, adapting to the new workload, or connecting with fellow students / making friends, it can be so easy to forget what is most important throughout this whole journey… you. Yes, you. I understand that it is so easy to put a game face on and get on by without stating how you really feel. But it is so important, now more than ever, to vocalise your mind and reach out. You might even find a fellow classmate going through the same situation. But you never know until you express it.  

Allowing room in your life for self-care, relaxation, self-forgiveness, and understanding means that you can avoid the mental burnout that comes with life’s stressors. It’s important to remember to take care of your mind just as much as you would take care of your body, and it’s not as hard to do as you might think. And remember to spend quality time with yourself. I know the first thing most students will want to do when university starts is socialise with others (which is great!) but getting burnout from excessive drinking and partying does happen… trust me, I know (regrettably)… so just don’t forget your own personal relationship with yourself and ask yourself what you need. Find some first steps to putting your mental health first here: www.thepositiveplanners.com/10-ways-to-prioritise-your-mental-health.  

Get out in nature 

No, by this I don’t mean scroll through Instagram and find an enjoyable reel of someone else relaxing by a river or hiking through the forest – this will only cause envy. We’re all guilty, don’t worry. I mean you need to physically move outside and experience this yourself! And truthfully, there’s no excuse not to. Being situated at Brackenhurst Campus myself, you are constantly surrounded by trees, gorgeous flowers, and some amazing wildlife. For those of you situated at City or Clifton campus, make the most of a daytrip ‘Park & Ride’ bus ticket (with Nottingham City Transport) and explore everything there is to see in and around Nottingham. I honestly regret not doing this sooner. The Wollaton Hall, Gardens and Deer Park is my new favourite parkland to visit. And don’t get me started on the nature reserves nearby!  

“Nature deprivation” a lack of time in the natural world, largely due to hours spent in front of a TV or computer screens, has been associated with an increase in anxiety and even depression. A more unexpected fact is that screen time can cause a loss of empathy and lack of altruism or humanity – which we need in our communities now more than ever. Research actually reveals that environments can increase or reduce our stress levels, which in turn impacts our bodies. Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature (like in an art gallery, not on your phone), reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases positive feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, but it also contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. 

DSA and mental health support is available  

For those students with a disability, be it minor or major, you may be eligible for a Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA). DSAs are intended to cover any extra costs or expense that arise because of your disability while studying. You can apply for a DSA if you have a diagnosed physical, sensory, unseen medical condition, long term health condition, mental health condition, Autistic Spectrum Condition, or a Specific Learning Difficulty such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, or ADHD. It is great to remember that DSAs are grants rather than loans, meaning you will not have to repay them when you have graduated.  

I myself have struggled with severe anxiety, especially around the exam period. Fortunately, I found out about the DSA through the Employability Team at NTU, and immediately got my DSA form sent off. Then, after the Study Needs Assessment a few weeks later, I received confirmation of my first one to one mentor support meeting – this reassurance and ongoing support has benefited my studies ten-fold. If you feel like this could benefit you too, please contact the Mental Health Mentoring and Access Team at MHAccess@ntu.ac.uk

In addition to this, there are other wellbeing teams and resources within Student Support that can help you throughout your time at NTU, if required. This ranges from features like self-help online CBT resource SilverCloud, 1-2-1 counselling through the Counselling team in Student Support, to group yoga and student mentors. You can discover more at www.ntu.ac.uk/studenthub/student-help-advice-and-services.  

Your CERT Student Mentors are here for you (including me)! 

Has the thought of returning to education or the classroom got you concerned? Is it your first time moving away from home and you’re feeling apprehensive about it? … But you don’t know who to speak to about it? Well, CERT Student Mentors are the perfect mix of a professional supporter and a friendly face. It is our job as mentors and respect ambassadors to create a safe environment for first years and represent the wishes of fellow students by acting as their voice. As well as offer support and resources throughout the academic year. We can share our own experiences of being a first-year student, provide peer-to-peer support and point you in the direction of the right university departments so that you have everything you need to be able to succeed at university. 

Every first-year student is assigned a Student Mentor who studies on the same course as them in a higher year. So those of you studying on the Wildlife Conservation course, feel free to say hi during one of your CERT sessions! It’s not been long since we were in your position, so we understand how you’re feeling, and are on hand to answer questions and have a chat if you ever need us. Find out who your student mentor is by emailing CERT@ntu.ac.uk  

If you’d like to sign up to volunteer as a Student Mental Health Champion at NTU or find out more head over to the NTSU website. The scheme is a collaboration led by NTU’s Student Support Services and the NTSU.

For help, advice and resources whilst studying at NTU, take a look at the following for sources of support.


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