Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Mental Health Over Summer: Rachael's Experience

Rachael shares her experience of how best to work and rest during the summer.
- Rachael Johnston


What do you do to help with your mental health over the summer?

I try and keep myself as occupied as possible.  To keep focused, it’s really important for me to plan ahead and have things set in my diary to look forward to. My previous job as a teaching assistant meant I had the whole summer off; however, I’m now a support worker supporting children with additional needs, which makes this summer a bit different.

What do you like to do during the summer?

I have my birthday over the summer, so there is usually the build up to that. I took two weeks annual leave to be able to have some time with my family and friends to celebrate.  I have had a short weekend away with my mum, which was nice, and I braved a massage. I’ve never had a massage, so I’ve decided I want to try and keep up to see if it helps me unwind a bit more.

What do you find hardest in the summer?

When we do get the sun, it usually means shorts and strappy tops. Currently my weight isn’t great, so I’m very body conscious. I also have scarring from self-harm. This summer, I’ve been a bit braver, and on really hot days I’ve just thought ‘sod it’! Then there are the big events and get-togethers! Usually it’s a time when everyone seems to go out and there is never a reasonable excuse not to go, so I try and tell myself to give it a go. If things do get too overwhelming, I can always go, so I find myself driving to places and ditching the alcohol in favour of a quick exit if I need it.

What differences have you found in your mental health over the summer compared to when you’re at university?

I’ve never been a fan of the summer holiday, even when I was in school.  I like being busy and having something to do. So I do notice that when my brain isn’t occupied, I start to feel low. However, when I’ve not been in university for a while, I start to become anxious about going back.  I check and recheck my personalised plan so I can reassure myself that any new tutors know what additional steps need to be taken. I suppose that’s the thing with mental health: no matter what I do, that little voice never seems to be satisfied.

Do you have any advice for other students who struggle with their mental health in the summer?

I’d say plan ahead. If you’re struggling, don’t bottle it in.  If you’re not up to do something which you have planned, be honest and don’t just cancel, my friends have either been able to talk me round into going out for a little while, or they’re happy to find a good film and stay in.
If you have appointments through the summer, stick to them, get to them even if you’d rather be sitting in. Sometimes it helps your therapists to see you in person when you’re really down, to get a fuller understanding of your situation.
To avoid staying stuck in a cycle of wearing the same clothes for days, I also try and set an alarm to have a fixed time when I have to have a shower and change.


Are you interested in getting involved in the “Mental Health over the Summer” blog series? Please do not hesitate to email us at blog@studentminds.org.



Hi, I’m Rachael. I’ve been blogging on and off for a few years now around my experience of living with Anorexia and Borderline Personality Disorder. Although I’m meant to be on a break from university this summer I requested an extension for my last assignment due to a dip in my mental health, so I’ve been able to keep myself occupied with this summer with uni work and my job as a support worker.
https://thejourneyback2life.wordpress.com/2017/07/14/to-the-bone/

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Mental Health Over the Summer: Tazmin's Experience

Tazmin joins the 'Mental Health Over the Summer' blogging series and shares her own story about her summer experiences with mental health difficulties.

- Tazmin


Being at university caused me a whirlwind of emotions. I had good days and I had terrible days due to my mental illness but I do not regret a thing. University is a wonderful, character building and self-exploratory journey; I am so proud of everything I achieved whilst being there and I wish everyone to have this same special bond with themselves.

What do you do to help with your mental health over the summer?

The summer holidays can sometimes seem like a long period of time and some people can find going home a little bit difficult but it is important we make the most of it! The main thing that I believe helps with your mental health is keeping busy and the easiest way to do that is to work. Whether that be a part-time job as a waitress or work experience in something you’re interested in, using your time productively, making money and gaining experience can make you feel as though you’re achieving something and not just sitting around with your thoughts. I also use the time to practice mindfulness, meditation and the time that I have with myself as a way to build a stronger, more grounded relationship within. It wasn’t always this easy but it is so important that when I notice I’m feeling down, I try hard to do what I can to feel better.

What do you like to do during the summer?
            
Summer is the time for us to have fun, so I just do what I enjoy! Going out, making plans, seeing friends or catching up with my sisters. Going to a new city; or a different country and even long walks in the sunshine (if we’re lucky enough to get a little sun). I just ensure I remain around people who keep me happy and positive!

What do you find hardest in the summer?

Going from being incredibly busy with social gatherings, meeting university deadlines, investigating a new city and seeing new things almost every day, to then going back home is what brings me down. I take a while to adapt to change and settle into new situations and by the time I’ve got used to university life, it is time to go home again.  In some ways, it made me feel as though I did not belong anywhere – but I had to realise this was not the case as all university students are in the same boat.

What differences have you found in your mental health over the summer compared to when you’re at university?

In some ways my mental health improved. I feel as though I have the freedom to go and do as I please as I am not constrained by university deadlines. In addition, sometimes being around the comfort and security of your old friends and family can benefit you too. However I missed the independence that university had to offer in terms of having my own space (which I truly believe is crucial in looking after your mental health). Being back at home can make you feel constrained as you may be living by someone else’s rules, but it’s important that you’re open and honest with your family and friends about anxieties you may have to ensure you feel more comfortable.

Do you have any advice for other students who struggle with their mental health in the summer?

Don’t allow the summer to be a time where you let your thoughts distract you and take over. Go and have fun! This is your free time and yes, there’s a lot of it but there’s a lot you can do with it. Be productive! Last summer I got work experience on a few independent film sets in Birmingham to contribute to my Media CV and Portfolio. I blogged, a lot. I worked and always tried to make plans with my friends. This is your time to heal.


Are you interested in getting involved in the “Mental Health over the Summer” blog series? Please do not hesitate to email us at blog@studentminds.org.



Hey guys, it’s Tazmin. My journey suffering with severe depression and anxiety has been a difficult one; but I would not be who I am today had I not accepted my illness and worked to get better. I have just graduated from Sheffield Hallam University with a First in Film and Media Production, something which I thought I'd never do.  I’ve had my blog Awareness for two years and it has been so rewarding for me; I want my writing to help, inspire and touch people. I now wish to support and encourage anyone who is suffering through university with this blog. Happy reading! (awarenessbytazmin.wordpress.com)

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Mental Health Over the Summer: Emily's Experience

Emily joins the 'Mental Health Over the Summer' blogging series and shares her own story about her summer experiences with mental health difficulties.


- Emily


What do you do to help with your mental health over the summer?

To help with my mental health over the summer, I make sure that I always spend some time each day doing something that I am passionate about, which is writing. The summer is good for this because I can take a notebook into the garden,  and sit in the sun and do some writing  . This summer however, for me, has been really different. Earlier this year, I gained a qualification in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) and I’ve had the chance to teach both in Italy and in the UK. These experiences have been really positive for my mental health.

What do you like to do during the summer?

During the summer, I like to spend lots of time writing. The summer is usually the time that I increase my Karate training too. This summer, I have enjoyed teaching English in Italy and in the UK, which has been a really enjoyable and confidence boosting experience for me.

What do you find hardest in the summer?

I find the summer hard because I have too much time to think about and dwell on things. It is also hard because all of my friends live in different areas of the country and it’s difficult to see them very regularly, which. often leads to me feeling lonely.

What differences have you found in your mental health over the summer, compared to when you’re at university?

Before this summer, I have found my mental health to take a dip during the summer holidays because I’m generally on my own and have too much time to think and to worry about everything. When I’m at University, I’m always busy with work and therefore I have less time to worry about things and more distractions. I also have lots of friends at University so it’s a lot easier to see people while I am there, compared to when I am at home during the summer.

Do you have any advice for other students who struggle with their mental health in the summer?

For students who struggle with their mental health during the summer, I would recommend using the time to focus on hobbies or even to start something new, for example, volunteering or an online course or learning a language . It is also good to keep in touch with University friends via social media or arrange to meet up.


Are you interested in getting involved in the “Mental Health over the Summer” blog series? Please do not hesitate to email us at blog@studentminds.org.



My name is Emily (Em); I am currently studying Modern Languages, Translation & Interpreting at Swansea University. I wanted to write for Student Minds because I have experienced depression and anxiety, and I support friends who have also experienced mental health difficulties. I am also a passionate writer and writing has been important in my mental health experiences. 

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Mental Health Over the Summer: Sophie’s Experience

Sophie kicks off the ‘Mental Health Over the Summer’ blog series by sharing her story about her summer experiences with a mental health issue.

-Sophie Edwards

Hey, I’m Sophie and I am a sub-editor of the Student Minds Blog. I’ve been a blogger for four years now and have also recently started my own YouTube channel where I share my experiences of mental health, university and life in general! I usually share my mental health story when I am at university and (understandably) extremely stressed. However, I rarely talk about my mental health during the summer, as this should be a time when I relax. However, mental health issues don’t rest, even when you’re meant to. This is why this blog series is so important: by raising more awareness, we can help students who struggle during the summer.

What do you do to help with your mental health over the summer?

Whenever I am having a particularly down day, I try to give myself something to do. I find it hard during the summer because I have gone from having something to do 24/7 at university to doing nothing, and it leaves me feeling worthless. To keep my mind active, I like to blog and make YouTube videos; I also like to do some painting, or to see loved ones. Spending time on creativity keeps my mind active and stops me from overthinking and worsening my mental health.

What do you like to do during the summer?

During the summer, I try my best to see my friends, even though we are all busy working or on holiday. I like to spend days with my boyfriend by either going on days out in London, or by simply chilling in bed with Netflix. Simple things like this make me feel truly happy and help me wind down after a stressful year at university.

Do you have any advice for other students who struggle with their mental health during the summer?

My main piece of advice is to keep your mind and body active. Last summer when I was told I had social anxiety and depression, I got into exercise. It balanced the chemicals in my brain and made me feel a lot healthier mentally and physically. Keeping your mind active is also so important. Of course, you need to rest after a long and stressful year at university. However, a complete wind-down can lead to an extreme feeling of emptiness, if you struggle with such thoughts to begin with. This also makes it harder to get back into university once summer is over. Start a blog, make YouTube videos, find a new hobby, write for Student Minds! Doing little things like this can help you wind down without leading you to completely switch off and go numb.

What do you find hardest in the summer?

I struggle to find the motivation to start the day. When I have no job or any responsibilities, I technically have no reason to get out of bed unless I have something planned. I find myself spending full days in bed, forgetting to eat a proper meal or drink enough throughout the day. I don’t bother to shower and I just spend the whole day either on my laptop or my phone. Sometimes we need days like this, but I know that truthfully, I feel even worse after.

What differences have you found in your mental health over the summer compared to when you’re at university?

I find that I ‘accept’ my mental health issues when I’m at university because it is usually down to the workload and stress. However, when it’s summer, I struggle to come to terms with my mental health issues as I feel I shouldn’t be struggling. But we all know that mental health issue don’t take summer holidays, which is why this series is so important. We need to raise awareness about students’ mental health and the support they can get over the summer if it is needed.

Are you interested in getting involved in the “Mental Health over the Summer” blog series? Please do not hesitate to email us at blog@studentminds.org.


Hi, I’m Sophie and I’m a student at the University of Greenwich studying Advertising and Marketing Communications. I am going into my 3rd year of university in September and I have struggled with my mental health up until this point. In the Summer of 2016, at the end of my 1st year of university I was diagnosed with social anxiety and depression. It was only when I discovered Student Minds that I felt less alone and knew I wasn’t the only student struggling. I hope by working with Student Minds I can support other students experiencing the same struggles as me and raise awareness about the help that is out there!








Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Assumptions and Acceptance

Using her own experience Rachael shows how a bad start to university doesn't have to put you off university education. 

-Rachael Johnston



My welcome to higher education wasn't all that great to begin with. I was studying a counselling degree with the hope to work in early intervention programs for children who were struggling emotionally.  I was honest about having Anorexia & Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), however, when it came to placement year I was pulled into a room and was told I would be a danger to myself and others!

The tutors had googled BPD and basically just read the bad stuff related to it. I was heartbroken, especially with it coming from my tutors who were counsellors. I'd worked so hard and was fully aware I would need to be conscious of my own state of mind during the placement and in the profession.

While this was happening, I had given a talk about my journey to a group of university students on a Childhood & Youth Professional Studies course. I explained the situation I was in and explained the direction I wanted to head in. There and then the lecturer told me about their course and the help on offer through disability support.

Within 2 weeks student finance had been sorted and my disabled student allowance (DSA). Right from the start, the support I recieved was amazing. I had an independent learning plan which was sent to my tutors and I had a copy. It explained all my needs and any behaviours to watch out for (which I had agreed to) - that I may just leave the lecture as often I just need to walk round to get myself back focused.

There was no pressure to read my marks straight away from assignments and if I was struggling it was okay. There was no judgement. Even today as I enter my final year, it's still the same.

The other year I received a phone call from the course lead as I'd taken an overdose just after we broke up for summer - there was no judgement and no well "uni isn't for you" which I had had in the past.

My support plan is followed to the letter (as it should be) and although I've had a couple of extensions for my assignments due to declines in my health, it's never been an issue.

My greatest support for my uni support is my mentor, who is funded through my DSA. I've built up a trusting relationship with her and she keeps everyone updated, with my permission. I struggle with going into the library to get books so she's worked with me to build up the courage to do it. I honestly wonder if I would have carried on with my course at times if it wasn't for the fact I have her to rant and ramble to, she goes above and beyond and I really appreciate it.

I recently had a matter around student finance and phoned/emailed my lead tutor in a panic, she helped to resolve the matter and calmed me down, she knew the matter would be sorted but didn’t discredit my racing thoughts and feelings, as she knew this would just make my BPD spiral.

University is often a bumpy journey. I've had to adjust to new situations and overcome darker days. I feel very humbled that I have joined a university that has accepted and encouraged me, and one that has taken the time to understand that my mental health is only a small part of the 26 year old that is looking forward to graduating in 2018.


Feeling low? Find local support at your university, here. Find further information, support and advice on the Student Minds website.




Hi, I'm Rachael. I'm currently studying Childhood and Youth Professional Studies at the University of Chester and wanted to write for Student Minds as I have Anorexia and Borderline Personality Disorder and wanted to show that having mental health issues doesn't have to stop you from studying.