10 tips to stay mentally fit

A day has 24 hours. You can use your day efficiently by dividing it into 3 times 8 hours. This gives you 8 hours for studying/going to lectures, 8 hours for ‘relaxing’, for example meeting friends, sport or doing something for yourself and then there are 8 hours for sleeping.

Even if you chose your study programme yourself and you find it really interesting, it’s normal not to feel like studying sometimes. Make sure that you have a routine during the week: get up at the same time every day, schedule regular times for sports, find a permanent study place, etc. This makes it easier to start and continue studying and you experience less (study) stress.

There are various factors which can lead to sleep disorders. Drinking alcohol enables you to fall asleep easily, but your sleep is less deep so you wake up less refreshed. Exercising late in the evening can mean that your body has too much adrenalin to allow you to fall asleep. Studying just before bedtime can also make it harder to fall asleep.

If you have problems getting to sleep, it helps to have regular times for going to bed and getting up. If necessary, set an alarm in the evening to remind you to go to bed and plan an evening routine which helps you forget the stresses of the day. In the morning, don’t snooze, but get up immediately and jump in the shower. It’s also better not to sleep during the day, even if you’re tired.

If you find that you’ve been feeling stressed, down, anxious or tired for a while, you can record how busy you are and with what activities. You can do this by writing down all the activities of your day in your diary. At the end of each activity, you can record whether it gave you energy or zapped energy. This will give you more insight and awareness of how you manage your energy.

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It’s difficult to suppress worried thoughts and often it doesn’t help very much. What does appear to work is delaying thoughts. People who learn to save up thoughts for a ‘fifteen minute fret’ (a fixed moment in the day when you can focus on your worries) have fewer problems with concerns and worried thoughts. You can also write down your concerns during your ‘fifteen minute fret’ - that sometimes gives new insights. Because you are not allowed to worry outside that fifteen minutes, you get more peace during the rest of the day.

A good way of giving your thoughts a place and worrying less is mindfulness. Mindfulness exercises teach you to notice sooner when your thoughts start to stray and enable you to refocus your attention faster and with less anger and irritation. Because you notice faster and better that your thoughts are straying, you can also become more aware of negative thoughts and feelings. These exercises also improve your concentration. For various exercises, look here or here.

Regular exercise or sports are ideal for improving your mood, emptying your head, improving your sleeping pattern and your concentration when studying. Visit the website of Erasmus Sport for the range of group classes and sports clubs.

Taking part in social activities besides studying can ensure that you feel more at home at the university and help banish any feelings of loneliness. Check out these websites for sports, social and cultural activities.

Alcohol or drug use can affect your welfare. If you are concerned about this, check out the website of Youz.

Online there’s lots of information about stress symptoms, emotional dips and other psychological problems. Do you have the feeling that things aren’t going so well, but you don’t want to go to the GP or psychologist? Visit the following websites to see if you can find any useful tips:

  • Korrelatie gives individual advice and help to anyone who asks for it.
  • Do you have suicidal thoughts or are you worried about someone else? 113Online
  • Grip op je dip - a website for young people who’ve not been feeling good about themselves for a while.
  • Ik student - students talk about their psychological problems in connection with their student lives.
  • Sensoor is available night or day for an anonymous and confidential telephone conversation. You can also chat or email them.
  • Youz - information about addiction or abuse of alcohol, drugs, gambling and/or gaming.

Use your social network for support. Everyone feels down or anxious at times, that’s just part of life. People may not have solutions for your problems, but if you can share them with others, you might start to feel less lonely. If support from your friends and family is not enough for the problems you are struggling with, make an appointment with your GP or the student psychologists.

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