Think of a triangle. 3 points right? You've got sleep, your social life and your career to balance but life says you can only choose 2 to succeed. In today's TALA Talks, @adutayik shares her advice on how to manage academics and mental health for a healthier perspective and tips to make that triangle a smooth circle of balance. 🔺 > ⚪️
September marks so much newness. New season - hello autumn! New routines, and for some within the TALA community a new academic year. Academia, particularly higher education, and the pressures that come with it can be a minefield. As someone that’s done university three times over - a BA, MSc, and an MPhil (unprovoked might I add), I’ve got a few practical tips that might prove helpful in the cyclical journey of re-centering your wellbeing throughout your academic journey.
I want to start by giving some of the feelings you might come across a context and a language. I’m a firm believer that naming something; discomfort, confusion, and feelings at large, puts you in a position to really look at and begin unpacking that thing. So let’s do a bit of that now.
Firstly, the transition from childhood into adulthood isn’t necessarily the most seamless. In the UK, the education system is designed to give us structure until we turn 18. University is a pseudo-extension of that system. You can choose where you want to go and you can choose what you want to do. What’s different however is the general structure, the expectations of lecturers to school teachers, and the external pressures you might face. For a lot of people, it might be the first time you have to count on yourself to do things like paying your bills, manage your own time, prioritise to avoid conflict. Overall it might feel like the first time you’re being the most active participant in your life. That can be overwhelming.
Please know that it’s normal, and you’re not any ‘less than’ for feeling overwhelmed or not knowing how everyone else (seemingly) has it together. New spaces, like large academic institutions, where people are declared experts on subject matters, can rile up a little bit of imposter syndrome in us. Imposter syndrome is that dreadful feeling where you convince yourself that your achievements, your effort, your work rate, and general presence in a place is somehow not good enough or a mistake. That you’re a fraud. Know that imposter syndrome is a liar. Imposter syndrome compounded with academic expectations and life stresses can be a lot for your mental health.
So here are a few top tips that helped me and I hope can help you:
- Build a routine.
Try and maintain a regular time to wake up and start your day. You’ll thank yourself for it when those deadlines start rolling in and your body can run almost on autopilot. Please also - and I cannot stress this enough - try to make your bed in the morning!
- Celebrate small wins.
The degree may be the end result, but the journey leading up to it is so valuable. Celebrate yourself and celebrate your friends. Take pictures to commemorate moments.
When you’re feeling down, moving around might seem like the last thing that you want to do. It is however scientifically proven to make you feel better. So try to get up and release those endorphins! Most universities have sports teams, but if that’s not your thing you could do a shreddy workout (and join a community of shreddy babes), have a quick run, or even take a brisk walk. Find something that works for you and that you enjoy, and remember to mix it up!
- Find your tribe.
The people that help you build your internal monologue are so important. Try to surround yourself with kind people that will protect you, encourage you, hold you to account, and have fun with you. It might not happen straight away, but honour those people when you find them, they will be like your family. A good place to start might be in the midst of some societies that you’re interested in or aligned with, It might even be in the SU (if you’re allowed to go there! #issapandemic). Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
- Become confident enough to challenge lecturers and supervisors.
University is a place to develop yourself not just academically, but overall. You’re also most likely paying for the luxury of this development. If something isn’t clear, ask. If you need help, also please ask (no one expects you to know it all, and office hours exist for a reason!). If you don’t agree with something, speak up either in lectures or through your assignments. You might be hit with imposter syndrome from time to time when trying to do this, but trust me, you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.
You might feel stretched from all directions at times - personal life, uni work, passion projects, potentially a uni job. Try your best to reduce the stress that finances can cause by budgeting. Pay for your essentials first and then see what you have leftover. There’re hundreds of excel templates on sister google and loads of great financial education resources you can follow like @go_fund_yourself that can get you thinking about finances in a healthy way. If you're really having a hard time know that most universities have discretionary hardship funds, apply to that if you need to, and don't let pride or feelings of shame talk you out of it. Your university has a duty of care to you, and that extends to your finances.
- Take a social media break.
The carefully curated lives of everyone you follow on social media may not always be the most productive thing to see when you feel overwhelmed or like there’s nothing instagrammable about your life right now. Remember that you have the ability to take the algorithms control back. As a general rule of thumb, try to avoid toxic Facebook, Instagram and YouTube comments, as well as twitter threads on topics that might rile you up. You don't need to give toxicity your energy. Have a digital detox for as many days, weeks, or - if you’re like me at uni - months you need to. Try to use that time to do something like journaling, writing lists of gratitude out, or whatever gives you joy in real life.
Finally, remember that everyone is having a different university experience. Always be kind, firstly to yourself, but also extend empathy and kindness to other people. Stand up for people where you can - especially minority groups. You’re doing amazing sweetie and you have people rooting for you. I sure am one of those people!