Are you feeling anxious, low or stressed? It’s easy to get overwhelmed by problems, so to help out, we decided to offer you some top tips for looking after your mental wellbeing!
Realise the importance of taking care of yourself
It’s easy to get bogged down by life, by focusing on work and everything you feel you need to do while neglecting other priorities. Still, it’s important to keep a balance of obligations and goals because they all contribute to your wellbeing and happiness; in realising the importance of balance, you can take immediate steps to improve your mental wellbeing.
When is it time to make a change?
Various signs can indicate that you might need to make salutary changes. For example, if you start to have a negative view of life, lose interest in things you used to enjoy, and isolate yourself, you have tell-tale signs that your mental wellbeing could be in need of some attention.
Studies have shown that being active improves your mental health since it boosts your self-esteem and causes chemical changes in your brain which put you in a good mood.
Outside of the lockdown restrictions, you can join the sports association ‘ACLO’ which provides courses in which you can enrol for a half block so you can try various activities from table tennis to gliding. Be aware that it’s like a lottery, so you choose what you would most like to do and then you get given two or three of the activities you requested. You can also join sports clubs if there’s something in particular you would like to try. You’re allowed to participate up to 3 times before deciding to become a member of the sports club.
There’s also the ACLO gym which is the cheapest gym in town, but there are also various options closer to the city centre like Trainmore and BasicFit. If you’re interested in running races and meeting up with people outside of the university environment, there is also a parkrun in Stadspark on Saturday mornings. If you prefer winter sports, there’s always the SportsKardinege where you can ice skate or play ice hockey with your friends or other sporters from the ACLO.
For the time being, no ACLO sports are taking place but it’s worth checking regularly on the website since they change frequently. During lockdown, it’s possible to go running, try some yoga, or invest in some weights and try weight lifting at home.
So there’s something for everyone to keep yourself active!
Eating healthily has also been shown to be another way to improve your mood, help you think more clearly, and provide more energy.
Getting food from the market is a good way to source fresh healthy ingredients since locally sourced foods tend to have more nutrients because the time between harvesting the foods and getting it to your table is much shorter than when food is imported from abroad. The market is open from 9am to 5pm on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and takes place at Vismarkt.
Spend quality time with friends
Spending quality time with those you love is also important for your mental wellbeing, as they provide a sense of belonging and self-worth, emotional support, and an opportunity to share positive lasting memories with others.
If you’re in your first year, you can meet lots of new people through various student associations, ACLO courses and community organisations outside the university like ‘Cafe de las Lenguas’ and then build on these relationships, so that by the end, you have a group of good friends you can trust and be open with.
Spend time in the Nature
Spending time in nature has shown to be beneficial for your physical and mental wellbeing since it relieves stress, helps you be more active, and feel more connected to nature.
There are plenty of lakes to discover around Groningen, such as the Paterswoldemeer, which is a lake spanning 2.7km, so there’s plenty of space to swim. It’s just a 20 minute cycle south from the city centre, so it’s quite close.
There are also a couple of parks close to the city centre. There’s the Noorderplantsoen which is very scenic with the fountains and lakes and the Stadspark which has a petting zoo with various animals from peacocks to goats!
A bit further out, there is the national park ‘Lauwersmeer’ which is home to over 100 species of bird, so perfect for any avid bird watchers! You can also see lots of shaggy, sweet Scottish Highland cattle and Konik horses wandering around the park, so there’s lots to discover there!
Be open with those you trust
Talking about your feelings with someone you trust can make a problem feel less of a burden since you can release bottled up feelings, gain perspective on a situation, and get advice. These will all help you feel better in the long run and, as the saying goes, “a problem shared is a problem halved!”
While we all want to make the most of our university experience and have those late night chats at 3am, getting a good night’s sleep is vital for maintaining good mental health as it helps us deal with stress, process memories, and maintain cognitive skills.
It’s important to consider sleeping at regular times as it impacts your circadian rhythm, so the more regular of a sleep schedule you have, the easier it is to achieve deep, good quality sleep to set you up for the next day. Other factors can include eating light at night, reducing caffeine, lowering nicotine consumption, not exercising too late, and not drinking more than you can handle. These may contribute to a good night’s sleep.
Gain a sense of purpose
Gaining a sense of purpose is key to looking after our mental wellbeing, as when we help others, it helps us feel validated, valued and part of something larger than ourselves.
Volunteering is a great way to gain a sense of purpose, meet new people, gain new skills and boost your self-esteem. In Groningen, it’s possible to volunteer with ‘Humanitas’ which is an NGO dedicated to helping those who are lonely, coping with loss and find it difficult managing on their own. There is also ‘Groningen Verwelkomt’ which aims to help refugees feel at home and help them integrate into Dutch society.
What to do if you would like some help
If you are feeling like you need some help, you can contact the Student Service Centre which offers workshops, training, psychologists and student counsellors to help you.
Here is the link to the Student Service Centre
Here is the link to the AEGEE Mental Health Resource Package