Content Warnings: References to anxiety, depression, and alcohol
If there is one thing that is definitively true about freshers week, it’s that nobody’s experience is exactly the same.
For some people, freshers week gives them their first taste of independent living and they instantly love it. For others, the thought of meeting new flatmates and living away from home causes feelings of anxiety and worry. The key thing to know from the start is that these feelings, no matter what they are, are valid.
It’s not uncommon for freshers, especially those who come to University already struggling with their mental health, to develop feelings of isolation, loneliness and stress during this transitional period of University. In this blog, I will run through three top tips of things that may help you to feel more comfortable and happy during your freshers week.
There are going to be some things that are part of freshers week that you don’t want to get involved with. This may be drinking alcohol, going to clubs or not wanting to go out every day of the week.
For people who have anxiety, depression or other mood altering mental health conditions, you may have been encouraged in the past to try to leave your comfort zone. This may be because, for conditions like anxiety, worries can sometimes come from irrational thoughts, which might be proven wrong once you do the activity you’re stressed about.
A lot of the time, leaving your comfort zone can introduce you to something that you find really fun and enjoyable. Generally speaking, during freshers week it’s nice to try as much as you can so that you can see what you find fun and want to do again, and what you don’t.
However, with all that said, it’s also really important to set key boundaries about what you don’t want to do so you don’t end up in a potentially triggering or anxiety-inducing situation. For many, drinking alcohol is something they are uncomfortable with doing. Being open with your flatmates about this is really important so you don’t become peer-pressured to do something that you don’t want to do.
My advice is: if you are uncertain about an event but still feel that you could go, trying to work through the nerves and going to the event is the best bet! However, if you know something will make you severely anxious or unhappy, set that boundary and don’t go where you’re not comfortable.
Freshers week is packed with events. From welcome fairs to socials with your flatmates, both your day and night will be packed with things to do. For some, this busy schedule may be absolutely thrilling! For others, it could become overwhelming and pressurising.
You’re going to need to rest during the week and so it is inevitable that you won’t get to do everything. However, it is still a good idea to try to get to do the things that you’re most excited about. Before arriving at freshers week, have a look at what events your University is hosting and see which ones you’re most excited to attend. When you arrive at freshers, you can check and see if your flatmates are also interested in the similar events and then you can do them together which may be a great way to bond together.
Some really important things to try to do within freshers week is familiarising yourself with the campus, registering at your local GP and ensuring that you are fully registered with your University as sometimes you have to go onto campus to do this.
Other than that, try to take a relaxed approach to freshers and don’t overplan your week with events!
This one is extremely important and is barely ever spoken about! For freshers who enjoy clubbing and drinking, you may find yourself adopting a strange sleeping pattern during freshers week. This is normal but it’s really important that you take care of yourself. Sleeping for 6-8 hours is essential, as is drinking lots of water.
For the freshers who are busier during the day, it’s also important to ensure that you are eating healthily. Whilst it may seem beneficial to order a takeaway or have a ready meal every night of the week, eating healthier home cooked food will help you maintain your energy level and ultimately, feel better.
Don’t worry about cooking complex meals! A simple pasta dish will suffice, but it’s really important to take your health seriously from the start. For those who suffer from disordered eating, it may be worth reaching out to the mental health charity Beat which works to support individuals with eating disorders and may be able to support you during your transition into University life.
In short, try as much as you can to drink water, eat good food and sleep properly!
Like I said at the start of this blog, everyone’s experience will be different so don’t worry about sticking to these tips religiously. They are merely a guide of the sort of things that may be useful to know during your freshers experience. The most important thing is to do the things that will make you feel the happiest and to try to have a week that you won’t forget!
If you are struggling during freshers or at any other point of University, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Nightline. Nightline is a non-advisory, listening service which offers a non-judgemental space for you to talk through whatever is on your mind. The instant messaging service runs from 8pm to 1am every day and you can also email the service and get a response within 48 hrs. For more information about contacting Nightline, click here.
There are also a lot of other fantastic mental health and support services available to you. Beyond reaching out to your flatmates and the support systems provided by your individual University, organisations such as the ones below may be able to help you. Alternatively, you can view our resources page for more information.