In aid of University Mental Health Day, a final year civil engineering undergraduate at UCL shares some of her advice to help students achieve a healthy work/life balance.
Eat, sleep, study, repeat!
Like myself, many students at some point in higher education, have felt entangled in this seemingly endless cycle, especially during intense periods such as exam season.
However, as my time at university nears an end, I would like to share some of the lessons that I have learned along my journey and hopefully help students develop healthier methods of managing university stress.
1. Studying vs socialising
While civil engineering in general is an academically demanding course, some terms can be tougher than others.
Therefore, my first tip applies particularly to first year students: I would advise you to speak to students in years above to gain an understanding of which terms and modules they found especially challenging.
This will allow you to plan your time better, knowing when you have more time to focus on your personal interests, societies, and so on, and when you will have to dedicate a greater amount of time to your studies.
A planner is especially useful for this. At the start of the year I like to mark down the dates of examinations and coursework submissions, so that I am able to visually see periods where deadlines are closer together.
This allows me to appropriately manage my time and start preparing earlier, to ensure that I can maintain social activities alongside my studies.
2. Exercise to clear the mind
I would suggest starting some form of physical activity, whether it's playing tennis, going to the gym or going for a walk. Having started the gym recently, I have personally felt more refreshed and refocused after exercising and spending time away from the screen.
3. Mindfulness: staying in the present
Guilt is often an emotion that can occur when taking time out of studies, especially during busy deadline periods.
However, recently while attending a meeting at Mindfulness Society at UCL, I learned the importance of focusing on the present moment.
Therefore, when studying, avoid distractions (I know this can be extremely hard!) by turning off your phone and then when it's time for you to take a break, don't worry about the deadline due in the future.
By compartmentalising your time, you can prevent burnout in the long term. You will learn to work hard during study sessions and then enjoy social activities fully, which are essential for happiness and mental wellbeing.
4. Get out there!
Lastly, I encourage you to try one new activity a week, whether it's practising a new meditation technique for five minutes or participating in a society event.
By having a new experience each week, big or small, it will keep you motivated throughout your studies.
For example, in first year I attended a mindfulness retreat called CLT.ALT.RETREAT hosted by the Krishna Consciousness Society (KCSOC) UCL, where I was able to practice yoga and connect with nature, which proved to be a wonderful, mentally-calming experience.
While it's important to work hard to achieve the results you desire for your degree, taking time away to create memories and try new activities is essential for having a well-rounded experience of university, as well as being integral for looking after your mental health throughout the duration of your course.
Remember it's all about progress over perfection, so don’t feel pressure to apply all the advice at once, but instead focus on implementing small changes each week.
Best of luck for your studies and remember: take that break!
About the author
Maya Parekh is a final year civil engineering undergraduate student at UCL in London and an ICE QUEST Scholar at Morgan Sindall Infrastructure. She is also an ICE student ambassador, and a STEM ambassador.
She has a keen interest in sustainable construction and engineering, and is studying it as a minor along her degree.