ten things to do when you’re feeling down at uni

Hello lovelies! If you caught my latest Sunday round-up you might recollect that I talked about not feeling my best. In fact, over the last couple of weeks I’ve talked to a number of fellow students who haven’t been their happiest whilst at university. Today I want to join the already ongoing conversation about student sadness and give you ten things you can do straight away when you’re feeling down.


I’ve talked before about how university is often portrayed both by the media and many students themselves as the ‘time of your life’. All clichés have to come from somewhere and for many people it really is true, but this perception of uni as the best three years of your life means that when we’re unhappy, it’s easy to feel as though nobody else feels this way – as though there’s something wrong with us, and that makes it hard to talk about. What’s more, as freshers surrounded by people we still don’t know that well, it can be hard to find people to confide in.

But I’ve found that if we just start talking about it to one another it doesn’t take long to realise that many people feel, or have felt, the same way. Since writing more honestly on my blog about the loneliness I felt during my first term I’ve been approached by others telling me about their experiences of sadness and loneliness whilst at uni. What’s more, these open and honest conversations have resulted in new friendships, thus lessening the chances of feeling lonely when I’m away from home.

So, if you’re feeling down at uni, you’re not alone – but I know how hard it can be to reach out. So here are ten things you can do right now to help yourself feel better.

10 things to do when you're feeling down at uni

Drink some water

Admittedly this sounds so simple that it’s hard to believe it works, but trust me; it’s a nugget of advice from my sister that I carried with me through most of last term and into this one. Even if you have a sink in your room, make yourself go to the kitchen and drink a glass of water. It’s got some kind of revitalising quality which helps you feel more awake, energetic and focused, and the act of getting up and walking will also give you a chance to stretch your legs and have a change of scenery before continuing your day.


Take a walk

Or go for a run, or to the gym, or just do some simple stretches – anything that gets you moving. Since getting my FitBit for Christmas I’ve been much more motivated to walk to keep my step-count up, and as my campus is just over a mile away from where I have my lectures, walking to class is starting to become a great habit. But even just taking a walk around your campus, city or local area is really beneficial; being out in the fresh air will release happiness-inducing endorphins, which is never a bad thing. Alternatively, if it’s pouring with rain or you’re snowed in then there are plenty of at-home workouts available on YouTube. Just following a beginner’s yoga video for fifteen minutes can honestly change your whole day.


3 - Morning run around campus

getting outside can make the world of difference!

Make some plans

Get in touch with friends and family and plan what you’d like to do next time you’re back home. It might seem like an age away, but having things planned will give you lots to get excited about. Even better, take a breath and send a message to a friend from your course, or just someone you think you’d like to get to know. Ask them if they fancy meeting up for coffee in the next few days and put your plans straight into your diary so you can watch it fill up. Even if you’re not meeting for a couple of days it’s still something to look forward to. What’s more, one of the greatest benefits of university is that your fellow students are almost certainly a bus ride away at most; as hard as it might be to initiate things, you won’t regret it when you’re catching up within half an hour of sending that first message.


Do some work

This might seem a bit backwards, but it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of work expected at university. Although I don’t have a huge number of deadlines there’s always more reading to do, and actually just planning to sit down for an hour to get through some of it helps me feel much more on top of things. The key thing there is ‘an hour’ – setting a specific amount of time to work means you’re more likely to do it, and if you can tick off your planned hour(s) you won’t feel guilty for chilling out later in the day.


My bedroom in Langwith

a good workspace is a must

Get creative

If the idea of working makes you feel even worse, don’t do it – take some time out to de-stress, but keep your mind engaged. Get planning your next blogpost; write some poetry; have a go at journaling; make art. Sit at your desk and just write – whatever it is that’s making you feel down might just find its way on to the page, and once you’re done that weight could well be lifted from your shoulders.


Lose yourself in a book

As a Lit student this actually ticks multiple boxes – reading is working, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy it or its benefits any less. Finding a good book to settle down with can take you away from your worries, and what’s more you might find a character you particularly relate to or a plot which helps you understand your own troubles a little better. No book? No worries – check out your favourite blogs, magazines or ask someone for their recommendation.


Waiting for the Barbarians JM Coetzee

my current reading material

Netflix and – relax

If reading seems like too much effort for your mind, just watching a film or TV show might be the best thing for you to do. Find something that will help relax you – for instance an easy-going comedy – and bonus points if you can find someone else to watch with you. They don’t even have to be at uni; download Rabbit to share what you’re watching whilst video calling with friends and family, so you can have a movie night with your best friend or partner even when you’re hundreds of miles apart!


Look back through old photos

This one’s always a bit hit-and-miss with me but I thought I’d include it anyway. I love looking back through old photographs and memories of people back home, especially when I’ve forgotten the event or occasion at which they were taken. But it can be a pretty cathartic exercise and therefore isn’t always an entirely happy one, so you’ll have to judge whether you think it’ll make you feel better or worse.


Tidy up

This is my absolute go-to when I’m not feeling my best. Most students, even those not in halls, live in pretty small rooms and this means organisation is even more important. Ensuring everything has its place is so helpful for feeling on top of things, and a tidy room definitely leads to a tidy mind. I’ve got a bad habit of collecting various pieces of crockery and cutlery on my floor from all the meals I end up eating in my room in front of Netflix whilst studying, and the simple act of taking them downstairs, washing them up and putting them away never fails to make me feel a little bit more accomplished. I’m planning a uni room tour post where I’ll share some of my room organising tips so keep a look out for that in the next few weeks!


My bedroom in Langwith

My bedroom in Langwith

Talk to people you trust

Lots of people told me it was best not to call home during the early stages of university, but it seemed to me that forcing myself not to speak to my family was only going to make things harder. I call home every few days and it always gives me a boost to catch up with my parents and sister. At home we sit down and eat our evening meal as a family which is something I really miss, so hearing about everyday life back home never fails to make me smile. I also find that when telling them what I’ve been up to I tend to focus on all the good things I’ve been doing, so those phone calls really help me to think more positively about my time away.

But this last tip has a more serious line; if you find yourself feeling more ‘down’ than ‘up’, or you’re worried about yourself or a friend, there will be plenty of support networks ready and waiting for you at university. I wrote more about this in my post about my first week at university, but don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your doctor, get in touch with the Samaritans or any university-based support like NightLine or your Open Door Team.


3 - Wentworth College, University of York


Is there anything I’ve missed? What do you do when you feel down at university?
Join the conversation and comment below!

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  1. 29/01/2016 / 8:49 pm

    I felt very lonely in my first year of uni and these were all things that helped me a lot, especially writing. I wish I’d read blog posts like this back then, I felt like I was the only one who wasn’t having a good time. (Btw I got very excited when I saw you were reading a book by J.M. Coetzee, I love his writing!) xx


    • Lucy Furneaux
      30/01/2016 / 7:34 pm

      Hi Beth! It’s such a bizarre and overwhelming change. I hate the phrase because it’s so clichéd but so far it’s been such a rollercoaster – I feel like I go through the biggest highs and lows of my life every single week, so I’m really hoping things will settle down before long. That’s definitely one of the reasons I want to write more about it – I honestly believe that nobody is having the best time, all the time whilst at uni, and I think probably the majority of students really struggle with the changes and difficulties without knowing how to talk about it.
      As for Coetzee, I really enjoyed the text – I’ll be writing my first essay of term on it next week which is a bit stressful, but I’m definitely looking forward to it!
      Hope life is sunny where you are!

  2. 27/01/2016 / 2:10 pm

    My University days are in the past now, but these tips are very helpful, even for those not going to school. I really like your point about getting out for a walk — I find exercise and fresh air the best way to beat the blues.


    • Lucy Furneaux
      30/01/2016 / 7:29 pm

      Hi Eden – thanks for stopping by and commenting! I definitely agree, it makes the biggest difference to your day even if it’s just for ten minutes. Walking the mile to my classes has had such a positive impact on my lifestyle here.
      I hope life is sunny where you are!
      p.s. I’m just checking out your blog now and I’m more than a little bit in love with it!

  3. Lou
    26/01/2016 / 11:05 pm

    Hi Lucy, I really liked this. It is candid and thorough, and you give some spot on advice. Communication is key, and so is movement, whether physical or creative/cognitive. I hope lots of students read this as I am sure it is more common than any think. Keep up the good work x

    • Lucy Furneaux
      30/01/2016 / 7:26 pm

      Hi Lou, thanks so much for your comment! I’m so glad you agree with the advice and I love the concept of cognitive movement. Fingers crossed! Thank you – I hope you’re well! Lx

  4. 26/01/2016 / 1:14 pm

    This all sounds like sound advice, Lucy. Not that I have ever been to university of course, but I have been living alone in small flats in the past, and the same tips apply there. (No Netflix in those days, naturally…) Best wishes, Pete.

    • Lucy Furneaux
      30/01/2016 / 7:16 pm

      Thank you Pete! I’m so pleased you think there’s something worthwhile here – I’m never sure if my advice will be helpful to others so it’s affirming that you think it might be!
      I hope you’re well and it’s not too windy in Norfolk!

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