“Think of Your Studies as a Job”

“Think of Your Studies as a Job”

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@Lundagård
Illustration: Abigail Allen

More young people report that they suffer from anxiety, at the same time awareness concerning mental health has increased. Lund University has several instances to help students discover their problems and to fight and prevent them.

Text: Henrik Pehrsson. Translation: Viktor Jönsson

For you who chose to start your life in Lund being a novice, that time will be intense. You are catapulted into new environments with a lot of new impressions, with godparents who becomes godlike entities, guided in your rainbow clad herd over Mårtenstorget. In many cases, this marks how your first year in Lund will be like. Who you associate with, if it really will be 40 hours per week of studies, and which union or nation managed to win you over.

Life in Lund is balancing these things, and sometimes it can be too much. Student Health Counselling is a support association at the University specialized on problems concerning student life and deals among other things with performance anxiety, alcohol problem and insomnia. Last year Student Health Counselling received a record number of applications from students who wanted support for their problems.

“A typical student applies for stress, uneasiness, anxiety or dysphoria. Sometimes the student’s well-being will affect their studies but sometimes the student manages the studies, at least short-term. Many students are for example high performing but do not receive enough recuperation. Others have a hard time to find a good structure and routines when balancing between commitment and activities”, says Ulrika Linse Stömland, qualified psychologist and psychotherapist at Student Health Counselling.

Anxiety has increased

The growing problem with mental health is not unique to Lund. A study from the Center for Primary Health Care Research (CPF) in cooperation with Lund University and Region Skåne show that self-reported anxiety has increased amongst the Swedish population mostly among young females in ages of 16-23.

“With the study advisory service’s help, we have a cooperation with the student unions to reach out in an educational way about these questions. Already in the introduction to a new programme, new students should be able to take part of the information of where to go”, says Katarina Larsdotter Wendel.

She works at the general study advisory service at Lund University. Most students she meets discusses general questions about their studies but it does happen that stress, anxiety and procrastination are mentioned. Procrastination is to avoid or postpone planned actions, decisions and work assignments.

“Procrastination is a word that has become more popular in recent years. If you compare today with ten years ago, it is significantly more common than the students themselves says that they have a problem with procrastination”, says Katarina Larsdotter Wendel.

This type of visit increases in connection with exams. Both before when the stress is at its peak, but also after if the result was not what you expected. It seems that students of law and economics are overrepresented when it comes to visits to Student Health Counselling regarding mental health and stress.

“We do not have any formal statistics on it, but there are periods when we receive a lot of economy- and law students. A reason for this could be the grades, as it could lead to students to become less inclined to support each other. Also, we have the impression that programmes/courses with few teaching hours and little contact with teachers or tutors lead to more students feeling ill”, says Ulrika Linse Strömland at Student Health Counselling.

Tough transition to university

The growing awareness regarding mental health makes more students seeking different instances to receive help and the University’s work regarding mental health has simultaneously improved. Student Health Counselling offers several courses and seminars, some are ongoing and others are on demand. This includes a procrastination group for those who have difficulties with organising their studies or are repeatedly postponing studying. The goal is that the group, with the support from each other, can work to change behaviour and getting started with their studies.

“Our procrastinations group is built on a model from the Netherlands which we have taken part of through an educational visit. The students meet once a week, they work in pairs and set goals for the next week, which is then followed up that week and give advice and support. An important part is the goals along with consequences if said goals are not reached”, says Ulrika Linse Strömland at Student Health Counselling.

The transition from high school (or upper secondary school) can be tough. Apart from the fact that a lot are living on their own for the first time, the university studies are on a higher level with more freedom over the learning process. This is, according to Josefin Gustafsson Andersson, who works at Studentprästerna (Student chaplain’s office). Studentprästerna has an extensive emergency work as one of the University’s support functions when it comes to larger emergencies such as death or accidents. They meet both students who are believers and who are non-believers, and have about 500 calls with students per year.

“Most who come to us are seeking someone who they can talk to about life. I do not feel that anybody should feel the pressure that the university must be the best time in one’s life. For some it is, but if you yourself do not feel that way then that is no big deal”, says Josefin Gustafsson Andersson at Studentprästerna.

The Academic Support Centre (ASC), which is located both in Genetikhuset at Sölvegatan and on Campus Helsingborg, offers help for those who wish to improve their study technique. They also offer help in academic writing for those who want to improve essays and help regarding those who want to improve speaking in front of a group.

“The students who come to us are doing it because they feel that their previous strategy for learning and studies are not working. They simply want better strategies for reading course literature and writing academically”, says Eva Anderson at ASC.

Study tips for Lund’s students

Find your study environment – Some love to sit among people, hearing the buzz and being able to chat about school and life in general. Others prefer a quieter environment. Quiet study rooms are for instance located at Lund University Library. The important thing is that you find what fits you the best, and can say no to friends if the open study does not work.

Find and plan your time – Some are early birds and others are late birds. If you, for example, are an early bird and the seminar starts at 10, sit down a few hours in the morning so you can free a large part of the afternoon/evening for other things. Especially if you are a novice and have social activities later in the day!

Even if there is free time in the schedule, make it a habit to study every day. Then the motivation comes easier when it becomes a lot to do. Make to-do lists! This can both be done for separate days or for the entire week.

Take breaks – Studies show that the brain needs pauses to absorb the information in a good way. Therefore, it benefits if you, for example, study 40 minutes and then do something else for 10 minutes. This can lead to you being able to study for a longer period of time than you otherwise would have.

A few voices regarding student health and study tips:

Student Health Counsellor, Ulrika Linse Strömland: Try to create a connection as soon as possible. Find someone to study with, tea time and so on. Try to establish healthy routines regarding sleep, food and social activities. Try to think of your studies as a job, and separate it from your free time.

The Academic Support Centre, Eva Anderson: Try the Pomodoro Technique! It is about dividing your study into four segments, 25 minutes each, with a five-minute break between every pass. This can be repeated for as long as you want and can, with a longer break in-between. These moments can be filled with a cup of coffee, fresh air or something else that relaxes your brain.

Study advisor, Katarina Larsdotter Wendel: Students should study because they find it fun and rewarding. Reflect on if you are studying what you want to study and not what you think you should be. Go to Studiestugor as there is help to get from students who have often been in your situation.

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