Improve your Mental Health by Balancing Your Workload [Guest Post from the First Aid Training Co-operative]

The Higher Eduation Policy Institute recently published an article calling university an ‘anxiety machine’, with students being twice as likely to suffer from mental disorders when compared with the general population. The primary cause is stress, induced by a heavy workload. When the volume or urgency of work gets too much, we neglect other critical areas of our lives – such as sleep, fitness and socialising – which leads to further stress and anxiety.

If you are feeling this stress and anxiety right now, break the cycle by following our simple mental health exercises below to help reduce the pressure.


In the modern world, we do the majority of our work on our computers and phones, often the same place we watch Netflix and chat to our friends. This makes it impossible to separate work and personal life.

The first step is to balancing your workload to to create some virtual distance between yourself and the cause of your stress.

Disconnect Exercises:

Try the exercises below:

  • Disable notifications for non-essential apps
  • Turn off your phone for at least 1 hour before bed to improve sleep quality
  • Try to separate computer or loaned laptop and use your own computer solely for entertainment

Manage your Expectations

The pressures of constant examinations and competitive university entry requirements have turned many students into number-driven perfectionists with impossibly high standards.

This habit worked in high school or college, but as your university life now includes all new responsibilities and priorities, this mindset can be destructive.

Do I have perfectionist habits?

Try asking yourself these questions:

  1. Do you have trouble meeting your standards?
  2. Do you feel frustrated while trying to meet your standards?
  3. Have friends told you your standards are too high?
  4. Do your standards get in the way? For example, do they make it difficult for you to finish a task or act spontaneously?

Perfectionist Exercises:

If you’ve answered yes to any one of these standards, try one or more of the exercises below:

  • Before starting work, write down what you want to achieve, then set a fixed time to complete the task. This helps to prevent ‘busy-work’, such as worrying over font choices.
  • For every hour of work, take a 10 minute break as a minimum. Short breaks increase productivity and creativity according to research, by helping you stay focused. Why spend 3 hours working in a distracted state, when 1 hour could do?
  • Examine other areas of your life where your standards might be too high. Would it really matter if you compromised? What if you were slightly late, or if the house was a little messy?

Ask for Help

University is not just a place to learn – it is a community of people who care about you.

If the workload is too much, your part-time employer too demanding or you are struggling with personal issues, it is okay to ask for help.

Asking for Help at YSJ

Ask for the Wellbeing Drop-In at the Student Information Desk in Holgate Student Centre.

You can see more information about this confidential service here.

For Welfare Advice please arrange an appointment by emailing, calling 01904 876477 or ask at the Student Information Desk in Holgate.

This guest post is written by the First Aid Training Co-Operative, as part of their campaign to raise awareness of the need for mental health first aid in academia and the workplace.

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