It’s so easy to get sucked into a world of darkness and helplessness when you grow up. From the stress of preparing for matric exams, to your first big exam at college or varsity, then entering the working world. Many make it look easy, but often, the peers with whom you study or work with may be experiencing similar challenges to you, whether it is stress from home or work, this may have a negative effect on your mental health.

According to a global study released by the University Of Stellenbosch in 2015, 12% of South African university students suffer from moderate to severe depression symptoms, while 15% of them suffer from moderate to severe anxiety.

“Depression affects cognitive functions such as decision making, concentration, memory and problem solving abilities,” psychiatrist and clinical psychologist, Dr Frans Korb says. Typical symptoms of depression include poor concentration, getting easily distracted, forgetfulness, indecisiveness, slower thinking speed and problem solving difficulties.

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) encourages students to stop thinking that everybody at university knows exactly what they are doing or what they want to do as a career. These negative thoughts can often lead to feelings of hopelessness, inadequacy or guilt.

It's important for students, “To realise that it is OK to not be 100% certain of what you want to study when starting. More certainty will come as the course progresses,” SADAG says.

The workforce is not better off than the students. According to a poll done by pharmaceutical firm Pharma Dynamics, the most stressful jobs in SA are: pilot, hair stylist, farmer, film director, nurse, police office, corporate executive, CEO, doctor and singer.

If you experience such thoughts and feelings, it’s important to know you are not alone; and it’s OK not to be okay. But doing something successfully, no matter how small, is a huge victory for your well-being. These self-care habits might seem small compared to your problems, but give them a try:

  • Follow a balanced diet and exercise

  • Use abdominal and calming breathing tips, click here for some methods

  • Develop a routine that is to be followed daily

  • Get sufficient sleep

  • Connect and form a network with other university students

  • Make time to do something you enjoy (bubble bath, reading a book, watching a movie etc)

  • Write in a journal to note your frustrations and challenges

  • Use resources available on campus such as tutors and perhaps even a councillor on campus

  • Focus on specific techniques and tools to work with such as spider diagrams and study groups

Image credit: Troy Stoi