Questions and answers about your health and wellbeing
Question: I don’t recognise myself. I can’t focus when I try to study and I feel too tired to study as much I usually do. Nothing feels fun or meaningful and some days I don't even want to get out of bed. I also cry for no reason and I don’t want to hang out with my friends as much.
The Student Health Service’s response: Good that you’ve contacted us. From what you describe it sounds like you feel low or depressed. Sometimes it’s hard to understand why we feel down and it can also be difficult to seek help. The low mood can be a reaction to things that have happened in your life that have affected you more than your realise. For example: Have you gone through a separation? Had a stressful time lately? Or have you been through things earlier in your life that still affect you or that you find hard to handle? When you feel that something is not right it can be good to take a moment to reflect about your life and your situation. Ask yourself if there is balance between demands and recovery in your life and make sure you have time to do things that you enjoy.
If the feelings you describe become overwhelming or last for long periods of time you may have a depression. It is important to know that depression is common and it doesn't mean that something is wrong with you. Being depressed has major impact on your everyday life. A depression is mainly characterised by that you feel sad and/or irritable and loss of interest in things you usually find pleasurable. Other symptoms are trouble concentrating, loss of appetite, problems with sleep, feelings of guilt and worthlessness and aches. It’s also common with hopelessness and to question if life is worth living. It may feel all dark but there are good help to get, for example at a health centre.
Treatment for depression can differ. Often it’s helpful to talk to a therapist and together begin to look at your entire life situation. If you have severe problems psychological treatment for depression might not be enough. You may then also need to get antidepressant medication prescribed by a doctor.
What's important is that you take your problems seriously and that you don’t hesitate to seek help. A first step can be to contact us at Student Health Service by calling our telephone counselling for advice.
Question: I think I drink too much. I tested my alcohol habits on your webpage and got high scores. Before doing the test, I thought that most people drink as much as I do, but now I´m not sure anymore. I sometimes get very drunk, get hangover anxiety the next day and then I can't study. I seem to have a hard time to stop drinking once I´ve started partying. What can I do?
The Student Health Service’s response: What you describe is a common concern among students and an important issue connected to your health. Good that you´ve started to take notice. If you, as you describe, start having a hard time quitting drinking once you´ve started or that your drinking habits has negative impact on your studies, it can indicate a risky alcohol consumption.
One way to reduce your alcohol consumption is to try to plan your drinking before you begin. For example, such a plan may involve deciding that every other drink you intake should be non-alcoholic or to choose beverages with a lower alcohol content. You can also drink more slowly, "surf" longer on each drink, decide not to drink after a certain time and to not drink on an empty stomach.
Sometimes it can be difficult to change your habits on your own. In can then be helpful to get support from someone close to you or to get help from a professional contact. At the Student Health Services you can get help to evaluate your alcohol habits more thoroughly and learn more strategies to create a more manageable relationship to alcohol. If you want advice or individual support, do not hesitate to contact our counselling service.
Question: I have a hard time feeling relaxed when I'm around other people. I think a lot about what I say and how I behave and worry about what others think about me. It just feels more and more uncomfortable and I have noticed that I have even begun to avoid spending time with my friends.
The Student Health Service’s response: Having anxiety and feeling anxious in social situations is often based on fears of being judged, of doing something stupid, or of losing control. The fear can lead to avoidance of different situations that involve social interaction and stop you from hanging out with other people. It can also, for example, be that you are scared of making phone calls or that you avoid asking questions in class. Avoiding doing difficult things usually feels good in the moment, but makes the anxiety worse in the long run.
If you are an international student, social situations can be even more complicated because of cultural differences. In a new country, it can be hard to know what is expected of you in different situations and what behaviours are culturally accepted. Another factor making it harder can be speaking in a different language, if English is not your first language. This both makes it more difficult to express yourself and to keep up with others conversations, so sometimes misunderstandings can occur. This is normal and can usually be worked out.
Furthermore, it is important to remember that we are all different. Some of us are more introvert than others and to feel some kind of social insecurity and shyness does not need not be a problem. On the other hand if your social anxiety becomes an obstacle in your everyday life seek help. You can start by calling 1177 (from a foreign phone number dial +46 771 11 77 00) to get healthcare advice or contact the Student Health Service's telephone counselling.
Question: Help - what's happening? My heart beats fast, it feels like I'm not getting enough air and that I'm going to die. I'm so scared!
The Student Health Service’s response: What you describe sounds like symptoms of a panic attack. A panic attack is severe anxiety that comes suddenly. During a panic attack it is common to feel the heart beating unusually hard or fast, that it is hard to breathe, you feel sick or get a stomach ache, get dizzy, feel cold or start sweating, have tingling sensations in hands or feet or feel dizzy and weak. Panic attacks usually pass quickly but are very uncomfortable and scary. Many describe that it feels like you are losing control, that you are going crazy or are dying.
It is important to know that panic attacks are not dangerous. The experience is often that the anxiety will continue to increase without a stop, which is not true. Anxiety usually soothes by itself. It is good to know that anxiety is a natural reaction to threat with the function to protect us from danger. Panic attacks often comes without a clear external threat. Instead it is the brain that misinterpret the situation or the body's signals. It is also common for panic attacks are triggered by stress. A panic attack can then be a signal that you need to slow down and make room for recovery.
To get a panic attack once does not mean that you will have more panic attacks. About one third of the population experiences occasional panic attacks at some point in their lives. However, if you have had several panic attacks during at least a month or have started avoiding situations because of fear of having another panic attack, you may have what is called panic syndrome. You may then need treatment to stop the avoidance and learn how to deal with anxiety, so that it does not become an obstacle in your life. There is good help to get for example at the health centre. You may want to start by calling the Student Health Services telephone counselling for support and advice.
Sleep, health and lifestyle
Question: I’m having difficulty sleeping. My thoughts keep going round and round in my head and I constantly twist and turn in bed. I fall asleep very late and am exhausted the next day. My concentration has worsened and I am worried that I will miss exams and this makes everything worse. I feel depressed and nothing is fun anymore. I have tried different tricks to get to sleep, but they just don’t help! What should I do?
The Student Health Service’s response: Not getting enough sleep one or two nights a week isn’t dangerous, as we make up for the lack of sleep on the other nights, regardless of when you fall asleep. Are you currently in a stressful period right now? Is there anything that is particularly worrying you or are you partying more than you should? Having difficulty sleeping can also be a part of being depressed too, so it is important that you clarify the cause. Sleep problems are very common, something that almost everyone experiences at some point.
If stress is the cause, you should find out the reason to your stress. Are you falling behind in your studies, or do you feel like you are struggling to keep up? Are you doing fun things outside of your studies, or have you changed your habits recently? These can all have an effect on your sleep. Alcohol, coffee, tea and energy drinks can all have a negative impact on your quality of sleep. Irregular habits, Facebook, training and studying late into the night can affect how you fall asleep, as well as the quality of your sleep.
If you have had problems with your sleep for a longer period of time, ie more than a week, combined with other issues, it may be a sign of depression. You may start crying for no reason, have difficulty getting up in the morning, feel apathetic, and have negative feelings about yourself, for example. You may have stopped socialising, exercising or going to classes. If this is the case, you should ask for help to find what the right support and treatment you may need.
Question: I have trouble organising my studies and tend to put off tasks. I think of all sorts of things I need to do when it’s time to study and it’s hard to get started. I often end up doing my studies just before the exam or when I need to hand something in, which is causing me very much stress. I didn’t even hand in my last assignment because it was too late. What can I do to change this?
The Student Health Service’s response: This is a very common problem especially amongst students. In many other phases in life, activities are more structured. When you are younger you often have a set timetable, doing most of your studies in class during the day.
When you work there are often set hours, meetings, and a workplace that creates more structure. As a student, it’s often up to you to create a structure, especially if you have few classes and a lot of independent studies. It can help to think of your studies like a job and organise your time in a similar way. Another factor that is often helpful is, if possible, to change environment when you change activity. This can for example be to study at the university, a library, or a café.
Studying together with others is yet another tip. Some students have small study groups that meet together in person or online. Meeting someone at a certain time often makes it easier to prioritize studies, as you are accountable to someone else. You don’t need to study the same thing, just have the common goal to study.
We highly recommend using a calendar to plan, prioritize, and perform tasks. Remember to plan when to do what and divide tasks into small parts so they are achievable. It’s also important to be realistic in your planning, try to pace yourself so you can last in the long run.
Pauses are important to fill up with new energy and can be seen as rewards for focusing for a period of time. How long one can focus is different for different individuals and different tasks, but 25-45 minutes is common. Find out what works for you and plan for shorter and longer breaks throughout the day. A tip is to set a timer for the break to make sure to return to studying. In addition, take breaks in longer stretches like weekends or days off.
Being social, going outside, and exercising during your breaks can be revitalizing. Many of us have constant distractions with phones and social media. Know yourself and make sure to avoid distractions by closing down programs you don’t need on your screen, putting away your phone, or using silent mode or do not disturb. There are also many helpful apps that are based on the Pomodoro technique or that can help you to lock your phone for a set period of time.
Last, but not least, the Student Health Service offers an anti-procrastination group, “Do it now!”, that meets once a week to support each other and help create structure.