A Chat with Amanda

We spoke to Amanda Sie, a Clinical Psychologist from This Way Up, to give us the scoop on wellbeing as a uni student. Check out what she had to say!

There's a combination of reasons. Biologically, we’re all wired differently. For example, some people may overeat while others lose their appetite; some sleep too much while others struggle to fall asleep; some get more headaches while others have more muscle tension.  

We also all have different temperaments and therefore react to stress differently. Some people are naturally more chilled and are less phased by things, whereas others with a more sensitive temperament can get stressed more easily. Stress exists on a continuum, so the extent to which people feel stressed in different situations differs, and what may stress me highly may only stress you mildly (and vice versa). 

Different people also have different experiences of using particular coping strategies and different ways they’ve seen others model how they deal with stress. So, our repertoire of strategies has built up over time but having said that, it’s never too late to learn more helpful ones. This Way Up has a Coping With Stress course: https://thiswayup.org.au/how-we-can-help/courses/coping-with-stress/ 

Feeling stressed is not necessarily a bad thing! According to the Yerkes-Dodson curve, a certain degree of stress is actually helpful for optimal performance. However, too much stress can lead to impaired performance, such as poorer concentration, memory, creativity or decision making. So, it’s important to manage stress levels as well as possible. 

Look after your physical health with healthy sleep, diet and exercise. This often gets overlooked, but it will help you study and perform. Take regular breaks to give your mind some rest so it can think more clearly. This is especially crucial if you tend to push yourself too hard. On the flipside, if you tend to procrastinate, try to overcome this by setting achievable and practical study goals each day. 

Planning your study schedule and daily routine in advance will help you feel more organised and less overwhelmed. If there’s something you’re unsure about, reach out for help from university staff or classmates rather than sitting in silence. Play to your strengths; some people are more visual learners, other people are more verbal learners. 

It’s also important that you do something enjoyable or pleasurable each day because this helps to lift mood and reduce stress. Last but not least, getting emotional support from friends, family or professionals can be incredibly helpful so you’re not feeling alone in this. 

This Way Up has a Student Wellbeing course that covers this: https://thiswayup.org.au/how-we-can-help/courses/student-wellbeing/ 

You are a good friend to be looking out for your friend and asking! There are different approaches you could consider taking, depending on the nature of your relationship and how you think it would be best received. For example, you could make an extra effort to contact them, take an interest in their life and ask how they’re going. Showing genuine care and that you’re available for them makes a difference. They may choose to open up and tell you how they’re feeling. 

Or, you could take the more direct approach and gently point out that you’ve noticed they’re not their usual self lately (or whatever other examples are more relevant) and that you’re worried they seem more low or sad. This can help open up the conversation by showing you’ve observed a change and that you’re not afraid to talk about mental health matters. Sometimes people don't notice a change in mood before others do. If they do acknowledge they’re not coping, or that indeed they are feeling pretty low, you can listen well and non-judgmentally, show empathy, support and you can encourage them to get professional help (if they haven’t already). 

It can be challenging to raise the topic of wanting to see a psychologist with parents who don’t talk about mental health. This may not be a one-off conversation, and it may need several conversations. 

Before you speak with them, it would be helpful for you to think through why you want to tell them, because this will guide what details you choose to share. For example, are you telling them to keep them in the loop? Or would you like them to support you in this process and if so, how? 

To help them better understand your decision, you could explain why you would like to talk to a psychologist and how you think that could help you. For example, you could tell them you’ve been feeling more stressed/sad/anxious/angry/other emotion lately and you would like to learn some tips on how to manage difficult situations and feel better. 

Sometimes due to generational or cultural differences, parents can have different assumptions or stereotypes about mental health or what psychologists do. You could explain what you think you’re experiencing and what kind of help you’re hoping to get, or if you’re not sure what you’re experiencing you can explain that you’d like to get an assessment to work out what’s going on. 

You could also give them information from reputable websites (for example Headspace, Reachout, Beyond Blue, The Black Dog Institute, The Australian Psychological Society and This Way Up) with factsheets about common mental health conditions and what treatments are available and involve. 

Looking for more info or support?

Wellness Warriors