Better Out Than In

You know that panic that sets in just before reading week? It doesn’t make itself known right away. It begins with slight flutter when you realise that what you thought was Week 3 is actually Week 5. Next comes the gut-wrenching anxiety when you remember the multiple essays you have due within three days of each other. Cut to the final stage where you’re lying in your bed in the foetal position, cuddling your Disney-character-shaped hot water bottle and crying into an empty tub of Ben and Jerry’s.

Essay deadlines aren’t the only reason you may not want to leave the house. In a YouGov survey from 2016 27% of students reported having a mental health issue, with 77% referring to depression, 74% to anxiety and 14% to eating disorders, showing just how common it is to have other things going on making normal uni stress even worse. Some days, my anxiety can kick me in the guts and make me stay in my room all day, cancelling plans I had with friends. I’ve been there before and no doubt I’ll get there again. But I’m trying to fight this with a different approach, one I’m hoping will save me money on ice cream. Many people who suffer from mental health issues have found benefits from a little time spent outside, enjoying the fresh air and green spaces. So, hopefully, this article will inspire you (and myself) to leave the house.

I will hold my hands up in shame and admit that I can go days without leaving my flat. However, I’ve begun to accept that mothers are always right: fresh air really can work wonders. If you’re having a bad day or you just want a different view from your computer screen, go for a walk. Glasgow has so many beautiful places to visit, may that be the Botanic Gardens, Kelvingrove Park or even just a wander around your street will give you that vital change of scenery. Now prepare yourself, I’m about to get scientific! Fresh air has been scientifically proven to: help your lungs to dilate fully, improve your blood pressure and heart rate, strengthen your immune system and (here’s the clincher) improve energy levels. What you might think of as a pointless jaunt around some trees or across the road may actually help you work more efficiently in the long run, as well as allowing you to see something else other than the four walls of your room.

I will warn you that this next point may shock and even anger, but it is a point that must be made: Netflix simply isn’t the answer to everything… I’m sorry. While I too enjoy the odd weekend snuggled in my jammies under the covers watching ‘Bake Off’ or ‘The Good Place’, sometimes putting off the work you know is imminent can simply add to your stress later on. Occasionally, my initial reaction to an Everest of work is to say to my friends, “Right, I’ll see you in 3 weeks!” before promptly locking my door and running to my desk, not resurfacing until the deadlines have passed. Or, like I’ve said, a fun day out can be ruined by a panic attack just before I put my shoes on. I used to believe that shutting my friends in a different room to my worries was the best way to be happiest around them. But the honest truth is that your friends will always want to help you. So, get out of your bed, throw on some proper clothes and see the faces that remind you that there is more to life than that essay, or that exam, or ‘adulting’ properly.

Everyone gets stressed out. Everyone has bad days. The secret is not to let stress, or anxiety, or bad thoughts control you and lock you in your own house. It’s difficult and I understand that. It is a completely normal reaction to have. Sometimes you just want to order a takeaway and stay curled up in your safe space, away from everything which is making you feel this way. And yet the most effective way to combat your own feelings is to unlock that door, put on some shoes and appreciate the outside world. So, if you notice someone else in the park every day during exam time, then I’m proud of both of us. It means we both got out of the house.

Sarah Montgomery

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