Connecting at University
Feeling overwhelmed and isolated can be a common experience at University. As a new student there are a lot of new faces and so much to remember and take in. As a returning student, there may be increases in workload and the need to re-connect or make new friends. Connecting with students, services, and the community can help you adjust to life at University.
Quick tips on connecting at University
- Make it a priority to build relationships: speak to a new student every day in your first few weeks and actively look for opportunities to have a conversation.
- Don't be too hard on yourself. Remember making friends can take time.
- Join some of the many clubs, societies, or study groups.
- Check out the events happening on campus, you might even get some free food!
- Connecting to LTU social media channels is a great way to stay informed.
- Finding a job will not only help with financial stress but will assist you to connect with fellow students and the community.
- Check out volunteering opportunities. Not only will volunteering connect you with fellow students and the community, but it is also a great asset for your resume! See the Resources section below for opportunities.
- Check out the Learning Hub for assignments, maths, and research help.
- Reach out to Counselling Services if you are feeling isolated, or the Chaplaincy Staff are always keen for a chat
Connecting at La Trobe
There are a range of opportunities to connect with students, services, and the community at LTU.
- La Trobe Student Unions and Associations student-run clubs and societies. You can even start your own club!
- Connect to the various MyLaTrobe channels for student updates and news.
- LTU provides Wellbeing Services to help various health and wellbeing needs. Services include: counselling chaplaincy, and Speak University:
- LTU has a vibrant LGBTIQA+ community with dedicated queer counsellors, queer social support groups, many other services and supports
- A variety of Learning Support and Programs are provided by LTU to help you achieve academic success at University
- La Trobe Sport connect students and the community through sports clubs, facilities, and academic courses.
- Indigenous Student Services
- LTU International Student Services and student-led groups
Staying healthy at University
There is so much more to being a university student than exams and classes. The same goes for staying healthy - it is more than eating an apple a day. Staying healthy at University requires a holistic approach. The Wellbeing Wheel is a great illustration of the different components that can impact your health while at university.
Physical wellbeing involves a balance of physical activity, healthy eating habits, and physical safety. Everyone’s balance will be different, however, common examples of managing your physical wellbeing include:
- Staying fit and active
- Eating healthily and not drinking to excess
- Getting 7 – 9 hours’ sleep each night
- Seeking care from health professionals when required and having regular check-ups
How La Trobe can assist your physical wellbeing:
Emotional wellbeing involves developing positive coping mechanisms to live a positive and confident life. Ways to improve your emotional wellbeing include:
- Self-awareness and acceptance of positive and negative thoughts and feelings
- Adopting an optimistic attitude
- Finding an appropriate way to express your emotions
- Not being afraid to seek help early from health professionals
How La Trobe can assist your emotional wellbeing:
- Health and Wellbeing support including Counselling and mental health, disability
Developing and maintaining social connections is a significant key to a person’s happiness. You can increase your social wellbeing by:
- Establishing a support system of meaningful relationships
- Prioritising time to spend with friends and family
- Develop conflict management skills to help manage relationships and situations
How La Trobe can assist your social wellbeing:
Academic wellbeing involves one’s ability to create a healthy and supportive learning environment to achieve academic goals. Examples of how you maintain your academic wellbeing include:
- Setting realistic academic goals
- Develop flexible study and time management skills
- Being proactive in seeking opportunities and support
How La Trobe can assist your academic wellbeing:
- IT Support
- Learning support and programs
- Indigenous Student Services
- Disability Services
- Graduate Research School
Creating a harmonious and sustainable environment are central in a person’s overall wellbeing. The following strategies can help increase your environmental wellbeing:
- Reducing waste by living in sustainable ways: walking, reusable water bottles, repurposing, recycling.
- Creating a supportive network of friends, family and resources
How La Trobe can assist your environment wellbeing:
Financial wellbeing is often a new component for students. It is important to develop financial management skills such as:
- Creating budgets and keeping track of your spending
- Not spending outside of your means
- Creating a balance between work, study, and play
- Become aware of the support you can access
How La Trobe can assist your financial wellbeing:
Spiritual wellbeing is an individual’s sense of purpose that is underpinned by beliefs and core values. While this is unique for each person, common examples of how you can support your spiritual wellbeing are:
- Establishing clear core values that provide a framework on how you live your life
- Be non-judgement to others and content with your self
- Contribute positively to the world
How La Trobe can assist your spiritual wellbeing:
Pacing yourself and building resilience
The ability to pace yourself and to build resilience are important factors in academic success and personal health. Pacing yourself involves consistency in studying and finding a balance between your study, work, and social life. Building resilience will help develop this consistency and balance by bouncing back when something does not go to plan.
How to pace yourself at University
- Implement time management skills to help pace yourself throughout the semester
- Make (and stick to) a study plan!
- Identify your priorities. Write down important assessment due dates, exams, social events, and work commitments.
- Don’t put things off – complete small tasks as soon as possible
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help – whether it is academic or emotional support.
- Make time for things that make you happy
- Set realistic expectations
Quick tips on how to build resilience
- Learn to accept challenges and staying positive
- Accept and manage your emotions - Don’t repress it, express it!
- Being flexible and improvise when things don't go according to plan
- Keep things in perspective – think about the big picture, don’t sweat the small stuff
- Learn from experience. Think about how you coped in the past and use the successful strategies in the future
- Be proactive. Make a plan and take action
- Get enough sleep and stay connected with friends and family
- Better Health: Tertiary studies - time management
- Reach out:
- UNSW: Growth Mindset
- ANU: KEYS TO RESILIENCE: An Exploration into Student Resilience Approaches and Needs
- Oxford University: Managing your workload
Staying safe online
There are many safety issues that can arise from using the internet. Knowing how to stay safe online is an important skill to learn, along with knowing where to seek help if you are experiencing abuse online.
The Office of the eSafety Commissioner provides comprehensive information on issues that can be experienced online and tips on how to manage these issue.
- Cyber Abuse: Online behaviour that is threatening, intimidating, harassing, or humiliating to a person. This includes trolling, cyberbullying, technology-based abuse, and cyber racism and online hate speech.
- Cyberbullying: This form of bullying uses technology to inflict hurt on a person or group. This can be through emails, messages, texts, images, and videos that abuse, exclude, and humiliate.
- Image-based abuse (IBA): IBA occurs when a sexual or intimate picture is forwarded without consent and includes the threat of sharing a picture. This form of abuse is often mistakenly referred to as ‘revenge porn’ but sometimes the act is not motivated by revenge or restricted to porn
Quick tips on how to stay safe online
- Think before you post on social media. Avoid posting anything offensive or damaging to your reputation
- Remember anyone can save images or screenshot posts
- Update your privacy settings and passwords regularly
- Keep your personal details private, including your address, email, and phone number
- Turn off location services on your device, and avoid checking into places you visit
- Report online abuse or harm to the website or provider
- Seek advice from Speak Up about online safety and reporting abuse or online safety concerns
- Office of the eSafety Commissioner
- Helpful websites: Links for external support organisations that can help you stay safe online
- Complaints and Reporting: Learn how to report cyberbullying and lodge a complaint with the eSafety Commissioner
- eSafety Women: resources to help women manage online and technological abuse and risks
- eSafety Information: resources on issues, apps, games, and social networks
- Stay Smart Online: advice on how to protect yourself online and up to date information on the latest threats
- Think U Know
- ACORN - Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network: National cybercrime reporting channel
Making time for the things you love
Making time for the things you love while meeting assessment demands is an important skill to learn while studying. Focusing entirely on assessments can lead to you becoming overwhelmed and burnt out. Alternatively, spending too much time on leisure activities can lead to increased levels of stress when assessments are due. Creating a balance can be achieved through a thoughtful and planned approach.
Quick tips for creating balance
- Actively participate in activities that make you happy. E.g. Listen to music, play a sport, watch a movie
- Identify and write down what you value highly in your life. Anything that doesn’t make the list, avoid during the semester. This will minimise the risk of procrastinating.
- Manage your time effectively by planning your day and week to ensure you have balance.
Quick tips for meeting assessment demands
- Start assessments early: make a do list and schedule a plan of attack
- Get help with planning, referencing, structure and word limits – Peer Learning Advisors are a good first contact point
- Break big tasks into manageable chunks
- Make a start, even if it is small - putting things off or leaving tasks to last minute only makes things worse.
- Remember when you complete a difficult task or part of an assignment congratulate or treat yourself
- If you are struggling talk to a close friend, an academic, or one of the many services on offer including Counselling Services
Stress is a common experience for university students. While feeling stressed is not always a bad thing, being able to identify stress and learn effective methods to manage symptoms is important. Stress can manifest from a variety of situations and is completely unique, for each person. Some people feel stressed by deadlines, other by social situations. It varies. Knowing what causes stress for you is an important first step in learning how to manage the impact.
Signs and symptoms
- Stress can manifest in a variety of unique ways. These can change depending on the person, and the situation.
- Initial physical signs can include an increased heart rate, breathing, and muscle tension.
- Ongoing stress can manifest into physical and psychological signs such as anxiety, irritability, headaches, trouble sleep or concentrating, and feeling tired.
Quick tips on managing stress
- Do some relaxation exercises such as Yoga or Mindfulness practices
- Create a ‘To Do List’ and break down each step into manageable tasks with realistic timeframes.
- Focus on your wellbeing. Ensure you get enough sleep and exercise regularly.
- Keep on top of your thinking – keep positive!
- Find some time to enjoy yourself – draw, read, music – whatever makes you happy.
- Talk to a close friend or reach out to Counselling Services if it’s getting too much
- La Trobe University: Counselling Services Mindfulness CD & resources
- Reach Out:
- Black Dog Institute: Mindfulness in everyday life
- Beyond Blue:
- The desk: a free online program aimed at providing Australian tertiary students with strategies and skills for success and wellbeing during their time at university or TAFE
- NY Times: How to Be Better at Stress
- ReachOut Breathe: ReachOut Breathe helps you reduce the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety by slowing down your breathing and your heart rate with your iPhone or Apple Watch.
- Black Dog Institute: Snapshot
- A free mobile app designed for Australian adults to check and monitor their mental health and wellbeing status.
Procrastination occurs when a person knows they need to do a specific task (e.g. assignment) but instead avoids the task by undertaking something less important (e.g. watching six funny cat videos, then washing the dishes, then watching a documentary that is semi-related to a future subject).
Procrastination often happens when you are demotivated, stressed, anxious, bored or fearful. Putting things off or not dealing with the situation, usually results in increased anxiety and stress.
Signs and symptoms
- Waiting until the last moment to do a task or leaving tasks until tomorrow
- Making excuses you know aren’t valid reasons
- Lack of passion, energy, or enthusiasm for that one specific task
- Being fearful of failure or successful
- Feeling stressed or anxious
Quick tips for combating procrastination
- Modify your environment and manage your distractions: create space free of distraction, surround yourself with motivating people, or go to the library to study
- Manage your attitude: focus on goals rather than time, create a plan and break tasks into small achievable steps.
- Practice saying no to some things in your life.
- Study each day when you are at your best.
- Reach out for help with personal challenges like finances, relationships, work or uncertainty with your course
- Learn why you are procrastinating and rephrase your internal dialogue
- Manchester University: Now or Never? Understanding the procrastination cycle
- Centre for Clinical Interventions: Putting off procrastinating
- Oxford University: Managing your workload
- Tim Urban: Why Procrastinators Procrastinate
- Berkley Student Learning Centre: Seven Day Procrastination Elimination Plan
- Reach Out:
- Tim Urban: Inside the mind of a master procrastinator [Duration 14:18].
- Sprouts: 13 Study Tips: The Science of Studying [Duration 5:22].
- Douglas Barton | TEDxYouth@Tallinn: What do top students do differently? [Duration 14:37].
Staying on track and looking after your mental health
Staying on track at university involves looking after your mental health. Statistics indicate students are five times more likely to experience mental health concerns at university and 86% of students experiencing mental health concerns are likely to drop out. Mental health is not limited to mental health conditions. Mental health is the integration and balance of cognitive, emotional, and social health. The Wold Health Organisation defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”.
Common myths about mental illness
- Myth: People with mental illness are violent
Fact: This is not true. People with mental illness are more likely to harm themselves or be harmed by another person
- Myth: People with mental illness can ‘snap themselves out of it’
Fact: Mental illness does not relate to a person’s strength or weakness and cannot be resolved by deciding to ‘snap out of it’.
- Myth: People with mental illness are not a real illness
Fact: Mental illness often is not visible to the public’s eye, however, it does not mean it is not real. It is important to view mental illness as you would be a physical condition
- Myth: People don’t recover from mental illness
Fact: Recovery is possible and everyday people overcome mental illness.
Quick tips for looking after your mental health
- Be active and exercise regularly
- Eat healthy food that makes you happy
- Make sleep a priority. Get 7 – 9 hours of sleep each night
- Express your emotions in a positive manner– don’t ignore emotions or let them take over your life
- Make time to relax and enjoy whatever takes your fancy
- Challenge to yourself and develop new skills or hobbies – but remember to make realistic goals
- Participate in the community through volunteer work or by joining a club or interest group
- Connect with others: talk to friends and family to develop and maintain relationships
- Seek help from a GP or health professional
- Beyond Blue:
- Black Dog Institute: General wellbeing
- Negative self-image and self-talk
- Finding reasons to avoid the situation
- Perfectionism tendencies
- Physical responses such as heart palpitations, headaches, bowel complaints, and hyperventilating
- Make the time to prepare carefully
- Practice, practice, practice & rehearse in front of a mirror or a friend
- Challenge negative thinking and learn to accept some anxiety
- Try and eat and sleep well in advance
- Get familiar with the space in advance
- Do some breathing exercise prior and don't forget to breathe on the day
- Expect positive reactions, people want you to do well
- La Trobe University: Counselling Services Mindfulness CD & resources
- Beyond Blue:
- Australian Psychological Society: Anxiety disorders
- Sane: Factsheet and guide on Anxiety Disorders
- Reach Out: What is anxiety?
- Anxiety Disorder Association of Victoria: Self-Image and Anxiety
- This Way Up: Online learning tool that helps you identify, understand, and improve psychological difficulties like stress, insomnia, worry, anxiety and depression. This Way Up is a collaboration between the University of New South Wales and St Vincent's Hospital.
- MyCompass: Black Dog Institute’s personalised self-help tool for your mental health
- MindSpot: Online assessment and treatment for anxiety and depression
- ReachOut Breathe – helps you reduce the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety by slowing down your breathing and your heart rate with your iPhone or Apple Watch.
- ReachOut WorryTime – aims to help you manage your worrying by interrupting negative repetitive thinking and setting the matter aside until later.
- Self-Help for Anxiety Management (SAM) – SAM is an application to help you understand and manage anxiety. The app has been developed in collaboration with a research team from the University of West England
Performance anxiety is a person’s inability to perform under pressure due to a fear of failing. A person can experience performance anxiety in a variety of situations including exams, presentations, speeches, or sporting events. As with other forms of anxiety, learning how to identify and manage performance anxiety’s symptoms can help minimise its effects on your wellbeing.
Symptoms of performance anxiety
Tips on how to handle performance anxiety for presentations
Handling exam stress
Experiencing exam stress is a common occurrence at University. Some students may experience perfectionism which further increases stress and anxiety. Learning how to handle stress and perfectionism can ease the burden surrounding the exam periods.
Tips for handling exam stress
- Time management: take the time to plan your study sessions.
- Look after yourself: self-care is a key success factor in the exam period. Rest when you need to, take short breaks, and stay hydrated
- Remember to breathe
- Stay connected with support services. Talk to your lecturers, Peer Learning Advisors, or Counselling Services.
- Stay focused on your study and avoid other worries happening in your life.
- Learn how to identify procrastination and how to avoid it.
- Keep things in perspective: an exam does not define you or your future success
Tips for handling perfectionism
- Acknowledge your perfectionism to understand how it affects you.
- Set realistic goals for yourself
- Try not to get tied up in negative self-talk or self-judgement. You are not defined by the result in an assignment or exam
- Keep things in perspective and learn to distinguish which tasks are important and give the greatest return.
- Try not to be afraid to make mistakes – this is where learning comes from
- Deliberately aim for less than 100% on something that does not require it
- Focus on and enjoy the process of learning and less on outcomes
- Reach out to Counselling Services if you are experiencing anxiety or depression
- La Trobe University
- Reach Out:
- Headspace: Surviving school exams and stress
- Open Universities: 10 Smart Study Tactics That Support How The Brain Actually Works
- Batyr: Dr Happy’s Top 5 Tips for Coping with Exam Stress
- Centre for Clinical Interventions: Perfectionism
- Breathe: ReachOut Breathe helps you reduce the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety by slowing down your breathing and your heart rate with your iPhone or Apple Watch.
- Black Dog Institute
- Snapshot: A free mobile app designed for Australian adults to check and monitor their mental health and wellbeing status.
Helping a friend
You may be concerned about a friend who looks like they're not coping, or who is acting out of character. Youth Beyond Blue and Headspace offer great resources for helping out a friend. Try the Check-in app that helps you prepare to talk to your friend about your concern for them.
It's important to encourage your friend to seek support. You could suggest that they speak with their family, or that they meet with a local doctor or one of our counsellors. If your friend doesn't want to meet someone face-to-face, you could suggest telephone or online support.
If you are worried that your friend may be suicidal, or you think someone is at risk of imminent harm, please refer to the emergency contacts. In these cases, getting expert help is more important than protecting your friend's confidentiality.
Sometimes feeling concerned about a friend can take a personal toll on you. Make sure you take care of yourself and talk to someone you trust if the situation is stressing you.
Speak with one of our counsellors if you're not sure how best to support your friend, or if you need support
Information for parents
Please note that we are unable to disclose whether your child is accessing our counselling services and/or what is being discussed in sessions, unless we have their written consent to do so. The only case when we are required to waive confidentiality is if we are concerned that our client or another person is at risk of imminent harm or we are compelled by law to release information. With a client's consent, parents are sometimes involved in sessions where this is considered therapeutically beneficial by the counsellor involved.
If you are concerned that your child or another person is at risk of imminent harm, please refer to the emergency contacts.
Free mindfulness audio recordings and guides
External resources to assist you with various difficulties.
Resources to help you if you are worried about a friend going through a difficult time
Resources to assist parents concerned about their child