University can be a challenging time for your mental health, and often we see students struggle with their self-confidence. This is completely understandable and especially if you’re studying far away from home. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of 6 confidence-building exercises for students, so you can be proactive in working on your self-esteem and take charge of your mental health.
Talk to others about your low confidence
If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, it’s easy to hide away. But the simple act of sharing your worries with peers can make a world of difference. It’s always a good idea to get the perspectives of those around us, and you might well find that your friends have faced or are facing similar situations or feel the same way as you. By sharing your problems with the people around you, you can learn from their experiences or even deal with them collectively. You might find that they deal with their feelings of low confidence in ways that you haven’t considered before. They can potentially give you some practical guidance.
If you are a member of any clubs or societies and are therefore around some like-minded people, try talking to them. If you’re not, consider joining something! It can be a great way to build relationships while at university, and combining this with a sport or something active means you’ll get some exercise too. When we exercise, the endorphins released means that stress is eased, and we can feel better about ourselves. Even just having a dance in your bedroom or going for a jog around the park are great ways (and totally free) to boost your self-esteem. As well as this, taking up a new hobby means learning new skills and this is proven to boost self-confidence too.
Try breathing exercises
Managing our breathing is proven to help with our stress and anxiety levels. If you’re feeling nervous about something like a presentation in front of a large group of people, spending 5 minutes to focus on your breathing can be a really useful tool. Our nerves can affect our self-confidence and so settling them is the very first step.
There are lots of breathing exercises online to choose from that you can do for free by following along through audio or video. A simple one you can try is to breathe out for longer than you’re breathing in. So, for example, inhale slowly but steadily for 5 seconds, then exhale for 6 or 7 seconds. Research in breathing exercises like these has shown that while you inhale, your heartbeat speeds up slightly. Then while you exhale, the vagus nerve releases a neurotransmitter substance called acetylcholine which goes directly to the heart, telling it to slow down. Having your heart rate slow has a calming effect. Inhaling slowly and then exhaling more slowly increases your heart rate variability, which is associated with lower stress levels and better overall health.
Consider finding a mentor
When you feel like you can’t manage your low confidence, it’s helpful to remember that others have been in the same position and made it through to the other side. It might be a good idea to speak to your university to see if there’s anyone who can take on a mentor role with you.
Your university might even have an established mentoring programme where you can be matched with someone who’ll be right for you. This could be another student with a bit more experience than yourself, or it could be an alumni of the university or even a staff member. They can focus on practical things like career development or helping you with managing your time when it comes to exams and assignments. Or, they might take on more of an emotional support role – someone you can speak to about your feelings of low self-confidence who’s been there before too.
Get organised and take control
It might seem like time management has nothing to do with your self-confidence but getting yourself in order means you’ll be facing each day (and the challenges each day holds) feeling prepared. Feeling on top of things is underrated. It gives you confidence because you’re giving yourself the head-space to take on more. ‘More’ can mean anything from the social interactions that might make you feel anxious sometimes to extracurricular activities like being in a sports team or another club or society you’d enjoy.
If you find that you’re struggling with time management, try the ‘3, 3, 3’ tool. It’s a helpful way to divide your day up and focus yourself when you have a lot going on and might be feeling overwhelmed. The first ‘3’ is the 3 hours you should give yourself to focus on the most important task of the day. This could be an assignment or revision for an upcoming exam. Three hours doesn’t seem like much, but focusing solidly on that amount of time (even with breaks) will mean you get a whole lot done.
The next ‘3’ is choosing three quick tasks that you need to get done but might’ve been putting off). Jotting them down means you can strike them out when you’ve done them – satisfying! These might involve tasks like dropping something off at the post office. The third ‘3’ is for three maintenance tasks you need to do that day. These are the boring routine tasks that seem to form a never-ending list. Pick three of those and limit it to that. These could be tasks like vacuuming, picking up some groceries or exercising. Don’t forget to make all the goals you set yourself achievable. Any goals you set for yourself always need to be realistic. Otherwise, it’s too easy to give up.
It’s easy to let the day get ahead of you, which can lead to feelings of overwhelm. Giving yourself little rules like the above can help with feeling in control of each day. Then, at the end of the day, you will feel like you’ve achieved something, and you can sit back and relax. Taking some time to relax regularly is as important for your mental well-being as focussing on tasks.
Challenge your negative thoughts
We all have negative thoughts from time to time, but negative thinking can be really bad for your mental health and, specifically, your self-esteem and levels of confidence. Replace your most negative thoughts with more positive ones which celebrate things you’re good at. You can do this by writing down a list of five things you do well. Remember this list when you start to feel down. This might help bring you back to reality.
Looking at challenging situations from different perspectives can help with negative thinking. Try to replace negative thoughts like ‘why should I bother?’ with ‘I won’t know unless I try’. By looking at a situation through a more positive but realistic lens, you might realise that you actually can do what you want. A little positivity goes a long way. Try doing this when you have your most negative thoughts. Keep doing it, and you can rewire your brain to think more positively in everyday life.
As well as this, remember that you can choose who you spend your time at university with. If you find that certain people in your life help sustain those negative thoughts, it might be a good idea to spend less time with those people. There are so many people at university who will have similar interests to you and whom you could have a great relationship with. So, don’t settle for spending time with people who don’t make you feel good about yourself. This will only drag down your self-confidence and have a negative impact on your mental health.
And finally, make use of your university’s support services
Did you know that UWS offer a service called Silvercloud, which takes the form of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and is completely free of charge to all UWS students? It hosts a huge number of resources that can help with stress, and anxiety and for working on your self-esteem, giving you the tools to take on the daily challenges of university in a much more confident way.