How to look after your mental health during your PhD

With all the challenges that come with studying for a PhD, it’s important to look after your mental health as much as your physical health, especially with the added pressures of living and working in lockdown.

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Emily Arthur, Wellbeing Casework Coordinator at Birmingham City University, spoke to us about some of the issues doctoral students may face during their studies and the support available.

Identify factors that impact your mental health

Everyone has different stressors, and it can be helpful to be aware of these whilst transitioning to a new chapter in your journey. Stressors for students might include juggling the demands of study with home life and work, adapting to a change in routine, deadlines, expectations, fatigue, relationships; we are all different.

It's important to remember that there is support available to help you to establish and maintain good mental wellbeing at times when you may need it.

We encourage students to engage with the support of their university’s mental health team for any reason that feels important to them.

If you are a currently enrolled student at BCU, you can find out more about the Mental Health and Wellbeing Team and register for an appointment here.

Find out more about the support BCU can offer students relating to both mental and physical health.

Find your support circle

We encourage all students to explore their support circle, to help establish who can be there for you in times of need.

This is now more important than ever, when students across the country may be feeling increasingly isolated.

Your support circle might be wider than you think. It may include family members, friends, supervisors, BCU’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Team, employee assistance programmes, text and telephone services, GP support and the Student Union.

Staying connected to people can be beneficial for mental health and wellbeing, and it’s important to find ways to keep in touch.

Perhaps have lunch or a coffee with someone via video conferencing, or see if there is a group through the Student Union that takes your interest. If there isn’t a group that feels like it fits, then you can make your own!

Balancing your time

Take time to create a schedule or timetable if the balance in your life feels off. Remember to incorporate self-care into this, including time to do things you enjoy, and winding down for sleep.

There are some great services and guides online specifically for post graduate research students, such as Their resources include guides on finding a balance, digital wellbeing, dealing with doubts and more.

Students may also wish to use for links to a wide range of support services in Birmingham and Solihull.

BCU students can also access study support on the self-help pages of iCity. These pages hold a wealth of information, including tips for improving motivation, concentration and how to cope with procrastination.

Access support from BCU

The Mental Health and Wellbeing Team can help BCU students explore their current lifestyle, routine, emotional and physical wellbeing and offer a space to consider support options available.

For some students this may be practical advice and strategies through our Mental Health and Wellbeing Advisors, for others counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may be useful. There is no one size fits all model, but our advisors will work with you to help you identify the best support moving forward based on your current needs.

The Mental Health and Wellbeing Team provide wellbeing and mental health support, counselling and cognitive behaviour therapy to currently enrolled students. Students must register to be offered an initial appointment.

You can also contact the team by emailing

If you are not yet an enrolled student at BCU, but would like to find out more about the support we offer please find more information here.