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Student Future Planning.webp
17 May 2021

Future planning: how to feel in control of your next steps, whatever they may be

Sarah, a clinician at Shout 85258, shares some tips for students thinking about their future.

For over a year now, things have felt pretty uncertain, with many left feeling like they have been unable to look ahead and plan their next steps. It’s okay to feel anxious, concerned, upset and possibly a sense of loss. Change and endings - like the end of lockdown and this university year - can feel scary. This quote by author Beau Taplin: “Sunsets are proof that endings can be beautiful too”, reminds us of the positives of change in times of uncertainty.

Whether you are thinking ahead to returning to university, or planning what to do once you finish, here are some ways you can help to manage these feelings and gain a sense of control over your future.


Recognising your own accomplishments is a huge step in preparing for the future.

  1. Focus on your achievements

The fact you are studying at university shows how much you have achieved already. Recognising your own accomplishments is a huge step in preparing for the future.

Sometimes we all need reminders of our efforts and it can be useful to write down our achievements (academic, social and personal) to give ourselves a morale boost when needed.

Some days may not feel good, but there is something good in every day. Keeping a daily journal of one positive thing each day can help to reframe any tough moments and allow us to keep a positive mindset. Give it a try - it makes a huge difference and is great to reflect back on in moments of doubt.

2. Embrace set backs

Thinking about and planning for the future can be daunting, and you will face knock backs along the way. Gaining experience in dealing with challenges and rejections forms a huge part of our future resilience and motivation.

It is perfectly understandable to not be clear on what you want to do now or in the future, but there are options available. Giving different things a try is an important part of developing your skills and experience. As Captain Tom Moore said: ‘The first step is always the hardest, but unless you take that first step, you will never finish.’

3. Make time for yourself

Working hard and making time for ourselves and self care is an important balancing act. Self care is anything that allows us to prioritise our own physical, emotional and mental health. It looks different to each and every one of us. For me, saying ‘no’ when I am at emotional or practical capacity is the best kind of self care I can do. We might feel some FOMO (fear of missing out) but actually taking time for ourselves allows us to be more present the next time we are asked. Learning to say no and putting ourselves first can be a game changer. Self care allows us to recharge our batteries and get ready for our next challenge.

Some ways to take care of ourselves can include exercise such as running, dancing, yoga, or going for a walk. Anything which involves moving your body. While movement is important, so is rest. Try to create a bedtime routine and sleep at the same time each night if you can. Healthy eating, drinking plenty of water and creating moments of calm through meditation, mindfulness or grounding techniques are also proven methods of self-care, which can help us to achieve a balance when we need it.

4. Access support

Knowing when to seek help for ourselves can be tricky. We all have limits and when we do need more support, it can be a good idea to reach out to those around us. Friends, family, peers, professionals and supportive organisations all form part of our support network.

University students have access to Nightline, a confidential listening service from 8pm-2am most nights. Reaching out to your GP or contacting 111 is also a good idea if thoughts and experiences feel too much.

If you're feeling low, worried, overwhelmed or suicidal, our trained volunteers are here to listen to you with empathy, care and compassion. Text STUDENT to 85258 for free, confidential support, 24/7.