Between balancing a course load, social circles, family obligations, and a job, many college students have trouble prioritizing their mental health despite an estimated 39 percent of them experiencing a significant mental health issue during college. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with trying to make the most of your college experience while managing your stress levels, here are a few ways you can incorporate mental wellness into your daily routine:
In a culture where we all want to maximize our days, it can feel like every single thing we do “has to be” oriented towards a specific goal or otherwise it's a waste of time. Even though productivity is important, it's just as critical to carve some time out for yourself where you can do something that you enjoy for the sake of enjoying it, rather than a side hustle or a means to self-improvement. Giving yourself time to decompress will allow you to maximize your productivity once it's time to get back to work, and engaging in creative tasks has been shown to lead to benefits in physical and mental health.
Stress relief looks different for everyone and college is a great time to find out what works well for you. It’s a good idea to try out a few different stress relief techniques and find practices that you can rotate depending on how much time you have. If you’re in the middle of studying for finals you might not have the time for a long gym session, but you can do a five-minute breathing exercise to help clear your mind. Look for stress relievers that aren't dependent on location or spending any money, such as going for a walk, meditating, or journaling so that you can use them anytime and anywhere.
With so much to do, it’s easy to forget about the small things that will keep your body healthy. When it comes to getting eight hours of sleep, eating three meals a day, or making sure you’re exercising daily, these simple tasks are often the first to become neglected when other responsibilities arise. But staying properly fueled and in good shape will help manage your stress and keep your mind and body working together to tackle everything you need done.
Whether it’s your friends, a club, or your counselor, find people who are interested in your well-being and want to see you do well. The friends you go to parties with are lots of fun, but they should also genuinely care about helping you to become the best version of yourself. Have people in your corner that are there with you when you’re struggling and can help you keep a sense of perspective in reaching your goals. If you feel like the friends you have now aren't the best ones for you, that's okay! Make a list of your goals and think about where people with those same goals like to spend time. If you want to get fit, join a sports club. If you want to focus on making the Dean's List, start a study group with your classmates.
Some people swear by physical planners, others like to keep their due dates digital. Once you find what works for you, an organization system will give you the freedom to not stress about remembering last-minute assignments. And as fans of Marie Kondo can attest, getting and staying organized can help you feel like you have more breathing room to focus on what's most important. To incorporate creativity into your organizing, try your hand at bullet journaling so that you can add drawings, self-care goals, and future plans.
It’s easy to place the blame on ourselves when we feel overwhelmed. Maybe if we just try harder or sacrifice more of our time, we will be able to get everything we want to be done and stop feeling so anxious or overworked. But if you are doing all you can and you're still feeling like you're having trouble keeping up, then it’s time to talk to someone about it. Virtually every university has mental health counseling services, usually available at no cost to students. If you aren't sure where to start, you can also talk to your Resident Advisor (RA), a trusted teacher, or a coach. There are many services available to help you, whether it's talking with a counselor or being assigned a peer mentor to check in with you.
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Always consult your health care provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition.