If you’re like most students, college will probably feel like a bit of an emotional roller coaster. You may experience fear and anxiety about leaving home for the first time, nervousness at the prospect of meeting countless new people, and uncertainty about what academic challenges lie ahead.
Eventually, you’ll get comfortable in your new environment. You’ll become more confident in the role you fill at your institution, and things should progress relatively smoothly for a while. Then, inevitably, you will likely experience the uncertainty and nervousness all over again as you prepare to graduate and enter the “real world.”
Navigating this emotional roller coaster on top of the rigors of schoolwork and never-ceasing social obligations can be taxing, to say the least. Anxiety disorders, eating disorders, depression, and other mental health issues run rampant on college campuses. Students battling with mental health issues are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, self harm, binge drinking, and other types of substance abuse.
Whether you are approaching graduation or the end of your freshman, sophomore, or junior year, it is important to take time to care for your mental state. As an experienced online mental health counselor, I’m here to help you learn to make your mental health a priority.
Tip #1: Stick To A Regular Sleep Schedule.
If you are like most college student’s, you’re probably notorious for staying up ’til all hours of the morning and dragging yourself to class the next morning, barely awake. However, maintaining a regular sleep schedule is an important part of maintaining your mental health; though it may be hard, forcing yourself to go to bed at a reasonable hour will most likely be well worth the effort.
Tip #2: Develop A Support System.
Having a close network to rely on can be an invaluable resource during college. Peers are important, but your network can and should include other resources as well, such as academic advisors, instructors, and family back home.
Tip #3: Embrace The Word “No.”
Student assemblies, student government, sororities and fraternities, campus organizations, theatre productions, athletic teams, honor societies, volunteering… the opportunities for campus involvement and leadership roles are practically endless. While getting involved and pursuing leadership responsibilities is a good idea, it can be easy to overload yourself. You’ll have your coursework to attend to in addition to the “extra-curricular” activities you choose, so you’ll have to be selective about the extras you sign up for. Just because a friend asked you to come with her doesn’t mean you have to. It’s okay to say “no” in order to take care of yourself.
Tip #4: Cut Down On Junk Food.
Did you know that the food you eat often has a direct impact on your mental state? Junk food doesn’t have the nutrition your body needs to thrive, and consuming large quantities of junk food (without balancing it with healthier options) can take a toll on your mental health. It may take a little extra work, but seeking out healthy, nutritious foods will make a big difference.
Tip #5: Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you sense that you are struggling. There is nothing weak or demeaning about seeking support – in fact, it is often a great display of strength. Most colleges and universities have a mental health counselor on staff.