College has a reputation of being a place where everyone parties too hard, gets too little sleep, and makes unhealthy choices. Depictions in movies and TV shows make it seem like one unending party with a couple classes thrown in. This is obviously not true; college is a new stage in a person’s life where many young people get to experience freedom for the first time. It is also extremely stressful, and juggling the many demands can negatively impact your mental wellness. Here are 10 tips on how to protect your mental health while thriving in the academic environment.
1) Remember that nothing is more important than your mental health
Not your grades, not your sports stats, not your social reputation, nothing! Your mental health should be your first priority because taking care of you now can prevent problems down the line. What does this look like? Putting your mental health first means giving up on a stressful assignment once in a while. It can also mean dropping classes if you need to or prioritizing a session with a counselor over study time. If you run yourself into the ground, then your grades, performance, and social life suffers as well. By staying on top of your mental health, you can do more and feel better.
2) Adjust your definition of success
In high school, getting straight A’s might have been easy. College classes are significantly harder and much more work. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get the grades that you are used to. There might be some hard classes where you work hard to pass with a C. You will be much happier if you don’t measure your worth by your grades.
3) Get to know the resources on campus
All college campuses have some kind of resources for mental health and wellness. Counseling sessions are normally free and easy to access. Don’t be afraid to make an appointment just to check out the options that you have. If you understand what mental health services are like at your college, it will be less overwhelming if you need to take advantage of them down the road.
4) Talk about issues before they become a major problem
Feeling down? Is life starting to feel like bland mashed potatoes? Talk to someone! If you start to feel not like yourself, you may be experiencing depression or anxiety. Talk to a friend about how you feel or see a counselor before it becomes really bad. By staying on top of your mental health, you take better care of yourself and avoid problems later on.
5) Give yourself a break
Professors just love to assign more reading than is humanly possible to read. If you find yourself working through meals and never leaving the library, that is a problem. Never be afraid to take a break. Put the book down, go for a walk, go buy some ice cream, and come back to it. Breaks are a great way to destress and refocus.
6) Find a way to let off steam
Stress is everywhere on campuses. Find a way that works for you to let that stress go; this could be going to the gym, coloring, doing puzzles, or screaming in the middle of the quad. Any way that helps you get away from the stress can do great things for your mental health.
Everyone seems to be pulling all nighters and slamming back coffees in 7am lectures. It might seem fine for a while to miss a night here and there, but soon that sleep deprivation will catch up with you. It can make you grouchy, unfocused, fatigued, irritable, and harm your memory. Make sure to sleep and your mind and body will thank you.
8) Take it slow if you need to
There is absolutely no shame is taking one less class one semester. Colleges emphasize graduating in 4 years, but if you would be less stressed by taking 5 years, that is okay. It is also okay to take a semester off if you need a break or to take summer classes to lighten your fall schedule. It is perfectly okay to do college at your own pace, and it will not stop you from getting a job in the future.
9) Venting is healthy
If you hate your professor, are fighting with your roommate, or need to overanalyze life, find a friend to vent to. Just talking and complaining about things is a great way to release stress. It also has the added benefit of being a social experience that makes you feel less alone.
10) Recognize that no one is perfect
Even the guy who takes 7am and always contributes to the discussion. No one is perfect. Everyone is struggling with something, even if they don’t show it. Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on doing things that are best for you. This will make you happier and healthier.