Taking Care of Your Mental Health in College

Mental Health in College

Everyone knows that college is stressful. You have to keep up with academics, your social life, and expectations from family members. You may have to work a part-time job on top of keeping up with your studies. Maybe you’re involved with an internship or extracurricular activities as well. Considering all of this, it’s no surprise that college can be an overwhelming experience. But we must also remember that stress doesn’t suddenly appear on your first day of school. It’s common for students to start feeling anxiety one or two years before college begins. Entrance exams and choosing the right school can present a lot of pressure. In addition, when your college experience is coming to a close, you might end up seeking another degree or going to graduate school. That’s why it’s important to take care of your mental health in college. College is an opportunity to grow, learn, and explore who you are. It can be difficult to excel if you’re not taking care of your mental health in college. In this article, we discuss common factors that cause stress and how to cope with these issues.

 

Common Sources of Stress for College Students

 

Academic Competition

An unhealthy amount of competition is often placed on the shoulders of college students. The culture of our higher education system is deeply competitive. As we’ve seen with the latest college admissions scandal, parents and students are willing to cut corners and even break the law to get a seat at the collegiate table. It’s important to be aware of the level of competition you’re experiencing in college. Students who only feel a sense of achievement when they’ve received the best grades in the class can easily miss the essence of the college experience. While it’s important to celebrate great achievements, it’s also important to remember that this is a personal learning experience and not a competition.

 

Social Anxiety

Going to college presents one of life’s major dilemmas. You have to move away from old friends and learn how to make new ones. This can be an exciting idea for some, but not for everyone. Making new friends is a common struggle for most college students. This is especially true during your freshman year. Fear of rejection can absolutely affect your mental health in college. Just remember that isolation is never the answer. This can trigger feelings of depression and anxiety.

 

Financial Burdens

Student loan debt in the U.S. has entered into the trillions. It’s no surprise that students face an incredible financial burden before, during, and after college. Just the cost of a single textbook can make you shudder. Add in your housing costs, tuition, food, and other activities and you’re looking at a hefty price tag. The financial burden can be a strong source of stress for most students. They feel pressured to have high-paying jobs lined up during their last year of school. When you know this level of debt is waiting for you upon graduation, it can be difficult to stay focused.

 

Expectations from Family

Many students will enter college with specific expectations from family members. Parents send their kids off to school every year and hope they’ll return as a successful doctor, lawyer, or engineer. Some parents will want their kids to follow in their footsteps and study in the same field that they did. This can make things very complicated if you’re not interested in the goal that your parents set for you. Some students will be well into their first or second year of graduate school before they realize that they’re not interested in becoming a lawyer. Remember to reflect on what you really want out of your college experience. Don’t let unrealistic expectations stand in your way.

 

Timelines

College students are often stressed by timelines. Traditionally, a student goes off to college after high school, attends that college for an average of four years, and then graduates. However, life doesn’t always go according to plan! Maybe you’ve realized you’re ready for college when you’re in your 20’s, 30’s, or even 60’s. There’s no age limit when it comes to attending college. But that still doesn’t make college any less stressful. You’ll still feel the stress of academic competition if you’re 18 or 45 years old. Students will also feel stress to finish school within four years. That’s not always possible, especially if you’re working while you’re in school. Trivial timelines that dictate when you’re supposed to enroll and how long you should be there can affect your mental health in college.

 

Tips on How to Take Care of Your Mental Health in College

 

Now that we’ve identified the most common stressors in college, we can focus on positive ways to deal with them. It’s important to understand how to keep stress at bay, especially if you’ve struggled with a mental health issue in the past. Depression and anxiety can easily resurface when you’re under intense pressure. Here are a few ways you can take care of your mental health in college.

 

Eat Healthy and Exercise

Our bodies and our minds are intertwined. If your mental health is in a bad state, chances are your body doesn’t feel great either, and visa versa. Lack of sleep, too much alcohol, and junk food is a recipe for a mental health breakdown. In order to stay focused, alert, and energized, you must stick to a healthy diet and exercise often.

 

Don’t Isolate Yourself

Students can easily turn to isolation if they’re not feeling accepted or supported by their peers. While it’s okay to take a break and enjoy some alone time every now and again, constant isolation is unhealthy. Loneliness is a strong component of depression. Try to remember that making new friends will take time. It doesn’t happen overnight. Look into joining organizations or clubs that spark your interest. Try out a new sport or extracurricular activity. Placing yourself into these situations can help you make connections with like-minded people.

 

Set Realistic Expectations

Good mental health in college starts with realistic expectations. Forget about the competition. Don’t feel restrained by timelines. Let go of expectations from parents or friends. Focus on what it is that you want out of your college experience. Set goals and expectations that are realistic. Having small but significant goals set can help you stay on track and keep stress away.

 

Take Advantage of Resources

One of the most important things you’ll need to remember is help is available to you. Don’t ever hesitate to take advantage of resources. It’s never a good idea to face these challenges alone. Find a mental health counselor that can help you stay positive, healthy, and happy throughout your college life. You can also utilize the many digital resources that are right at your fingertips.

 

  • The mental health professionals at Gateway Counseling have a Youtube channel with tons of great advice for college students. Subscribe today! You can send questions or concerns to John Hawkins Jr: johnh@gatewaycounseling.com

 

  • There’s also a Facebook Live event every Tuesday at 7:15 pm hosted by John Hawkins Jr. where you can ask any question you have. You can check out our Facebook page here!

 

Counseling Center
Gateway Counseling Center
1034 Gateway Blvd. #104
Boynton Beach, FL 33426
Phone: (561) 332-1818

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