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Easy Ways to Prioritize Your Mental Health in College

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College is an exciting time filled with new friends, fun experiences and challenges that reveal previously hidden capabilities. However, it can also exacerbate loneliness, stress and uncertainty, all of which could worsen or initiate mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

Fortunately, there are some easy and effective things you can do to promote your mental health as a university student.

1. Understand Your Limits

Because there are so many opportunities to enjoy while embracing an academic-centered life, it’s easy to take on too many obligations without even realizing that doing so could be upsetting.

It’s important to be aware of how many things you can handle without feeling overwhelmed, and plan your schedule accordingly. For example, if your coursework is particularly hard this semester, you may need to temporarily reduce extracurricular clubs and other social events.

2. Don’t Wait Too Long to Get Help

Many people are embarrassed to be dealing with mental health struggles. They see people all around them who seem fine on the outside and wonder, “So, why am I having trouble coping?” The truth is, people often conceal issues and appear to others like they are thriving in life. This approach can be damaging because it often leads to isolation and bottled-up feelings that should be expressed.

By being honest about your mental health, you’ll likely find that people in your circle of friends come forward and admit they are also experiencing the same or similar things. Also, as a college student, you likely have access to an excellent network of health services available on campus. Speaking to a counselor or even discussing matters with your resident advisor could be the first step in a therapeutic process that makes you feel better.

3. Come up With Healthy Ways to Deal With Stress

College is inevitably stressful occasionally, and sometimes more often. It’s impossible to banish stress, but you can figure out positive ways of coping with it. For example, eating an entire container of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in one sitting after learning you didn’t do as well on a test as you thought isn’t an ideal stress-relief strategy.

However, going for a walk to clear your head might improve your mindset. Then, maybe you’d feel up to talking to your professor about whether there are things you could do to improve your standing in the class, despite that poor test score. It might be possible to take on special projects that help provide balance, so your final grade is higher than expected.

4. Get Enough Sleep

It may seem like the college life and all-night study sessions go together, but sacrificing sleep could cause many undesirable consequences. You may think that staying up all night from time to time won’t hurt, but that belief could make it easier to get into the habit of hardly sleeping at all.

Sleeplessness also has health problems associated with it, ranging from chronic back pain to gastrointestinal issues. Focus on shut-eye strategies such as doing meditation, avoiding caffeine near bedtime and listening to soothing music. You’ll probably discover adequate rest helps you feel ready to tackle the upcoming day.

5. Maintain Time for Solitude

Personal space frequently becomes more precious at college than at home, especially if you’re sharing a dorm room or an off-campus apartment. However, setting boundaries with friends and letting them know you value time alone periodically could prevent you from feeling swamped by their nearly constant contact.

Use your alone time wisely, whether to write in a journal, listen to a favorite song or read a book.

See? It’s easier than you might have thought to take care of your mental health in college. Turn these suggestions into habits — starting today.

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Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Originally published: October 19, 2017
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