Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health – especially in college. If you ignore your mental health, you may find yourself struggling with one of the five common mental health issues in college.
Today, we’re taking a closer look at some of the ways you can take care of your mental health in college so you’re prepared.
How to Take Care of Your Mental Health in College
College life can be exciting, chaotic, fun, scary, adventurous and overwhelming, all at the same time. You are meeting new friends, attending an unstructured class schedule, and making your own decisions. Your goal is to graduate with a degree in a field that will offer you many rewards post-college.
To reach this goal you must figure out a lot of things, from learning style to saying “no” to a party and “yes” to studying, and even living on a budget. You must also learn how to take care of yourself physically and mentally.
Your physical health may be easier to address than your mental health. You may not even realize you have a mental health issue. You may write off feeling sad to being homesickness that will pass. You may think feeling panicked before an exam is typical. You may even turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with your emotions.
These are just a few of the reasons for taking care of your mental health in college is so important.
Here’s how to take care of your mental health in college.
1. Take Care of Your Physical Health
This may seem like an obvious tip but because your physical health is directly linked to your mental health, it is one of the most important.
When you are in pain, malnourished, hungover, going through withdrawals, or injured, your mental health will be negatively affected. Just the opposite is true also. When you are eating healthy, exercising, receiving support, and getting good sleep, your mental health is more positive.
2. Hang Out with Positive People
The people you surround yourself with can influence your mental health. If you hang out with students who are abusing substances every day, you will be tempted to do the same. If you hang around peers who talk poorly about professors, other students, and the college, you will be influenced.
Choose to associate with positive people who are grateful, appreciative and goal-oriented. Choose to participate in activities that will lift you up and leave you with a feeling of reward.
There are many programs, and even sober living facilities, on college campuses that are designed to help you surround yourself with positivity.
3. Know When You Need a Break
Studying and focusing on your academics all day, every day, will drive you crazy. You need a healthy balance of academic work and fun. Enjoying hobbies or participating in fun activities is a must for good mental health.
When you start to feel stressed, take a break. Even twenty minutes of enjoying something fun can make a huge difference. Taking a break helps you gain energy to go back and finish your work. It helps your memory and concentration.
It can even help your attitude, giving you a boost of positive thoughts and feelings.
4. Learn Stress-Management
Stress is inevitable in college. Stress is always linked to mental health challenges too. It can wreak havoc on your physical health, causing inflated blood pressure, headaches, decreased immunity, memory problems, and obesity. All these physical ailments can lead to negative mental health.
This means learning stress-management is an important factor in your college success.
Stress-management can include meditation, journaling, exercising, or meeting with a counselor or peer mentor. It can also include playing with your pet or watching a funny movie or television show.
Research has shown laughter has an immediate effect on reducing stress. It is almost impossible to feel stress when you are laughing and having a good time.
5. Seek Silence
As mentioned before, college life is chaotic. Whether you live in a dorm or apartments, you can usually hear rowdy college students at all hours of the day and night. Some are returning from the bars in the early morning hours, others are listening to music at the highest level, and still others are just behaving wildly.
This is what makes college an adventure. But it can also make your mind feel confused and overwhelmed, with racing thoughts. It can interfere with your sleep patterns and you may find it hard to study.
To avoid this, find a quiet place where you can go to escape the noise and chaos of college living.
Silence offers you time to be mindful and focus on the needs of your body. It gives you time to relax, pray, meditate and focus on all the things for which you are grateful.
Find a place where you can get find peace, if even for just an hour. If you can’t find a place, seek help from campus resources such as counseling, yoga instruction, or the library.
6. Be Prepared for Mental Health Challenges
Don’t wait for a mental health crisis, like a panic attack that prevents you from taking an exam, or depression so bad you don’t want to get out of bed to attend class. Preparation is key to keeping mental health issues at bay while in college.
To prepare, work with on-campus resources in the counseling department. Peer mentors are an excellent way to get mental health guidance in college. They can introduce you to positive activities taking place on campus, as well as other resources you will find helpful in taking care of your mental health.
Picnics, hiking trips, road trips, concerts, and athletic events are just a few of the fun activities you can enjoy with positive peer groups on campus.
Even if you do not feel like you have a mental health issue today, it’s important to reach out for support.
In conclusion, these are just a few tips that will help you take care of your mental health. Other ideas include setting short-term and long-term goals to help you stay on track and avoid stress; avoid using substances as a coping tool; participate in volunteer activities because giving back really does make you feel good; and finding ways to value yourself.
Build a support network that can help you with any issue you may face while in college, so you enjoy your success.