During college, it is more important than ever for students to focus on personal mental health. New freshmen may struggle with the challenge of all the new responsibilities of being on your own for the first time and having your academic performance matter more than ever before. These aspects of the experience may begin to affect mental health before they even realize it. The students might just brush it off as simple homesickness or being stressed over assignments and exams.
But missing home and freaking out over grades really can have a large impact on mental health and struggles faced in college should not be dismissed. Whether you’re new at school or already a senior, your mental health matters. Every student should be taking the time to find ways to take care of themselves, considering all the factors contributing to mental health that are specific to university life.
Why University Students Struggle with Mental Health
Mental health disorders may affect you during any part of your life. For many, college is a point in time where mental health struggles are at an unusually high level due to all the overlapping risk factors. By the age when people go to college, mental illnesses, while they may not be diagnosed, are usually already part of their lives. Attempting to manage conditions like depression, anxiety, and eating disorders can be especially difficult while adjusting to university life and the stress of being a student.
Students may be away from home for, really, the first time in their lives. Struggling to adjust could leave them feeling very alone and contribute to depression. Both feeling out of place and dealing with a high amount of pressure to do well increases anxiety for students. With important assignments, uncertain social situations, stressful part time jobs, and high expectations, the anxiety-inducing events may just keep coming for many students. While all of the uncertainty and stress at college can do a lot of harm to a student’s mental health, there are several ways that it can be managed.
In many cases, it’s not so much that college can actively cause a mental illness, but the stress and unfamiliar situation along with a separation from previous support systems may contribute to circumstances that make pre-existing mental concerns more prominent. For example, those prone to depression or anxiety may find moods stretched thin, making them more vulnerable to the negative aspects of their personal mental state. Clinical mental states are very distinct, but the impact on mental health is still a major concern regardless of a person’s mental health history or risk factors.
As important as it might be to get assignments in on time, it’s also critical that you take care of yourself. Always putting the pressure on yourself to get everything absolutely right will only lead to burn out. Believe in yourself and stay confident in your ability to succeed in college. Don’t stress out over doing a perfect job, but instead take a break every now and then.
The type of activity you engage in while taking a break from your studies is totally up to you. It should just be something you really enjoy and that you know will get your mind off the stress and relax you. This may be done through participating in programs that you’re probably already paying for. Most universities use student fees to cover things like a gym, movie nights, and social events with an engagement club.
But if you need some time away from the pressures of university social life, don’t worry about trying to come out to every campus event. Your mental health requires that chance to get some time to yourself to do the stuff you really like to do. While an all-night binge of a streaming service may not be the healthiest habit, getting a few episodes in can be a fun way to relax after classes. You might also draw, dance along to your favorite songs, or start a new hobby. Taking time for yourself is a great way to practice self-care.
Take Care of Yourself Physically
Taking care of your mental health also means taking care of your body. Eating balanced and regular meals, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep may not be the easiest things to do as a student, but these small things are worth the effort. When you physically feel better, your mental health is likely to be in better shape too.
Some of the challenges to healthy eating for college students include dining halls replacing meals that could be cooked yourself if you had a full kitchen, no accountability from family to keep you from giving in to temptations, and simply the inexperience of young adults. Letting these obstacles keep you from eating right will only make you feel bad after a while. Make university a more positive mental health experience for yourself by avoiding an overload of pizza or sugar and make the effort to eat fresh fruit and vegetables instead.
You may also consider getting your exercise in for mental health reasons. Physical activity doesn’t just keep us in shape and strengthen our bodies, but can also boost our mood and combat stress and anxiety. It isn’t very hard to stay active at university. It can be as simple as walking to classes or you might consider taking advantage of the campus recreation center, which, again, is probably part of your student fees anyway.
One of the other more important things to do is make sure you’re getting a full night’s sleep every night. More than sleeping long enough, it helps to sleep consistently, which is the real struggle for college students. We’ve all fallen into waiting until the last minute at some point, but the random late nights can really mess us up. Any inconsistent sleep pattern can contribute to mental health issues. Try to always go to bed and wake up at the same times to give your mental health its best shot.
No matter what you’re facing, you shouldn’t have to do it alone. University actually offers plenty of opportunities to meet new people and build a mental health support network of friends. You may even find some new friends that are struggling with the same aspects of mental health as you are. Having someone that you can relate and talk things through with can make things a lot better. So, get out of your dorm and connect with other students on campus.
Socializing is important just to have some support, but sometimes even close friends aren’t enough. If you’re really having a hard time dealing with an aspect of mental health, don’t be afraid to seek real professional help. Friends can’t understand everything when it comes to personal mental health struggles, but a qualified mental health professional could help you work through things.
If you’re looking for professional support to get you through mental health troubles at university, the ADHD Wellness Center is available to you. With a specialty in ADHD but years of experience helping patients with other mental health concerns, our center is sure to be helpful to you. Just send us a message if you’d like to learn more.