As we’re breaking the stigma about mental health, it’s great that we can finally openly talk about it! Managing mental health while navigating college life can be difficult for students, no matter their personal circumstances. According to the American College Health Association, about 75% of college students reported psychological distress ranging from moderate to severe. Taking care of your mental health is easier said than done though. As the semester goes on, college students get busier and it’s easy to neglect all the things that need to be done to keep your mind and body healthy. And it’s usually your mental health that takes the first hit. So take care of yourself with these healthy mental health tips.
How to Manage Mental Health in College
1. Go to Counseling Sessions
The first thought that someone has when told to see a professional is “well, my mental health isn’t THAT bad”. We want to assure you that you don’t need to have a certain level of mental health issues to seek out therapy sessions with campus counseling centers. Even if you’re feeling stressed from a few classes or upset about family issues, therapists and counselors offer a listening ear from someone who isn’t involved at all. Many colleges provide free counseling to their students while they’re enrolled, so check out if that is available for you. Contact your student health center to see if counseling services are available for you. Health insurance also covers therapy which is a great option if your school doesn’t offer free counseling.
2. Take Care of Your Physical Body
Physical and mental health are often intertwined. Usually, if you’re lacking in one, it’s highly possible that you’re lacking in the other. Taking care of your body is important for your mental health. Eating nutritious meals, getting sunlight, and exercising regularly help keep your body healthy and in turn, keep your mind healthy. It definitely is easier said than done. Planning out your meals for the week enables you to track what you’re eating, and scheduling a gym session in between classes a few times a week will keep your body moving.
3. Have an Outlet
Having a healthy outlet to decompress during the semester is essential for your mental health. We know a lot of college students do this by partying but we want to encourage students to have another outlet to turn to while still getting a college experience. Find a hobby like drawing, painting, or running, or think about joining a club! Doing something that isn’t related to school helps you keep a balance. College campuses offer a variety of clubs you can get involved in and meet your fellow students. Finding an outlet has a variety of benefits for college-aged students!
4. Create a Solid and New Routine
The key to not stressing out over the semester (which then causes your mental health to go down) is having a routine. Academic stress can be the beginning of a student’s mental health decline. Creating a schedule and preparing for your semester is the first step in learning how to take care of your mental health in college. Even if you stray from your routine when you’re super busy with schoolwork, you’ll have a structure to go back to once you get back in the groove. Creating a routine will also help with your academic performance.
5. Talk with Friends and Family
Don’t battle your mental health challenges alone. Talk with friends and family members that you trust about your concerns. They can help you see the bigger picture and be there for you as comfort. Speaking with your loved ones about your mental health is important but don’t treat them as your therapist. It’s not fair to you if you need professional help and it’s not fair to them since they are not licensed or trained to help you in that way.
6. Take a Break from Social Media
Social media is open access to all parts of your life. It’s overwhelming to see everything about everyone online at all times of the day. Taking a break from social media and focusing on your real-life social connection is helpful for your mental state.
Spotting Changes in Your Mental Health
Mental health symptoms can be difficult to spot for a lot of people. Changes in your mental health don’t happen overnight which is why spotting them can be difficult. You might start sleeping more, eating more or less, and feeling a wave of emotions more often than before. If you notice these changes, refer back to our advice about managing your mental health so you can finish the semester strong. It is easier said than done which is why we encourage students to see professionals about their mental health changes.
When you’re in college, you may notice a change in your friends’ mental health too. Everyone can have a bad week but if it’s a consistent change in their behavior, speak with your friend about it. They may be going through something that they didn’t want to share yet and can now finally talk about. Encourage them to seek professional help if you’re worried about them. As much as you would love to be that help for them, professionals are licensed and trained to speak with people about their mental health.
Learning how to take care of your mental health in college will allow you to enjoy those years to the fullest. Those hard few weeks will come and you’ll be stressed out, but by recognizing what you need at the moment and how to handle it will get you through it.
Extra Support and Resources
If you’re a parent and want to know more about collegiate mental health, check out Healthy Minds Study.
Call or text the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 988 if you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or suicidal ideation.
If you’re struggling with substance abuse, the National Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Information Center is here to help. Just call 1-800-784-6776.