As our college students prepare to head back to school this semester, I wanted to shine a light on how important it is to practice self-care in college. I hope that this post helps to put things into perspective and helps you along your journey.
Understanding The Disconnect Between Mental Health & College
Did you know that in 2020 almost 50% of college students reported feeling “so depressed that it was difficult to function” at least once in the past year?
Because many college students are assumed to be intelligent, responsible, and/or disciplined, many people ignore the humanity of our college students … including, at times, the students themselves.
College can be a weird time for most students. It can be hard to balance family life, adulthood, school, and the pressures of the world at once. In fact, many students may feel an intense pressure to perform at their very best, despite the fact that they may be experiencing the most challenging, broke-est, and/or loneliest times of their life. Many students may also be struggling with loss of loved ones, addiction, identity crises, financial worries, family drama, and other issues related to race, class, and gender all while trying to maintain a decent GPA.
As a college graduate that attended college five hours away from home, I can attest to the fact that the mental health needs of many college students are often overlooked and materially dismissed. Essentially, there are far too many college students out there who have been told “you’ll be alright” or that are simply struggling in silence.
Understanding Mental Health
Typically, depression is associated with crying and anxiety is associated with panic attacks, but for most people depression and anxiety can take on different forms.
Many college students experiencing depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders may experience:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Trouble getting out of bed
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Loss in interest in activities that were once enjoyable
- Persistent feelings of hopelessness & emptiness
- Rapid/unexpected changes in weight or appetite
- Increased feelings of irritability and anger
- Frequent thoughts of death, dying, or suicide
Tactics To Recenter Yourself
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, here are some tactics you can use to re-center yourself and address the triggers causing your mental health concerns:
- Assess your goals and determine if they are realistic. Ask yourself: can I break my big goals down into smaller, more obtainable goals?
- Find/create a safe space for yourself. Identify a physical space where you can unwind from the pressures of life and college in peace.
- Limit your stressors. Try to find out what’s causing stress and adjust your schedule to reduce the amount of weight on your shoulders
- Practice self-love and self-compassion. You’re not perfect and that’s perfectly okay. Give yourself grace and room to have bad days and make mistakes.
- Seek out your support team that can pour into you when you can’t pour into yourself. This can be a therapist, counselor, mentor, family member, friend, or all of the above. If you cannot access any of these people, please contact your state’s Division of Mental Health Services for help.
- Write what you may not be able to say in words and keep your thoughts in a safe place. You can write in your phone's notes app or purchase a physical journal to get your thoughts on paper and out of your head. Either way… do not hold that pain, trauma, stress, or discomfort in.
These are just a few tactics I used to manage my anxiety and depression in college. Although I was not clinically diagnosed with any particular disorder while in college, I do remember literally feeling a difference in my body, mind, and soul, especially during the pandemic lockdowns. In fact, I remember feeling drained, irritable, alone, and unfulfilled for months.
Now that it’s been two years since I’ve graduated, I can now see how I was operating from my lowest self during that time, although I was keeping my grades up and appeared to be fine on the outside.
I wrote this blog with the hope of it reaching everyone who needs it, so no one has to suffer in silence! Please share this to help someone walk a little more confidently in their holistic wellness journey, even as a college student.