On World Mental Health Day, a local college student gives us her insights on anxiety while in school and practical tips for how to take care of yourself during these important years.

Whether you have been, are now, or have never been a college student, these years are recognized as some of the most exciting, yet stressful, years of adult life. For some students, we want to live up to expectations for future success and know that we have a busy and difficult road ahead. The pressure from all these new and constant expectations can result in intense waves of anxiety. Sometimes it can be hard to function; other times, even just the thought about our overloaded plate can attack our emotional well-being out of the blue.

 If you are a student trying to make it through your undergrad or graduate school, I empathize with you. The responsibilities that we feel the need to accomplish push us out of our comfort zone, but they can also propel our anxiety at the same time. Beyond your class schedule, you might have a job to help keep tuition down, internships to further you within your major and future career, volunteer activities to nurture new relationships within your community, and friend groups to develop a healthy support system. And, most of the time, all this rapidly takes place while you try to figure yourself and life out in the background.

 As a disclaimer, I have not personally been diagnosed with a mental illness, but, at times, I do struggle with anxiety. I mean, are you even in college nowadays if you haven’t? Along similar lines, if you are one of the millions of students who deal with college’s emotional pressure, you might be able to find one of the following mental-health tips beneficial as you pursue graduation and future achievement.

Consistency is Key 

Sometimes it takes setting yourself up for success physically to relieve your anxiety mentally.

This first tip might seem obvious, but it’s one that many college students don’t prioritize enough: a full night’s sleep, eating healthy, and exercising consistently. While these three elements are extremely simple and can already be assumed, it involves motivation to actually do them. Skip that midnight fast-food run with friends and, instead, head to sleep a bit earlier; go for a run in between classes if you’re feeling drowsy and have an overwhelming midterm coming up; pack some raw veggies and lemon water as snacks to munch on throughout the day instead of buying fries or a sugary caffeinated drink to help survive the day. Sometimes it takes setting yourself up for success physically to relieve your anxiety mentally.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Breathe Deeply

Another tip goes beyond the trendy thread it surfaces from – deep breathing. One of my friends does this for about 10 minutes as soon as she wakes up. Her outlook clears for the day; those negative thoughts that creep into her busy mind relinquish; and arduous tasks feel more conquerable. You don’t need to spend an hour in meditation to receive breathing’s calming benefits. 

Be Vulnerable

A third posture I would encourage any student dealing with mental illness or anxiety to implement is vulnerability with your friend group. A lot of students never speak up about what they’re mentally going through for fear that their friends might judge or “out” them. But, from my experience, the opposite results if they are true friends who want the best for you. In your friend group or community, authentic laughter also wins every time! Even if I have an exam the following day or a lengthy paper due, I try to make time to be myself and play a game, watch a funny movie, or just talk and laugh with close friends. It creates a safe space for nervousness to subside almost immediately. 

Take a Step Back

Your mental health shouldn’t be compromised for the sake of “doing more” and overextending yourself beyond repair.

One last tip that can assist your mental health during college is to take a step back and analyze if everything on your plate is imperative to where you want to go. Ask yourself, “What might I be able to take a step back from?” Your mental health shouldn’t be compromised for the sake of “doing more” and overextending yourself beyond repair.

Some other things that might help: 

  • Journaling
  • Listening to a favorite pump-up song prior to starting the day
  • Taking a selfie date – even if it’s just to Target or to buy groceries – and verbally confirming your worth      (Encouraging yourself out loud can be a whitewash over negative thoughts and restorative to the inner belief of your abilities.)

You possess more strength than the mental battle with which college plagues us. But, even when you can’t control downer feelings, adopting these tips will help keep your emotional game clear in moments of fog.