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To stress or not to stress: Mental health and college

+ practical ways to deal with mental health in college!

Sarah Xu

December 05, 2023


mental health

College life, often hailed as the best years of one's life, can truthfully be a crucible for mental health. It's time to realize and address this reality that hundreds of thousands of students experience, and talk about real ways for students to cope with this. Let's validate the struggles that too many students are dealing with everyday, and realistic ways you could go about coping!

The Silent Struggle

College is a time of intense transformation. It's the journey towards independence, a pursuit of knowledge, and self-exploration. But beneath the surface, many students find themselves battling with the silent monster: mental health issues. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges are prevalent on campuses across the globe, affecting students from all walks of life. Your best friend can be living with this struggle, it can be the girl sitting next to you during meeting, or the guy sitting in the front of the lecture asking questions - you will never know how many people around you are truly struggling.

The Weight of Expectations and the Loneliness of Suffering 

One of the culprits is the pressure cooker of expectations. We're told that college is the gateway to success, that every moment should be cherished, and that we should be at the peak of our happiness. But the reality is that academic rigor, financial strain, and the struggle to fit in can cast a shadow on our mental well-being. 

And while social media and Gen-Z have exponentially normalized the conversation of being a “depressed girly 💅🏻” and make jokes about our declining mental health, the day-to-day is a massive, lonely struggle of internal turmoil. Gen-Z may have broken the stigma of mental health, but for many it has become a punchline - a self-deprecating joke that is then swiftly brushed under the rug to move onto the next thing. For others, the pressure to maintain an image of effortless success prevents many from seeking help or sharing their struggles. In both worlds, we must break this silence and cycle of brushing off the struggle, and instead, address the struggle head on. 

So, What Next? 

In a world where academic success is celebrated, let's also celebrate the courage it takes to face our inner demons. In doing so, we can transform college into a time of growth, empowerment, and resilience.

We, like yourselves, have heard of all the idealistic and proper ways of dealing with mental health in college. We know though, a lot of those solutions may not match up with your reality. Maybe you have no way of affording professional help or medications. Maybe you can't afford to take less classes next semester. Maybe have you had the worst college counselor experience (it’s a canon event) and are traumatized to ask for more help. So here are some ideas you may not have tried yet, some realistic bandaids, and some out-of-the-box things to try for the sake of finding one thing that helps:

Friendly disclaimer that dealing with your mental health is a boatload of work regardless, and creating change within takes time and dedication... but you can do it!

1️⃣ Seek Support Early:

Say you’ve recently started struggling more than normal - don’t ignore it and hope it goes away! It’s always easier to deal with issues in its baby stages head on. Reach out to your college’s counseling or mental health services to see what resources may be available to you (and p.s. most of them are free). This is also a great time to reach out to friends and family you trust to open up about your struggles. Sometimes the best remedy is a good shoulder to cry on and a wise soul with wise advice to help you with your struggles!

2️⃣ Manage Your Time: Create a realistic schedule to balance academics, social life, and self-care

  • Protect your peace and learn to say NO to social, academic, and professional events that you don’t actually want to go to or is not healthy for you to be at in the moment

3️⃣ Prioritize Self-Care:

  • Get adequate sleep, nutrition, and exercise: create concrete chunks of time in your calendar for meal breaks and exercise, even if it’s a 10 minute walk outside!

  • Practice mindfulness, meditation, or deep breathing to reduce anxiety: try free resources like Spotify, Headspace, Youtube, and even TikTok! All you need is a good 5-10 of a good meditation or breathing exercise to make your mind and body feel more relaxed

4️⃣ Set Realistic Expectations:

  • Understand that perfection is not attainable

  • It’s better to try and fail than not try at all, so don’t let things that don’t work out get you down!

  • Set achievable goals and break tasks into smaller, manageable steps

5️⃣ Connect Socially:

  • Build a support network by participating in clubs, organizations, or sports; you won’t find a healthy support system without going out to find it!

  • Make time for friends and reach out when you need someone to talk to - they care about you and want you to be okay!

6️⃣ Communicate with Professors:

  • If you're facing challenges, inform your professors early and discuss accommodations if needed - most professors are understanding and willing to help students in crisis

7️⃣ Be Kind to Yourself:

  • Celebrate all your wins, small ones and big ones

  • Understand that setbacks are part of the college experience, and it's okay to make mistakes

8️⃣ Consider Professional Help:

  • If your mental health struggles persist or worsen, don't hesitate to seek therapy or eventually medication. Issues like depression are a chemical change in your brain - you cannot fully control it, and therefore sometimes the solution is to get medical help!

Remember, you are not alone in facing mental health challenges in college. Your mental health matters, and there are resources available to support you along the way. The great thing about college is that there are so many free and available resources for you to get educated and get help. 

Your mental health is not a weakness; it's a facet of our overall well-being. It's as real as physical health, and seeking help for mental health issues should be as natural as visiting a doctor when you’re sick. We see and hear you in your struggles, and we hope you can find the strength to do what’s necessary in helping yourself! Stay strong, students!