Student mental health challenges are real, and colleges struggle to keep up. The college years can be some of the most stressful and overwhelming times in a young person’s life. Balancing academics, social activities, and personal responsibilities can affect even the most well-adjusted student’s mental health. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 4 college students has a diagnosable mental illness.
Mental health is an integral part of our well-being. It affects our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Good mental health means you can cope well with stress, have positive relationships with friends and family, manage tense situations, and maintain a balanced mood.
If you’re a college student, you may be dealing with high-stress levels from studying for exams, meeting new people, managing your time efficiently to balance your new social life and academic responsibilities, and more. Mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and substance abuse are also common among young adults.
Whether you struggle with your mental health regularly or feel like your stress levels are reaching a breaking point during college (as many students do), there are some ways that you can help your mental state while in school. Here are some tips to keep your mind healthy while attending college:
1. Get Enough Sleep
Most people need around eight hours of sleep per night. College students often don’t get enough sleep because of late-night studying or socializing. Getting enough sleep is essential for both physical and mental health.
Getting the sleep you need is important both mentally and physically. Many students find that they get less sleep in college, which can affect their mental state. Try to develop a sleep routine and bedtime that work for you.
For example, you might want to go to bed an hour earlier than you did in high school since you will likely be busier as a college student. If you’re having trouble sleeping, you can try some relaxation techniques.
You can also reduce your caffeine intake and minimize your screen time before bed. Getting enough sleep can help you feel less stressed and better rested each day, which can help you focus better and have a healthier mental state overall.
2. Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating nutritious foods helps the body function at its best. Unfortunately, college students often eat unhealthy diets consisting of fast food and processed snacks, which can lead to physical and mental health problems.
Eating well is vital for physical health, but it can also help reduce stress. You don’t have to change your diet completely, but try eating three healthy meals daily. This will help you stay energized and focused, reducing your stress levels.
It’s also recommended to drink around eight glasses of water a day. This will help you stay hydrated and reduces the likelihood of headaches. It’s also important to avoid sugar, which can make you feel more stressed.
You don’t have to overhaul your diet completely, but making a few small changes can go a long way.
Exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. It also reduces stress and anxiety. College students should try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily.
Being physically active can help you improve your mental state and your overall wellness. You don’t have to join a sports team or do something competitive to be physically active, though finding a group activity with others who share your interests can be helpful.
You can also walk or do yoga on your own or take advantage of the gym on your campus. Being physically active can help reduce stress, stay healthy, and feel better overall. Joining a gym or finding a sport you like can be a great way to meet new people and become more active in college.
Again, you don’t have to do something competitive to be physically active—you need to move your body and get some exercise every day.
4. Take Breaks
It’s essential to take breaks from studying or working on projects.
Taking 10-15 minute breaks every couple of hours can help improve focus and concentration. College campuses usually have many things, so there are plenty of opportunities to take breaks.
Mental health care is important and should be a priority for college students. Academic performance is important, but so is taking care of yourself. Make sure to schedule time for things like exercise, relaxation, and socializing.
5. Connect with Others
College mental health support can be found in many different ways. Friends, family, and support groups can all provide college mental health help.
Spending time with family and friends can reduce stress and improve one’s mood. College students should make an effort to connect with others on a regular basis.
6. Seek Professional Help
Many mental health providers offer services specifically for college students. These providers can help with things like anxiety, depression, and stress. Counseling and therapy are both great options for these issues.
If someone is struggling with mental health issues, it’s important to seek professional help. Many resources are available for college students, such as counseling or student health services. Mental health concerns should be taken seriously, and professional help should be sought if needed.
Mental health professionals might recommend mental health treatment, such as therapy or medication. Mental health treatment can be very effective for reducing stress, improving mental health, and helping someone function better.
7. Try Meditation and Breathing Exercises
Meditation can be a helpful technique to improve both your mental health and your overall wellness. Some studies suggest that meditation can help reduce stress and anxiety, improve attention, and increase one’s ability to focus.
You can try different styles of meditation, including guided meditations, breathwork exercises, or even mindful movements like yoga. Another easy way to use meditation to help improve your mental state is to focus on your breath throughout the day.
This can help you slow down, center yourself, and reduce stress levels when you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious. If you’re struggling with anxiety, try to practice one of these exercises daily. You may notice a change in your mental state after just a few weeks.
8. Go For a Walk
We all know that exercise is essential to help keep our bodies healthy. Research suggests that exercise can also help improve mood, reduce stress, and reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
A simple way to incorporate exercise into your daily routine is to go for a walk. Not only will this help you to stay active, but it can also be a great way to de-stress after a long day of classes. You can also try other physical activities to help keep your body and mind healthy, such as yoga or strength training.
While you should always check with your doctor to see what exercises are best for you, staying active while in college is essential, this can help you to reduce stress, stay healthy, and feel better overall. It can also help you to focus better on your studies and have a better attention span.
9. Talk to Someone You Trust
One of the most important things you can do for your mental health (and overall health in general) is to build a support system. Having a few people to turn to when you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed can make a big difference in your life.
While many campuses offer mental health resources like counseling, it’s important to remember that these are not one-size-fits-all solutions.
One-on-one counseling and mental health services are excellent for those struggling, but it is not always the best solution for most students to address mental health issues and meet their social needs.
Some alternatives include joining a club or group with people who share your interests and creating a support network with faculty and staff on your campus. This can help you to get the social connection you need and deserve while in college and can also help to reduce your stress levels and improve your mental state.
10. Try Mindfulness Practices
As you start to feel more confident in your ability to use meditation and breathing exercises, you can also try other helpful mindfulness practices for anxiety and stress. For example, you can try anxiety-reducing visualization where you imagine yourself in a calm, safe place.
You can also try gratitude exercises, where you list three things you’re grateful for each day or a 5-minute breathing exercise that can be done anywhere. Mindfulness practices involve focusing on the present moment without judgment.
This can help you reduce your stress, learn to let go of negative thoughts and feelings, and gain a better understanding of yourself and your emotions. Many academic institutions have courses and events, such as mindfulness days, where students can come together to practice these methods.
College can be a very stressful time for students, but there are things you can do to help reduce your stress and improve your mental health. From building a support system of friends and faculty to staying active and practicing mindfulness, there are many things college students can do to help their mental health.
Finding what works best for you is important, as everyone is different. However, by implementing some of these methods into your life, you can start to feel better and manage your stress more positively.
Your mental health is just as important as physical health. College students can improve their overall well-being by caring for their mental health.
If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.
About the Author: Frances Lalu is a contributing writer at Campus Colors. She specializes in health and wellness, promoting the health of individuals to be healthier and more productive.
Photo by Kyle Gregory Devaras on Unsplash
The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.
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