Friday, March 10, 2017

How to Succeed in College: Mental Health

Stress, anxiety, and depression affect so many people, and it's extremely prevalent in college students. I'm sure if you're a college student, or have been before, you completely understand why. Between classes, homework, studying, and trying to have fun, it's easy to not make your mental health a priority. Going into college, I definitely underestimated how much stress I would be under and how it would affect me. I've always been a pretty anxious person, but college definitely made it a lot harder to deal with.

Through all of this, though, I learned how to become stronger, and how to calm myself down when it all gets to be a little too much. I also learned how important it is to make sure you are not only physically healthy, but mentally healthy. Mental health is something that more and more people are talking about, but there's still stigma surrounding it, especially when many college students want to appear as if they are just fine at balancing everything in their lives. It's also really important to talk about right now with the popularity of 13 Reasons Why!

In my new series, How to Succeed in College, I knew I wanted to do a post all about mental health, so here it is! I'll be giving you my tips on how to make sure your mental health isn't suffering, and how to not let the stress of college get to you too much.

You can also watch my video about it here!

Preventative Measures

1. Try and organize your schedule as much as possible.
If you read my last post in this series, Balancing Work, Classes, and Fun, you know how organized I like to keep my schedule. I can't stress how helpful this is; if you're anxious like I am, it's nice to know what I have to do, when I have to do it, and where. There's no worse feeling than thinking you're forgetting something, because that just makes you worry even more than you probably already are. Getting a planner and writing your schedule down in it is super helpful, as well as keeping track of work, assignments, tests, and due dates. I usually have my planner with me, and I also use Google calendar so I have my schedule on my phone for the times I don't have my planner.

2. Try and get assignments done early, as well as study early.
This is so much easier said than done while in college. Chances are if you aren't doing homework or studying, you're working or in class. When you're struggling with your mental health, though, it's nice to get things done early so you have time to focus on relaxing and unwinding from the day. I've been trying to do this lately, and it's really made a difference on the amount of stress I put on myself. When I get my assignments done a couple of days before they're due, I have ample time to look over them and change things if need be, as well as be at ease that I won't be missing a deadline.

3. Get enough sleep.
Again, this is a lot easier said than done in college, but trust me it helps a lot. When I'm tired I'm so much more cranky and can't focus on the tasks at hand, and my mind feels like it's in 1,000 places at once. I like to try and get at least 8 hours of sleep per night, but that hardly ever happens. When I at least get 7 I can function a lot better, but a lot of times this is difficult to do. If you find that it's hard to have time to sleep for 8 hours, try and take a short nap during the day, to do a mini reset on your mind. This helps me a lot, because I'm able to focus more on the homework I have to get done, instead of yawning the whole time.

4. Workout as much as possible.
I feel like I mention working out in any of my "wellness" posts, but that's only because it helps me so much. When I workout everyday, my mind is able to focus so much better, and I'm just a generally happier person. My parents joke that I woke up on the wrong side of the bed if I don't workout in the mornings when I'm home for breaks, which is probably true. I get so cranky when I don't workout because I feel so much more anxious during the day; being able to clear my head for an hour in the morning and only focus on my workout and how I'm physically feeling is so wonderful. I'm not worrying about anything else in my life because I'm so focused on the task at hand and my mind is occupied. 

What to do When You Feel Overwhelmed

1. Get your mind off of what you're stressing about.
When you're extremely stressed out or are feeling overwhelmed, it's really important to give your mind a break. This can be hard to do, because you feel like if you stop stressing about something, or stop focussing on it you'll fall behind in some way. If you give yourself a break, though, and focus on something else, you'll feel a lot better. Read a good book, take a nap, watch TV, anything that helps you relax. This will give your mind a small reset, and you'll most likely have a different perspective on the issue you were facing before. I end up doing this all the time - I'll stress and stress about something, and force myself to get my mind off of it for a while, and when I go back to the thing that was stressing me out, I find that it's much more manageable because my view on it has changed. It's no longer as scary or overwhelming, and I feel like I can actually solve the problem, or get it done if it's a task.

2. Talk it out.
It can be hard to talk about the things that are stressing you out, but it can also be extremely helpful. Whenever I feel like I have about 5,000 things going on at once, I call my parents or talk to my friends about what's stressing me out. I don't know if it's them giving me advice, or just the fact of me talking through my anxiety that is most helpful, but either way it ends up making me feel a lot better. They offer a new perspective, and my parents are especially good at helping me feel less anxious since they have almost 21 years of experience with talking me down from my stress. Try it at least once; talk to your friends when you're freaked out over tests, or are just generally really stressed out, because chances are they feel the same way, or have in the past, and can probably offer some great advice.

3. Get some fresh air.
Feeling anxious, depressed, or just generally unwell can make you feel like you're cramped. I know I always feel like this when I'm feeling especially anxious, and I have found that getting outside and getting some fresh air helps leaps and bounds. Being in a large open area helps stop the feeling of being swallowed up by both my stress and whatever room I'm in, and it also helps to clear my air. Even if you aren't a super outdoorsy person, getting fresh air can be great for helping you feel better. You'll most likely be able to get your mind off of the stress, even for just a couple of minutes, and it will help change your perspective.

4. Change your scenery.
Similar to the last point, getting out of the space you're in can also help change your state of mind. If you've been studying (and probably stressing) in the library forever, or your own room, try and go somewhere else. This will stimulate your mind in different ways, and sometimes it's just great to have a different view. It's so easy to get wrapped up in anxiety, stress, and depression when you've been sitting in the same place forever, or if you are always in the same space day in and day out. Switching up the place where you spend most of your time can be really helpful. Your mind has muscle memory, and you'll start associating a certain place with certain emotions, so if you tend to feel anxiety or especially depressed in one place, try and go somewhere else.

5. Laugh.
This seems obvious, or even a little ridiculous, but I can't tell you how much it can help. One of my professors who has a doctorate in psychology told my class that even just smiling at yourself in the mirror can help you feel happier, so try this out. You will feel absolutely ridiculous at first, but it truly does help. Trick your brain into thinking you are happy - it actually does work - and you will feel less anxious. Watching a show that you know makes you laugh, or talking to people who always makes you laugh will help you to get out of your head and just have a good laugh.

6. Make some art, or do something else you love.
For me, watercolor is something that immediately sets my mind at ease. It's relaxing, and makes me focus purely on creating, something that I love to do. Art is extremely relaxing, and it doesn't matter if you have a lot of experience, or none at all. When you're stressed or anxious, get some paper, paint (or pens if you don't have paint) and just create. This puts your mind at ease, and trying to think of something to paint or draw will take your mind off of whatever is causing your uneasy mind. If art really isn't your thing, then do something else that you love and relaxes you. As long as it makes you happy, it will make you feel even a little bit better.

Mental health can be hard to balance and handle while in college. It's extremely important to take care of yourself, and treat yourself kindly when you're feeling stressed, anxious, depressed, or just generally unwell. While all of these tips are great for helping you deal with stress and anxiety, if you ever feel like hurting yourself, or you see someone you care about harming themselves, reach out for help. There is no shame in needing to talk to a professional, or take medication that helps you control any sort of mental health struggle. Resources like Suicide Prevention LifelineCrisis Clinic, or The Trevor Project are all great organizations to contact if you feel like it is an emergency.

I hope you are having a wonderful day, and remember that you are worth it 


  1. I'm so sorry to hear how stressful college is for you. But I know how hard you're working and you should be really proud of yourself. I'm starting university next year and I'm already stressed about how stressed I'll be if that makes sense. I'm definitely gonna take your advice from this post though so thank you for sharing. And I agree, working out is so effective for reducing stress :)

    1. Aww thank you! :) I wish you the best of luck next year!

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