Surveys have found that attending college can be a particularly challenging experience for many young adults, leading to the emergence of mental health symptoms. Not only do college students need to manage the stress of classes and homework, but many are also balancing jobs, sports and extracurricular activities. In addition, most college students are also living away from home and their familiar support systems for the first time in their lives.
The past year has proved particularly difficult for students as factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic and political unrest have compounded mental health issues. A recent study from Boston University found that loneliness, depression and anxiety are peaking among college students. The study screened more than 33,000 students across the country and found that about half tested positive for anxiety and/or depression. About 83 percent said their mental health had negatively impacted their academic performance.
It is important to talk to a mental health professional about psychological and physical symptoms that might be pointing to a mental health disorder. In some cases, treatments like medication and therapy may be needed. However, there are also some lifestyle changes and practical steps students can take to better support their mental health and wellbeing. Here are 10 important mental health tips for college students.
- Take care of your body. Make sure you are exercising, eating nutritious meals and getting plenty of sleep.
- Practice self compassion. It is easy to criticize and be hard on yourself, but practicing self compassion can help you find more acceptance for a situation and reduce stress.
- Journal. Keeping a written or video journal is a great form of self-care. Expressing your thoughts and feelings on a regular basis can prevent them from building up and overwhelming you.
- Try a mindfulness practice. Mindfulness and meditation have been shown to reduce stress, improve focus and support a sense of peace and wellbeing.
- Get Creative. Creativity can unlock different areas of the brain and get us in touch with our hearts. Try creating something small—like a sketch or poem—and work your way up from there.
- Establish a support system. It is difficult to maintain mental health on your own. By surrounding yourself with supportive peers, you will be investing in your long term health and happiness.
- Reduce screen time. Try taking a day off from social media, television and your computer. This can allow your nervous system to take a break from processing information and gives your eyes a rest as well.
- Volunteer. Sometimes giving to others and spending time with those less fortunate can provide a fresh perspective and sense of gratitude.
- Set boundaries. Healthy boundaries are essential for mental health. Take time to identify and state what you are a “yes” or “no” to—whether that is a person, a situation or a thought pattern.
- Ask for help. Asking for help is not easy and takes courage and a commitment to your own health. No one is an island, and trying to power through a difficult situation on your own may lead to burnout.
VentSpace is a free app where you can anonymously share your thoughts, feelings and struggles with other users and get supportive feedback. No filters. No judgement. No names.