5 Ways I Learned to Prioritize My Mental Health in College
Growing up I always imagined college to be a time where I would have nothing but fun. I failed to realize that the books I read and the television shows and movies that I watched only highlighted the positive parts of college. Throughout high school, I worked hard to get good grades and be a part of the best extra curriculars because once I got into a good college, I would have the time of my life. However, once I got to college and it wasn’t what I had idealized in my head it took a toll on my mental health.
My freshman year I wasn’t prepared for the academic rigor of college and struggled to juggle my classes, work schedule and building relationships with friends. Things only progressed after the start of the pandemic and college became an isolating time. I started to develop anxiety and felt like there was a mountain of things that I would never be able to accomplish. I am currently a college senior and I have only recently learned how to prioritize my mental health. I have learned that prioritizing your mental health makes the everyday stress of college more manageable and makes college a more enjoyable experience.
Here are five ways that I prioritize my mental health while in college:
- Establish a daily routine: Developing a set routine is a great first step when prioritizing your mental health because it can provide consistency to your day. College can be unpredictable at times and that can lead to feeling overwhelmed. Some days you have to cram for a big exam or stay up all night to finish a midterm project, but if you have set routine, it can ground you. Your routine could be just waking up, making your bed and having your favorite breakfast, or maybe exercising at the same time every day. Maintaining a routine is a good first step when practicing self-care.
- Find a hobby: A fun way to prioritize your mental health is to have a hobby that can distract you from the stress that college brings. Even when it feels like your to-do list is never-ending it is beneficial for your mental health to take a break and spend time on your hobby. Examples of hobbies include reading, watching your favorite television show, running or yoga. College students place an emphasis on productivity, but sometimes it is important to give yourself a much-needed break.
- Socializing: College can be an isolating time, especially if you are moving far away from home. This alone can take a toll on your mental health. Having a support system is one of the best ways to deal with the difficulties that come with college. Socializing allows you to think about something other than stress and school. It can be as simple as a night out or grabbing a coffee but reaching out to others can be a great way to brighten your mood when you’re having a bad day.
- Learn to set boundaries: College is full of new opportunities, experiences and people and it can be difficult to say no when asked to go to join a student organization or attend a student event. FOMO, or fear of missing out, is something that many college students have, but it can be important for your mental health to not attend every event that your friends invite you to. It is easy to have too much on your plate, so it is necessary to set boundaries with your peers, friends and even family when it comes to prioritizing your mental health.
- Get the help you need: Sometimes college can be too much for one person to deal with, but it can be intimidating to admit that you need help. Most colleges recognize this and have programs in place to help students who need extra support when it comes to their mental health. Look into the mental health resources at your college or university or reach out to a therapist if you feel like you need extra support.
Taking care of your mental health looks different for everyone, but these are some ways in which I prioritize my mental health. College is a stressful time, and it can be difficult to set aside time to work on your mental health, but when you do prioritize your mental health, it can make college a lot more manageable.
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Photo credit: Abby Grant