College is fun! It’s where you meet new people and become independent. But being on your own can also be stressful. Unfortunately, coursework, relationships, career paths, financial worries, and the ongoing pandemic could all stop you from enjoying the full college experience. Many college students are afraid to get help; the negative stigma surrounding mental health can create a fear of being different. However, taking care of your mental health is a serious priority that should never be avoided. If you’re a college student and are nervous about seeking help, here are eight tips to help you get back on track.
1. Give counseling a try
Campus counselors are trained in handling a variety of mental health issues for students, and this service is usually included in the price of school fees. If you’re worried about what others may think of you for seeing a professional, no one has to know you’re going, and it’s entirely confidential. Counselors have a code of ethics they abide by requiring that they treat everyone equally and maintain an open-minded approach. Plus, you probably know a lot more people who go to counseling than you may think. Whether you’re dealing with stress from exams or a conflict with your friends, a counselor can help you find ways to ease your frustrations.
2. Talk to friends or family
If you don’t feel comfortable going to a professional, you can always talk to your friends or family. Let them know your situation, and be upfront with them as to whether you’re looking for someone to just listen or to offer solutions. Family and friends can offer advice, make you laugh, and get your mind off things. You could even talk with a trusted professor if you want someone a little less personal!
3. Make meals a priority
Not eating can have major effects on your brain. For this reason, skipping meals will increase your chances of anxiety and depression. Missing out on breakfast before a big exam also decreases your optimal brain function. With this in mind, college students should be eating three bigger to five smaller meals a day. The good news is there are plenty of foods that support brain function and strengthen your mental toughness, and most of them are available in college cafeterias.
4. Get enough sleep
According to the CDC, college students should be getting seven or more hours of sleep every night. Without the right amount of sleep, your brain can’t function, making you extra vulnerable to stress-induced situations. Not to mention that a lack of sleep can also cause other health-related issues such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
5. Take hot showers to relax
Hot showers are scientifically proven to reduce stress and improve mood. In fact, hot showers relax all muscles in your body, including your brain. They have many other benefits as well, such as improving blood circulation and helping you fall asleep faster at night.
6. Join a club
Another way to help yourself mentally is to get involved at school. There are plenty of clubs and organizations on every campus; for example, Iowa Wesleyan University offers activities ranging from the Student Government Association to Gay-Straight Alliance to Dance Team. You may even be able to create your own club! Greek life can also be especially helpful in bringing college students together. As a result, you get to meet new people, make new friends, and find a support system for when things are difficult.
7. Look into volunteer options
Nothing feels better than helping others in need. Luckily, college students have plenty of options when it comes to volunteering. Options consist of campus events, tutoring, charities, and more. By volunteering, you’ll have a sense of purpose in life, which in turn will improve your mental health. Look for volunteer opportunities online to get started.
8. Stop and take a deep breath
If you’re feeling overwhelmingly anxious, you need to stop and take a deep breath. Breathing exercises help you relax by sending a message to your brain to slow down. With this intention, you can find plenty of breathing techniques online. Just remember to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, and remind yourself that everything will be okay.
No one is perfect, and we all deal with poor mental health at some point in our lives. Don’t be afraid to get help; you don’t want things to get worse. The best thing you can do is stop and ask yourself: What can I do to relax?