College is a time of immense growth and development, but it can also be incredibly stressful for students. The academic challenges and pressure to succeed in a competitive environment can lead to feelings of anxiety, overwhelm, and burnout. With heavy workloads, long hours of studying, and rigorous deadlines, students often struggle to balance their academic obligations with their personal lives and social activities. Plus, adjusting to the new surroundings, making friends, managing finances, and navigating the complexities of campus life can also add to the stressors faced by college students. At River Oaks Psychology, we completely recognize the importance of mental health management for college students and we are proud to be a trusted referral source for many colleges and universities.
Below are 12 of our favorite mental health tips for college students.
1. Stick to a routine.
In college, sticking to a routine can provide stability and predictability, which can have a real impact on your mental health. Establishing regular habits for sleep, exercise, study time, and other activities can help reduce stress levels by providing structure and minimizing surprises or unexpected events. Additionally, by setting aside time for self-care activities such as meditation or journaling, you can prioritize your own well-being and create opportunities for relaxation and reflection. Ultimately, developing healthy habits early in your college career can help you manage stress and reduce your likelihood of developing anxiety depression.
2. Get involved.
By becoming active in clubs, organizations, and other extracurricular activities, you are able to connect with others who share your interests and passions. This sense of community can provide a support system for students who may feel isolated or overwhelmed. Additionally, participating in these activities can help to reduce stress levels by providing an outlet for creative expression and allowing students to take a break from academic pressures. Developing leadership skills through involvement in student government or organizational roles can also enhance self-esteem and give individuals a sense of accomplishment and purpose. Overall, being engaged in your college campus not only benefits your mental health but also provides valuable experiences that can benefit you personally and professionally in the future.
3. Set realistic goals.
As a college student, it is essential that you set realistic goals for each semester to ensure success. Setting unrealistic goals may lead to disappointment and frustration, compromising your motivation and subsequently affecting your mental health. Realistic goals should focus on improving your overall knowledge base, developing new skills, and achieving academic milestones. Remember that college life can be challenging, but setting attainable goals ensures that you have actionable items that can motivate you towards success without causing undue stress or burnout. By formulating effective plans with an achievable outcome for every semester, you’ll be prepared for the challenges of higher education while maximizing your potential success throughout this journey.
4. Get to know your professors.
Developing a positive relationship with professors during college is valuable to both personal and academic growth. Professors serve as more than just educators; they can act as mentors and resources for future career opportunities. By actively engaging in conversations outside of lectures, students can gain insight into the industry specific goals and network with professionals in their field of study. These interactions can lead to internships, research opportunities, recommendation letters, and even job offers post-graduation. Additionally, professors are able to offer personalized guidance on coursework and assignments which contributes to better academic performance and reduced stress levels. Ultimately, investing time in developing professional relationships with faculty members enriches one’s overall educational experience while also opening up doors for future success in the workforce.
5. Communicate effectively with roommates.
Effective communication is crucial when sharing a living space with roommates during college. It not only enhances the relationships between housemates but also promotes mutual understanding and compromises, which are necessary for maintaining a peaceful living environment. When communicating effectively, honesty and transparency must be prioritized to avoid misunderstandings or conflicts. Additionally, clear and respectful language should always be used to express concerns or preferences. Active listening is also another key aspect of effective communication, where roommates should pay attention to each other’s perspectives and work towards finding common ground.
6. Maintain good physical health.
A healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, proper nutrition, and adequate sleep not only keeps the body fit, but also helps ensure optimal cognitive functioning to support academic success. Exercise is particularly important as it releases endorphins, the “feel-good” chemicals in the brain that help combat stress and depression. Proper nutrition provides energy to sustain concentration and focus, while sufficient sleep promotes better memory retention and mental clarity. In addition, maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen can reduce susceptibility to illnesses that tend to thrive in crowded environments such as college dorms. Consistently prioritizing physical well-being paves the way for improved overall mental health and productivity during college years and beyond.
7. Learn time management skills.
College requires students to balance a wide variety of responsibilities, including multiple courses with varying schedules, extracurricular activities, social life, and personal obligations. Failure to properly manage time can result in missed deadlines, poor grades, and added stress. Learning effective time management strategies such as prioritizing tasks, creating schedules and setting achievable goals can help students stay on track and reduce anxiety. Additionally, developing these skills in college will prove invaluable in future careers where organization and productivity are highly valued. Improving one’s time management abilities not only enhances academic performance but also promotes a sense of control over one’s life and future success.
8. Keep in touch with family and friends.
Maintaining connections with family and friends during the college years is not just a social protection against homesickness, but an essential tool for academic and personal growth. Studies have shown that students who stay connected with their support systems feel less stressed, are more motivated to succeed, and have a higher chance of graduating. Moreover, having a community of people around you helps you stay grounded and reminds you of your values and what is important in life. Not only will friends and family be there to celebrate your successes but they also offer support in times when things get tough or confusing. Utilizing modern technology like video chat can provide face-to-face interactions even if physical distance separates you from loved ones at home. By staying connected with the people who matter most, students can create strong emotional ties that help bridge any gaps that may arise during this transitional time in their lives.
9. Try new things.
As college represents a period of personal exploration and discovery, it’s crucial to seek out new experiences. Trying new things can broaden our minds and expose us to different perspectives that we may not have considered before. This is important for personal growth, as we learn more about ourselves, as well as developing skills that could be useful in our futures careers or everyday lives. It also presents opportunities to make new friends with like-minded individuals who share similar interests or passions. The college years offer an ideal platform to take risks in a supportive environment where failure is seen as part of the learning process. Try new things that intrigue you, such as joining a club, trying a new sport, developing a hobby, traveling abroad, or anything else that feels interesting to you.
10. Use academic resources on campus.
Using academic support services can greatly enhance your college experience and set you up for success in your future. Whether you need help with research projects or writing papers, most colleges offer free tutoring, writing centers, and study groups that help students succeed. Talk with your academic advisor on campus about these resources and be sure to check in with your advisor on a regular basis to stay on track within your major. Most colleges also have career centers that can assist with finding internships and other opportunities, further enhancing your college success. Don’t be afraid to reach out and take advantage of these resources – they exist to help you flourish academically and professionally. By using these resources consistently throughout your time in college, you’ll be able to develop effective habits and create a strong foundation for your future career path.
11. Check out the campus counseling center.
Most colleges and universities have a campus counseling center where free resources are provided to students to maintain wellness and navigate mental health concerns as they surface during college. Services will vary from one campus to another, but typically students are able to receive short-term therapy with a limited number of sessions due to the high demand of student mental health needs on campus. For students who need more individual support beyond a few sessions, college counseling centers assist students with finding a community therapist. These centers also typically provide 24/7 crisis services to help students who are experiencing a mental health emergency on campus. They may also offer group programming, such as support groups, substance use education, workshops on stress management, conflict resolution resources, and other types of programming relevant to student wellness. Take advantage of these resources! Even if you have a community therapist, for example, through River Oaks Psychology, we urge you to still take advantage of your college counseling center for supplemental support.
12. Find a therapist before you need one.
It’s always better to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to your mental health. Don’t wait until you’re in a state of crisis to find a therapist. Sometimes it takes time to find the right therapist who you truly feel comfortable with. It can also take time to build trust with your therapist and it may take some time to explain your individual needs. That’s why finding a therapist in college BEFORE you are in crisis can be a lifesaver. Especially if you already struggle with anxiety, depression, or any other mental health struggles, getting established with a therapist as early as possible is critical. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you will have weekly therapy if you don’t need it currently, but rather just getting established with a therapist early on will help you when college gets particularly stressful (for example, during final exams!). At River Oaks Psychology, we are proud to offer the convenience of telehealth services which may be especially helpful for college students with busy schedules. If we can be helpful to you, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Written by Lauren Presutti