When it comes to mental health among students the numbers are more than scary. First of all, more than a thousand students in the US commit suicide annually, and more than 20 thousand suicide attempts are registered annually among students. Almost half of students taking part in numerous polls state that mental health problems affect their educational progress. During Covid-19 pandemics 90% of students taking part in polls claimed to experience one or more negative mental health episodes. The list, unfortunately, goes on and on, there are many more scary numbers but the conclusion is one and it is obvious — mental health problems among college students are widespread, they have a strong negative effect on the educational process and can lead to disastrous, fatal consequences. In this article we will analyze the risk factors that can affect college students’ mental well-being and give some tips on how to stay mentally fit when in college.
Mental Health Risk Factors College Students Face
Before we start giving tips on how to organize your life to minimize mental health risks, we need to define those risks. College students face very specific “threats” that are difficult to overcome. With the general increased instability, unfortunately, the number of these threats grows.
- Constant performance-related stress. Every day in college you learn something new and at the same time you need to give back what you have learnt back — in the form of essays, research papers, projects and other assignments. It makes your brain overheat and causes extra stress.
- Social anxiety. Students are probably the least confident people out there. There are so many rules in social groups on and off campus that can easily elevate stress levels. Social anxiety may be a brief negative experience, or it may turn into something much more constant and unpleasant.
- Financial instability. Students normally don’t have endless budgets but their expenses tend to grow yearly. Many colleges are not supportive of students working part-time. Also, with the educational pressure nowadays it is difficult to combine work and quality studying. Student loans don’t make financial stability more possible.
- Future-related concerns.The world is changing and it is changing fast. Professions that were desirable just a few years ago have become digitized. Choosing a profession, entering college, dealing with student loans, is stressful by itself. However, in addition to that, more and more students report that they are concerned about choosing a wrong specialty or specialty that won’t be in demand in the near future.
- Peer pressure — offline and online. We all tend to compare ourselves with others. And students do it more often than adults. Validation is critically important in this period of life, the same as popularity. Social media also increases anxiety “to fit.”
How to Stay Mentally Fit in College
A brief advice before you start – actually try some of these tips instead of just reading them. If you just read about exercises and healthy eating, but keep binge watching Netflix and eating snacks, you won’t get your healthy weight back. The same logic works when it comes to tips of mental health — you need to actually try applying them to see the result.
- Don’t disregard mindfulness practices. Meditation, freewriting, diary — there are so many options, we are sure you can choose the one that fits your personality the most. Try different options, don’t give up after the first few tries. It is important to deal with your anxiety on the first steps. Don’t let it take over your mood for long. There are many recommendations online on how to make mindful practices part of your life. There are applications, support groups, anything you need.
- Be nice and generous to yourself. The biggest source of anxiety often happens to be right inside us. We make ourselves feel smaller, we allow fear to affect us too much. At the same time we have a great source of self-regulation inslide. Be kind and be generous to yourself, not only when you are energetic and successful, but also (especially!) when you lack confidence and need support.
- Be more active. Sports or just basic physical activity is one of the best ways to keep your mental health as it should be. There are many reasons for that. First, people doing any kind of sports regularly report having significantly higher self-esteem. People with higher self-esteem have lower anxiety levels. Second, you need at least 150 minutes of cardio every week to keep your body healthy and your brain alert. Third, sports affect cortisol levels and cortisol levels predominantly define your stress level.
- Prioritize a good sleep over everything. It is very difficult to do being a student, but we didn’t promise that our tips will be all sweet and easy. You need to sleep at least seven hours per night, and the closer those hours are to 12 at night, the better. Going to bed at 3 am doesn’t do you any good.
- Delegate some of your tasks when overwhelmed. Obviously, to sleep more and exercise more often, you need extra time on your hands. Feel free to delegate some of your papers to professional academic writers from college essay services similar to SmartWritingService, and plan your study-balance routine wiser. Do the same to avoid the deadline frenzy – order urgent papers online and focus on something you can do on time yourself.
- Avoid self-ruining practices. Needless to say that gambling, drugs and alcohol abuse and other self-ruining practices are bad for your mental state. If you feel too much stress and can’t figure out how to deal with the pressure — address a campus counselor.
Unfortunately, there is a point when such tips cannot help anymore. In most of the cases, when you don’t feel mentally fit, the right course of action is to address a counselor or other mental health professional. Don’t wait till it is too late and keep an eye on your friends — people are often too shy to ask for help, but when you notice something wrong and approach them carefully, they may open up to you. Attention saves lives.