Editor’s note: This story was written by Karoline Gore, a freelance writer specializing in energy consulting.
There is a mental health crisis among college students in the United States, with 3 out of 4 students reporting at least one stressful event in the past year. While college opens the gateway to a number of opportunities, the overwhelming uncertainty of choosing a path for the future can also contribute to stress and anxiety. Furthermore, many students today are over the age of 25, work full-time and have familial obligations. Students can take steps to improve their mental health through acts of self-care like exercise and meditation, as well as seeking professional treatment when needed.
Take Time To Achieve Peace of Mind
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, your instinct may be to keep plowing through your workload to get it done as soon as possible, however, this approach can increase stress and lead to burnout. By taking breaks in periodic intervals, you can improve your productivity and retention of study materials. Focus on maximizing the benefits of your study breaks by engaging in activities that promote better mental health, like meditation, spending time with friends and stretching. Meditation quiets the mind of distracting thoughts, helping you stay present in the moment and feel less overwhelmed. Meditation comes in many forms, including mindfulness and visualization. You can incorporate stretching into your daily meditation by practicing yoga; this offers the added benefit of physical activity to alleviate the discomfort caused by sitting for too long.
Connect with Loved Ones For Support
Academic life can be isolating; while the college experience depicted in popular media may portray four fun filled years of partying with friends, for many, this is not always reality. Many students take on additional responsibilities outside of school, and have little time to focus on socialization. More and more people attending college today fall into the category of “non-traditional students,” meaning they are older, hold full-time jobs and have children. If you are balancing school with raising a family, carve out quality time to relax with your family each day. Including your loved ones in just a few minutes of daily meditation gives you a chance to spend time together while also focusing on self-improvement. Students who live on campus can find clubs and support groups to build community and feel less alone.
Reach Out to a Professional
Stress can reinforce itself to create a cyclical pattern; when you’re too overwhelmed to handle a chaotic workload, unmet obligations pile up, leading to more stress. It may become difficult to give yourself the care you need or employ effective coping strategies, and turning to a professional for support can make a difference. Talking to a mental health counselor on or off campus can help you find better solutions to alleviate everyday pressures. A mental health professional also serves as a sounding board to help you clarify your thoughts and view your situation objectively. Certain forms of therapy, like CBT and DBT, focus on changing unproductive behavior and thought patterns. DBT utilizes the practice of mindfulness to help stop intrusive thoughts that can contribute to anxiety and depression.
A drive for academic success should not lead you to ignore your mental health and emotional wellbeing. Take time to check in with yourself periodically, and focus on the enjoyment of life, rather than solely on achievement. Free services are available if you need to talk to someone.