College is a new and exciting experience. It offers ample opportunity for students to pursue their academic and professional ambitions and build a solid network of friends and peers. However, this rapid exploration is often packed with the increased responsibility of self-care.
As your social circle widens, so do your responsibilities and pressures. Because of this, college students often struggle to strike an optimal work-life balance.
Young college students, in particular, find it difficult to integrate into a college’s ecosystem. Developing an entirely new support system that’s far away from families and loved ones often takes a toll on their mental health. This is often the reason why depression, imposter syndrome (finding one’s accomplishment insignificant as opposed to other students), substance abuse, and a slew of other mental health problems are commonplace in college settings.
While transitioning to a new college has its pitfalls, most students can acclimatize to their new environment with proper care–scholarships help in this regard. College students that enjoy financial aid benefits can turn their focus and attention to their studies and self-care, consequently improving their chances of having an overall better quality of college life. If you’re based in Kentucky, you can apply to a variety of Kentucky Scholarships to lessen the huge truckload of college responsibilities.
In addition to having a scholarship, below are some excellent tips to help college students maintain their mental health and make the best use of their time in college.
- Avoid Drug and Alcohol Use
Substance abuse normalization is a big part of college culture. Binge drinking, especially underage drinking, has become a common occurrence.
College students need to understand the negative health effects of alcohol and drugs on their lives. Students suffering from depression, in particular, are at high risk of aggravating their conditions. These students are the ones that can benefit from steering clear from substance abuse.
Alcohol and depressions are thought to share a common link. Often, students turn to alcohol to calm their nerves and divert their attention from the excruciating symptoms of depression. Instead, they end up making matters worse. According to the Harvard School of Public health, alcohol use is a predominant factor in students who have deteriorating mental health.
Unfortunately, substance abuse is extremely detrimental to mental health patients over the long run. If left untreated, substance abuse can lead to a vicious cycle of addiction, spilling its negative impacts on college relationships, studies, and many other things.
To prevent substance use, make sure you identify its common signs and symptoms, then take steps to stop it before it becomes a serious problem. Some indications include:
- Change in overall personality
- Drop in grades at college
- Skipping classes
- Loss of interest in social activities
- Silliness or giddiness
- Moodiness or irritability
- Improve Nutrition
As the saying goes, ‘treat your body like a temple;’ however, staying true to this nugget of wisdom isn’t as easy in college. You barely get time to eat, let alone to shop, prep, and cook nutritious food.
Despite popular opinion, eating healthy isn’t as hard, especially when you have a plan in mind. Even little progress to incorporate healthy foods into your diet will go a long way in turning a positive leaf in your eating habits.
You can make easy-to-make and long shelf life snacks that don’t require a lot of time in the kitchen that can be carried to classes with ease, such as peanut butter sandwiches, oranges, and apples.
Sometimes, nutritional deficiencies can aggravate underlying mental health conditions, so consulting your doctor to check whether you need to supplement with vitamins or minerals is also a good idea.
Nutritional Neuroscience is a new discipline dedicated to studying the link between nutritional elements and human emotions, cognition, and behavior. According to this emerging discipline, individuals who experience depression are often not eating an adequate diet of healthy vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, proteins, and carbs.
Some colleges also have dedicated on-campus nutritionists. They can help you meet your nutrition goals and set you on the road to better mental health.
- Strengthen Social Connections
Going to college means leaving behind a treasure trove of shared values, experiences, and support networks. Filling this hole can be hard and overwhelming for college students, especially in the first few months. To sustain your mental health, you have to put in time and effort into connecting with new people and building relationships.
Social support is thought to reduce the stranglehold of depression on college students. Because stress can exacerbate the symptoms of mental health disorders, quality social connections can combat the effects of stress.
One of the reasons students experience poor mental health is because they’re not engaging in activities as they once were. This can lead to social isolation and the absence of peer support networks. Social isolation can be a breeding ground for depression. However, reaching out to others for help and support is often considered an effective way of fighting mental health problems.
Some tips that college students can use to strengthen social networks are:
- Join study groups for subjects you have the most interest in.
- Arrange weekly dinners with friends.
- Join sports or intramural teams.
- Reach out to on-campus community service organizations.
- Stay in touch with long-distance friends, family, and relatives with social media, emails, and calls.
Exercise is another great way to keep mental health problems at bay. From lowering blood pressure to maintaining healthy levels of body weight, exercise has been shown to provide various health benefits. College students can especially benefit from the cognitive boons of physical exercise, including better memory and critical thinking skills.
Moreover, research has found that exercise, though effective, is a highly underutilized weapon to ward off depression. This is understandable as college students find it difficult to take the time to exercise.
Fortunately, colleges and universities have programs to promote recreational activities. You can join on-campus recreation centers, and try out any exercise you feel comfortable with, whether it’s weightlifting, swimming, or a game of basketball. These facilities have a huge repertoire of sports and exercising equipment.
You have to take care of your mental health in college if you want to leave your mark. Your academic and career success depends on it.
Small pushes like having a good meal and connecting with peer groups can make a huge difference in keeping you invested in the right things. All you need is a little discipline, dedication, and drive for self-love.