6 Tips to Care For Your Mental Health in College
If you are struggling to care for your mental health in college, you are not alone.
According to a World Health Organization study, about 35% of college freshmen report symptoms of mental illnesses like anxiety or depression.
While the transition to college life can be full of challenges, there are many practical ways to boost your mental health in college. Grace freshman Annika Frick and senior Katie Kleckner share their advice on tending to your mental health in college.
Do Your Research.
One way to alleviate stress before you move to college is to do your research ahead of time. Unknowns like what to pack and what move-in day will be like can affect the mental health of college students. Luckily, you can find videos and online articles on these topics to help you prepare.
It may also be helpful to find a current college student to mentor you and answer your questions. This may be a sibling, an older friend, or someone from your church. If you can’t find someone who would be a good fit for you, you could even ask your admissions counselor to put you in contact with an upperclassman at your college.
You can begin your research by reading through these resources:
Create a Routine.
When you go to college, it can be helpful to get into a routine. Scheduled homework time can prevent the stress brought on by finishing your homework right before it’s due, and consistent meal and sleep schedules will keep you healthy physically and mentally. Schedules affect the mental health of college students differently, so it is important to figure out what works for you before you get to college. That way, it will be easier to fall into the routine when classes start.
“Make sure that you get organized early in the year,” says Kleckner. “I know that it’s hard to balance your school life and social life, but it’s important to find a way to manage your time. I’ve found that buying a planner and dedicating time to each part of my life to be really helpful.”
Build a Support System.
It is important for you to have a support system to encourage you as you encounter common obstacles that affect the mental health of college students. Your support system should include people who know you well and can comfort you if you’re feeling down.
“When you are able to step out of your comfort zone and into that mindset of building community, it opens up space for easing that transition into a new stage of life,” Frick says.
Before you move to college, you can continue to build your relationships from home, but it will also be important to balance your support system with friends from your college. You can find future classmates on social media or at connection events your school offers like PreUnion.
When you receive your roommate information over the summer, you can start texting, talking on the phone, or even meeting up with them in person. By the time you get to campus, you will have people on and off campus to support you.
“My biggest struggle when transitioning to college was realizing that I moved to a place where I didn’t know anyone and no one knew me,” Kleckner says. “It was like starting over, in a way, and that was really hard. During this time, I found it really helpful to talk to friends and family back at home but also connect with my RA and RD on a regular basis.”
Find Quiet Time.
Finding quiet time to recenter yourself is important. Everyone reacts to stress differently, so before you go to college, pay attention to how you respond to stressful situations and learn what coping tools work for you. Does getting lost in a book calm you down? Is it helpful for you to write your feelings in a journal? Do you relieve stress by going for a run? Figuring out what works best for you beforehand can help you prepare for future challenges.
“Plan to have time each day to do devotionals, read your Bible, or just spend time with the Lord,” Kleckner says. “I found it helpful to take time to drive around Warsaw. It let me have time to myself, call my family to catch up, and learn more about the town I was living in!”
Diving into the Bible is a great way to read the stories of people who struggled in their lives and turned to God for comfort. You can start by reading the Psalms to look at followers of God who trusted God through their hardships.
“Quiet time and devotional time are immensely valuable to help maintain a clear mental space and be in connection with Christ,” Frick says. “Giving yourself a safe space like that to process heaviness and stress is really helpful.”
Know You Aren’t Alone.
The same challenges that are affecting your mental health are impacting the mental health of college students everywhere. As you struggle with the stress of living in a new place, know that there are others around you who are dealing with the same issues.
“Everyone around you is always going through something, so being graceful and kind to others is really important,” Frick says. “When you’re in that mindset, it can help you create a mental space of being kind to yourself as well.”
It’s important to push yourself out of your comfort zone so you can feel connected in your new environment, but don’t forget to take a step back if you feel overwhelmed. Your family and friends are ready to face these obstacles alongside you.
It’s Okay to Ask For Help.
Asking for help might not be your first response, but it can make all the difference between when in comes to the mental health of college students.
If you’re worried about college classes, there are campus resources like the Learning Center that can help you understand the course material and bring up your grades once you get to campus.
Support systems exist to encourage you, but they can only do so if you open up to them about how you’re doing. Be honest with your friends if you’re worried about transitioning to college. Even if you’re unsure of what your friends can do to help, bringing up your feelings and concerns is the first step to getting the support you need.
The transition to college may not always be easy, but you can face this challenge knowing you have the strength of the Lord on your side. As you prepare for the life changes ahead of you, you can prepare to have positive mental health in college before you even get to campus.
“Entering college, there are a lot of changes, some expected and a lot unexpected,” Frick says. “If you are able to gently ease into being open to change and what the Lord can do through it, I think that can be really beneficial as you prepare yourself for freshman year.”
If you find yourself struggling with your mental health in college, counseling could be your next step. Counselors can provide assistance as you face your new environment and adjust to college life. The mental health is important, and no one should have to go through these challenges alone.
Grace College offers eight free sessions of counseling each year for its students. Learn more about how the Counseling Center helps our students maintain positive mental health in college.