Taking Care of your Mental Health in College

Starting college is an exhilarating journey. The anticipation of newfound freedom, academic challenges and creating lasting friendships can be thrilling. However, amidst this excitement, it's easy to forget the potential strain on your mental health. With unfamiliar surroundings, a new set of responsibilities, and the pressure to succeed, your mental health can sometimes take a backseat. So here's a guide for new college students (and their parents) to go over to ensure that your mental health remains a priority:

1. Recognize the Change: Understand that the college environment is significantly different from what you've experienced before. Homesickness, adjusting to roommates, or managing coursework can be challenging. Recognizing and preparing for these changes will make your college experience more manageable.
2. Establish a Routine: Our brains love predictability. While college is full of unexpected events, establishing a daily routine can provide stability. Include time for meals, study, relaxation, and sleep.
3. Stay Physically Active: Physical health and mental health are closely related. Sign up for classes at your college’s gym or do your own routine, most colleges have a really impressive gym with membership often included in your tuition, take advantage of this perk.
4. Eat Balanced Meals: Junk food might be tempting, but a balanced diet fuels the body and your mind. Avoid excessive caffeine or sugar, as they can impact sleep and mood.
5. Sleep Well: Pulling all nighters might seem like a rite of passage, but sleep deprivation severely affects your ability to function and your emotional well being will suffer. Nobody is at their best when they are exhausted, prioritize sleep.
6. Stay Connected: Loneliness can be a significant issue in college. Make an effort to join clubs, participate in activities, and strike up a conversation with those in your class.
7. Alcohol: It may feel like a right of passage, but being that you are under 21, take the time to weigh if drinking is worth getting expelled or worse over. If you are going to drink, make a plan, always have a designated driver and someone watching your back, never leave drinks unattended and never accept a drink from someone other than a bartender or one you pour yourself.
8. Set Realistic Goals: Striving for perfection in every subject and extracurricular activities is not realistic. Focus on doing your personal best and always remember it's more than okay to seek help if you're struggling.
9. Seek Help When Needed: This can't be stressed enough. Whether it's academic counseling, talking to a professor, or seeking psychological services, there's no shame in asking for help. Most colleges offer counseling services free of charge to students, but you have to take the first step and seek help. One of your first trips on campus should be to student services to see everything your College or University has to offer.
10. Limit Screen Time: Excessive use of phones or computers can lead to feelings of isolation, disturb sleep patterns, and contribute to anxiety. Set specific times when you can unplug.
11. Stay Informed, Not Overwhelmed: It's good to be knowledgeable about world events, but limit your exposure if it begins to affect your mental health. Consider designating specific times of the day for news or social media and try to avoid it first thing in the morning.
12. Remember Self-Care: Amidst the hustle and bustle, it's vital to take time for yourself. Whether it's reading a book, listening to music, or taking a walk, find what relaxes you and do it, no excuses.
13. Stay Financially Savvy: Financial stress can be a significant source of anxiety. Budget wisely, take advantage of student discounts, and attend financial counseling classes if they are offered by your University or College.
14. Engage in Regular Reflection: Journaling can be an excellent way for you to process your experiences, understand your feelings, and track your mental well being.

Starting college is a monumental transition in your life or your child’s life. You are starting your first solo adventure and for parents, you are allowing them to fly solo for the first time! Both parents and students, this is a huge accomplishment, there will be tears and challenges along the way, but it will be an amazing experience as long of you take care of yourself. Your mental health needs to come first, make a plan, transfer your prescriptions to a nearby and accessible pharmacy, set up counseling on campus, online or off campus and arrange for prescription check appointments to be done during holiday breaks at home or during the year virtually. By making a plan and being proactive, you can ensure that your time at college is as amazing as possible. Good luck class of 2027!

All the best,
Team SG

*Through our partnership with BetterHelp, you get 10% off your first month! www.betterhelp.com/themisunderstood

Food for thought:
What is the one thing you are most excited about as you start college?
For parents, what is the best piece of advice you gave your college student?
Was this piece of advice based on something you did or wished you had done in college?

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We hope you are all enjoying our blogs, if you have anything you would like us to write about, please let us know. -SG