When I first started college three years ago, at orientation what they never really mentioned were ways to manage and maintain your mental health. Sure, they mentioned a place you can go on campus if you need to talk to someone but that was about the extent of that conversation. Now, while that’s great for them to mention, they should talk about and have more resources. I personally have not gone to talk to anyone on campus about things I’m struggling with because I just don’t feel comfortable with that, so I’ve had to find alternatives that worked best for me for managing mental health in college.
I don’t want to say that these work for all mental illnesses. Or that these tips will work for all people with anxiety this is just what I found works for me!
Managing Mental Health in College
Find Your Quiet Space on Campus
I’m on campus five days a week and all day – most days. Campuses are constantly filled with people everywhere at all times and that is not my jam. So, when I have my breaks between classes and work, I like to find spaces that have no or little amounts of people in them. Like right now, I found a computer lab to write this post in where no one is at – granted there is no air conditioner in here but that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make for some quiet.
The quiet space allows me to have a second to breathe because if there is so much going and a lot of noises I feel like my head is spinning, I can’t concentrate on anything, and I become very irritable which can spin into feeling very panicked. Being in a quiet space might not make my anxiety go away completely, but it can stop it from turning into a panic attack for me.
Your Mental Health > Everything Else
Our culture right now is OBSESSED with the mindset that if you don’t work yourself to death, you’re not doing enough. People seem to be in this competition about who can do more than other people, or who is the most tired. It’s a really scary and toxic concept for people to think that being burnout and drained all the time equals success. I’d be lying to you if I said I don’t fall into that trap sometimes, too. I can feel guilty if I didn’t do enough productive things in a day. But if you’re exhausted and burnt-out, are you enjoying the success you have? Is it worth it? I personally don’t think it is. If I’m constantly burnt-out, but I’m still publishing blog posts or even as simple as posting on Instagram, I feel like crap because I know that’s not the best that I can create.
It’s so important to make sure that you’re okay mentally before doing anything else because your mind is in control of everything that you do. So, if it’s feeling negative things it’s going to create negative things. Your mental health comes before anything else. One of my favorite sayings is that “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. Which is incredibly true. You need to make time for yourself before trying to do anything for anyone else.
No One Has It All Together
The comparison game is one of the worst things that can trigger my anxiety. I could be scrolling through Instagram and be happy for these people that are doing cool things and then all of the sudden I’m feeling a little panicked because so-and-so is my age and doing and accomplishing more than I have and I’m just sitting here on the couch on my phone. And it can turn into this really ugly spiral that nothing in my life is good enough or that I’m not doing enough.
But think about it, if I wasn’t me and looked at my page I would be like wow, look at this relationship this girl is in and that she took a cool trip to Nashville recently. It’s the same for everyone’s feed. Why? Because no one is posting the bad stuff, only what they want you to see from their lives. No one is posting their 2 am panic attacks or that they haven’t showered in a few days because that feels like the hardest thing in the world right now. No one wants you to know that stuff, so they don’t post it.
Literally, no one has it together. And if they say they do, they’re either lying or sold their soul to the devil. Your life is constantly changing. Curveballs are being thrown at you and you can drop the ball sometimes but that’s okay. We’re all walking around sorta confused but trying our best and that’s all we can do.
So next time Sally comes to class all put together and looking like she’s got it all figured out – she doesn’t. Don’t be too hard on her or you.
Dedicate One Day a Week for You
Having one day out of the week to get yourself together with life is a really great idea. I personally like to use a Sunday as a day to clean my room, catch-up on blog things and homework, and do things for myself that I slack on during the week. This way, I can start off my week feeling fresh and prepared and keep my anxiety at bay because I took care of the things that could set it off if they aren’t taken care of.
For me, I like routines because it brings me a sense of security. It’s also an aspect of my day that I can control. A lot of times when I really feel like I’m struggling, it feels like everything is out of my control. But I’ve found if I have a routine I can fall back on whether that be morning, night, or creative routine it makes me feel a little better and feeling like I have some sort of control.
Check-in With Yourself
We tend to ask our significant others, friends, and family how they’re doing, but how often do we ever actually do that for ourselves? At the start or end of the day, take a full-body scan and check-in to see what you need? Are you hungry? Have you had enough water today? Did you get enough sleep? What emotions are you feeling? If you’re able to do something about it right away, great! Maybe not right now but take the time to care for it until it gets better.
If You Have to Skip Class, Skip It
I tend to get even more anxious if I skip a class, but there are some days when I just can’t get out of bed or the thought of having to go and be in class terrifies me. I know that if I go to class on a really bad day, I know that I won’t be paying attention to the lecture anyway because I’ll be really nervous and be hyper-aware of everything going on around me or what people might be thinking about me (when in reality, probably no one is even thinking anything about me, but my anxiety says otherwise).
Don’t let other people make you feel bad about skipping class when you know you just can’t do it that one day. Don’t make it a habit because that wouldn’t be good either, but a day here and there not going won’t be the end of the world.
Do Something for Yourself Every Day
I have to wake up around 5:30 every morning to get ready and get to class on time. What I noticed in my last two years is that I wouldn’t feel great just waking up and getting ready immediately. So, I told myself that I was going to make it a point to do something I enjoy every morning before I do anything else. That could include watching a YouTube video, do something for my blog, or just sitting quietly with coffee. As tired as I am from this week getting readjusted to being back, I felt more ready for the day doing something I like. Rather than getting ready for the day right when I woke up.
Play Music That Calms You
Music is something that can have a really drastic effect on my mood. I put on music every single morning when I wake up and when I’m getting ready. It helps me keep feeling calm when I wake up. My anxiety tends to get really bad at night, so I like to listen to softer music and close my eyes and focus on just that. But knowing I have certain songs that I can turn on to help me calm down, even just a little bit, is really nice. And you can always create a playlist of all the songs you know that calm you down – or amp you up! – that way everything is in one spot for when you need it. Or finding calming meditation music that doesn’t have words to distract you!
These are just a few of the most effective things that I found help me keep my anxiety under control somewhat. Of course, these aren’t foolproof, I still get panic attacks every now and then and I have my breakdowns, and these might not even work for you! But I wanted to share some ways in case it can help others.
What are some things you do to keep yourself feeling okay during the school year? I would love to hear about some other things that I can also incorporate into my life!