Mental health has been a serious issue among high school and college students but this year has certainly made it worse. 2020 as we know, is marked by the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic, proving to be a tough year for people across the globe.
In a recent study, 80% of college students reported that COVID-19 has negatively impacted their mental health.
These are challenging times. From coping with the sudden changes to not knowing what lies ahead — students are engulfed by uncertainty.
We’ve put together some mental health tips for college students like you to help you get through this difficult phase.
How to Improve your Mental Health and Wellbeing?
“I thought college was supposed to be fun”
If you find yourself asking this question, experiencing bouts of anxiety or having sleepless nights, you must know that you’re not alone.
Yes, a lot has transpired in the last few months and no one saw it coming. It certainly is difficult to “bounce back” and “cheer up” but what you can do is take one day at a time.
Here are 9 ways to improve your mental health and protect your wellbeing.
1. Maintain a journal
There is so much noise in this world that we really need to take conscious efforts to take a step back and reconnect with ourselves.
Journaling can help you achieve that. You will be surprised to know how such a simple practice of jotting down your thoughts and feelings at the end of every day can offer so much clarity.
Journaling is therapeutic. It helps you organize your thoughts and make sense of your emotions. It encourages you to confront yourself head-on instead of escaping.
So, set aside 15 minutes every day and take to writing a journal — you can choose to write about your day or maintain a gratitude journal, noting down at least one event/person you’re grateful for.
2. Be kind to yourself
Original: Unknowingly or knowingly, most of us talk to ourselves. What’s important to note is how we do that.
Take a moment and think — what do you tell yourself? What is your tone like? Is it encouraging or condescending? How often do you beat yourself over your decisions?
We don’t realize that the thoughts we feed our brain have the power to shape our reality. If you keep telling yourself you’re worthless, there’s no way you can do better.
Hence, it’s very important to maintain a positive dialogue with yourself. Whenever you find yourself getting stressed or anxious, take a few deep breaths and practice self-compassion. This small change can make a huge difference in the way you feel.
3. Reach out to family and friends
Social media has forced us to hide our real selves and put out a “curated” version of our lives — one that looks stunning and is filled with only happy moments.
But is that what our lives are made of? Not quite.
From not wanting to bother them and fearing being judged to avoiding the consequences and feeling ashamed — there are many reasons why people hesitate to reach out to loved ones while undergoing a turmoil.
Everything aside, remember that it’s very important to reach out and speak your mind before bottled up emotions get the better of you.
You don’t have to tell the world — just reach out to a trusted confidante who you can speak your heart out to and someone who understands you.
Talking helps, it makes you feel lighter and gives you added perspective when you’re unable to think clearly.
On being told to meditate, most people are quick to say how they don’t have the time for it.
But take this — even a few minutes of mindful meditation in a day can help you reduce stress and anxiety.
It’s easy to get intimidated by the thought of mediation. It sounds complex but in reality, it is nothing but turning inward and shifting focus to breathing. When you spend a few minutes every day meditating and accept every thought that comes to your mind, you’re likely to get added clarity and deal with stressful situations.
There are several meditation apps you can turn to such as Headspace and Calm.
5. Indulge in hobbies
College life is busy and stressful which is why it’s important to participate in activities beyond academics and essay writing.
Whether it’s playing a sport, dancing, playing a musical instrument or anything else — all of us have hobbies that bring us joy.
But how many of us are in touch with those hobbies and activities? Not many.
We get so swayed by the daily drudgeries of life that we gradually begin to lose touch with everything that made us happy at some point.
So, take a moment to revive that side of you — indulge in a long-lost hobby or learn a new skill. Doing this opens you up to new experiences and helps you unwind, and that’s extremely beneficial for your mental health.
6. Take a social media detox
Another crucial mental health tip for college students of today is the importance of taking a social media detox once in a while.
A study by Primak found a link between use of multiple social media platforms and increased depression and anxiety symptoms in young people aged 19-32.
While social media has its benefits, excessive use can lead to loneliness, depression and anxiety. Students often fall into the social media trap which leads to them believing that their lives are not “fun” enough as compared to their peers.
That’s not all, the information overload on social media also tends to overwhelm people. Hence, make it a point to not get swayed away and addicted to the world of social media.
Here’s an interesting video by MotivationGrid on how social media is destroying lives.
A good way is to set a daily limit on your phone and reduce usage so you can spend that time doing something more productive.
7. Exercise regularly
The coronavirus pandemic has forced us to stay indoors and practice social distancing. While you might not be able to go to a nearby gym or go for a walk in the park, it shouldn’t stop you from exercising.
Exercising regularly has been found to improve mental health and wellbeing, thereby boosting mood. Establish an exercise routine and commit to it.
You don’t have to do exercises you don’t enjoy — it can be any sort of activity that keeps you fit such as a zumba routine, yoga or cardio. Even a focussed 30-minute workout is certain to energize your spirits and keep you healthy.
If you’re not finding the motivation to exercise alone, why not make a group activity of it? Get onto a video call over Zoom or Google Hangouts with your friends and get exercising together.
8. Eat healthy
Just the way exercising is important, eating healthy is another mental health tip for college students that goes unrecognized.
People react differently to stress — some overeat, some don’t eat at all. Neither of the situations are ideal. What’s important is ensuring you eat balanced meals and drink plenty of water.
Apart from strengthening your mental health, it also boosts your immunity which is particularly important during these unprecedented times.
9. Seek professional help
In spite of trying these techniques, if you don’t see any improvement in your mental health, it’s imperative to seek professional help.
Remember, there is nothing to be ashamed of. There are certified professionals and therapists who can help you navigate this phase — all you have to do is reach out to them.
Seeking help isn’t always easy but you must know that it’s a positive step towards getting better and hugely beneficial. Do it for yourself, do it for your own wellbeing.
College Student Mental Health: The Takeaway
Life as a college student isn’t easy and the coronavirus outbreak doesn’t make it any easier. You don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow but what you have is today so make it count.
Use this time to feed in positive thoughts and surround yourself with positive people. There is nothing more important than your mental health so focus on staying healthy and keep checking in with yourself.
You matter, your feelings matter — don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.