You’ve done it! The caps have fallen to the ground, and you’re ready to embark on the new journey in your life and education. Your parents tell you that you are stepping into adulthood and the importance of making wise decisions, but all you hear is “wha, wha, wha-wha,” as the adults from the Peanuts cartoons. Insert an eye roll and a heavy sigh, and you’re ready for college.
You go shopping, get to your dorm, and unpack all the fresh new dopeness that’s going to have you ready for anything that comes your way and then…
You wish that you’d listened. You don’t like your roommate because they take your clothes without your permission and eat all the food out of your mini-fridge when you’re in class. They come in all hours of the night talking loudly on their cell phone. Their friends or significant other is always around. You get no peace, and you can’t say anything, because it’s their room, too.
The only thing that you have to hold onto is the fact that soon, you’ll be able to get away with the money that’s about to hit your student account. That motivation helps you make it through the late nights and early mornings. You count down, have an app on your phone, set reminders, and finally… the day has arrived…
You got your refund check, and are ready to ball out of control and party like, well, like your parents aren’t watching. Until…
Registration – $An Arm
Misc Fees – $A Leg (what are these even for real?)
Books – $Enough For The Words To Be Written In Gold
Room and board – $Your First-Born Child (Yeah, missing mooching off your parents now, free of charge, ain’t ya? Lol)
Food card – $Your Soul (And the food ain’t even that good)
Ok… ok… you still gotta lil bit to work with, but then you realize you have to make it stretch the entire semester. If you’re anything like me, you didn’t make it and had to live off ramen noodles when you used to eat Burger King during your cram sessions. You were buying meals for all your new friends, who mysteriously vanished into thin air when your funds dried up.
You finally muster up the nerve to call your parents and ask for help and then…
You look at your grades and realize that all that going out, all the games and frat parties, and time in the game room has your career on life support before it’s even begun. Now, you have to think twice about calling your parents. What are you gonna tell them? That you’re succeeding socially, and your academics are in the tank? Yeah, that’ll go over well.
Then, there’s the social aspect. How well is that really going? You find out that friends here are flakier than they were in high school. And did I mention you hate your roommate?
It’s easy to get overwhelmed. I mean, why are there so many decisions? Why are there so many assignments? Why are the classes so early? Why are the girls/guys so beautiful? Why is the food so nasty? Why doesn’t your professor understand that you had to be at that party last night, because pledging that fraternity/sorority is just as crucial to your future as your grades? Why didn’t your parents warn you about any of this? Oh wait, they did. Now, you’re in limbo. You’re not up for the “I told you so” speech that would accompany assistance from the parental units. You get the side eye and pushback from the professors that you ask for extra credit assignments to help boost your grades. You have to take up a work-study job, and catch-up on work, possibly entertain the new love of your life, deal with your roommate, and your professors suggested that you get tutors. Tests, classes, peopling, repeat. And sleep may or may not find its way in there somewhere. You and the sun become best friends you see it peek over the horizon so often. Your life has gone from carefree to full-on responsibility in a matter of weeks, maybe months, and you have to get things back on track.
This may be a worst-case scenario, but some of this is your reality if you’re a college student. And that’s why so many students find themselves suffering from mental issues that can make the college experience even more unbearable. This new world is exciting and full of hope, but at the same time, the pressure can wreak havoc on your mental well-being. Issues like reckless behavior, which can be underaged drinking, promiscuity, or other immoral acts, depression, and severe anxiety are all genuine in college. Most times, with all of the talking that your parents have given you, they haven’t told you about self-care and maintaining mental health.
Sleep deprivation, fear of failure, the newness of your environment, bullying on levels that you couldn’t even imagine, all play a part in the decline of the mental health of college students. Gratefully, most colleges and universities offer therapists on campus for students. Professors also understand to Freshmen who are still learning to navigate their new lives and course loads. Pushing yourself to the limit can come back to bite you in the behind. Take this from someone who knows. So, I have a couple of self-care tools that may help you combat the causes of mental health while attending college.
Make a Plan
Write it out, make it understandable. Plan your time, and stick to it. You know what your schedule is, and this gives you control over your time management. Say no if someone asks you to do something outside of your personal plan. I know it’ll be tempting to walk away from the books to have a little fun, take a break, or let your hair down. But discipline is necessary to be successful in college and in life after college.
Only Do What You Can
You know your limits. Don’t push yourself anywhere near the edge of what you’re capable of. Don’t take on too many classes, join too many groups, commit yourself to too much. And what you can’t do today, you can do tomorrow. Don’t beat yourself up for not getting it all done. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither were the pyramids. This is the time that you plan and schedule to let your hair down. Make and schedule breaks for yourself and take them. Don’t tell yourself that if you just get XYZ done, you’ll be okay, because before you know it, you’ll be exhausted. You deserve a break, so give yourself one.
Only Compare Yourself To Yourself
Oh, you thought you left the mean girls in high school? No sir, no ma’am, no ham, no spam, no turkey. The desire to fit into this new world can be overwhelming, but, and I know you’ve heard this before, but it’s true: There’s only ONE you. It’s their pleasure to know you, not the other way around. Eating disorders and depression can manifest by comparing yourself to others. If they don’t like you, put your best flight attendant voice on and advise them that the exits are “here and here” so that they can find their way out of your life. The ones who are for you are for you, and the ones who aren’t don’t deserve to make you feel anything other than amazing about yourself.
With your parents, your professors, your advisors, yourself. Don’t worry about what anyone has to say about how you feel or what you need. Let people know what’s going on so that when something changes or something happens, no one is blindsided. If you’re failing a class, missing an assignment, feeling alone or afraid or overwhelmed, the people who are in your life are there for you. They may be disappointed in your choices, but if they care about you, they’ll help you sift through it all and help it make sense so that you can move forward. Communication is the key to success in life. Why not start with college?
Be Honest with Yourself
The first person you have to admit anything to is you. You know yourself better than anyone else. You can tell if there are changes in your mood, your body, your view of life and/or self. These are usually the warning signs that something is off. And, if you aren’t honest with yourself about your issues or your needs, how can anyone else be of assistance?
If you see that there are changes, that you need help, please get it. Nothing is embarrassing about mental health issues. And it’s better to catch them early so that they can be treated before they consume you or become worse. Managing your mental health is essential for your life, not just in college. Suicidal thoughts, anxiety, depression, weight gain or loss, and other issues that you may be facing can play a part in your success or failure as a college student.
We want you to succeed, want you to be a happy, functional member of society, but most importantly, we want you to be healthy.
Take care of yourselves!
Hugs from the SYA Crew!