By Dominique Paliani
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
College is a time that students have the most independence and responsibility, no matter if they go to school away from home or locally. During college students meet new people, new stresses, and new experiences all on their own with all of these exciting events happening students are going to have to make sure their mental health is good. Mental health problems can affect a student's concentration, energy levels, and workability. Students have to make sure that they are taking care of their mental health along the journey. Here are some ways to make sure you take care of your mental health.
1. Get Enough Sleep
No matter how many assignments you have to get done or social events you want to attend, students need to prioritize sleep. According to the National Institute of Health, experts recommend that adults sleep between seven and nine hours each night. Stanford University article Among teens, sleep deprivation an epidemic states sleep deprivation increases the likelihood teens will suffer myriad negative consequences, including an inability to concentrate, poor grades, drowsy-driving incidents, anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide, and even suicide attempts. Prioritizing sleep will show positive effects on students' academic performance.
2. Take Time for Self-Care
Students need to take time for themselves, doing things that they enjoy. Everyone's self-care looks different and there is no correct way. Self-care can be reading a book, journaling, taking a hike, and even having a movie night with friends. Anything that you enjoy doing take time to add that into your daily routine. As students, it is easy to get caught up in your school work and the other stresses in life that it is hard to forget what is important. Finding time for self-care is part of a healthy routine while maintaining positive mental health. Self-care will also boost your mood, doing something that makes you happy will help get through the tougher moments of the day.
Gia VanGorder a SUNY Brockport student states, “Taking extra time in the morning to get ready and make myself a bigger breakfast, even though it sometimes makes me late, helps me get through the day with a happier outlook.”
3. Take a Break from Social Media
According to the Pew Research Center, 69% of adults and 81% of teens in the U.S. use social media. Using social media increases the risk of feeling anxious, depressed, or ill over their social media use. Whether that is worrying about how many likes, not looking a certain way, or seeing the “false” reality on social media. Mass General Brighams article on The Social Dilemma: Social Media and Your Mental Health state, “Social media have a reinforcing nature. Using it activates the brain’s reward center by releasing dopamine, a ‘feel-good chemical’ linked to pleasurable activities such as sex, food, and social interaction. The platforms are designed to be addictive and are associated with anxiety, depression, and even physical ailments.” As a younger generation, college students have grown up with social media, using it to see what friends are up to or even breaking news. Taking a break from constantly checking in helps prevent yourself from feeling left out since you are not doing those things or you do not look a certain way.
Gia VanGorder states, “When I am using social media, I am constantly comparing myself to what other people are doing, and it makes me question if what I am doing is good enough or failing to be as successful which causes me stress and anxiety because then when I post I feel as if I am looking for validations on what I do with my life.”
4. Take care of your body
When you are taking care of yourself physically, it can improve your mental health. Taking care of your body means making sure to eat nutritious meals, drink plenty of water, and exercise. By eating a nutritious diet students will notice an impact on their mood, sleep, energy, and focus levels. NorthStar Transitions article on Can Drinking Water Help Improve Mental Health? informs readers that our brains are 73% water, which means drinking lots of water is important for a healthy brain. Not drinking enough water can lead to the brain starting to shut down which then leads to symptoms of depression and anxiety. It is recommended to exercise 30 minutes a day. Different ways you can exercise for 30 minutes would be going to the gym, going for a walk, and even dance classes anything that gets you moving. Dr. Shawna Charles from Walden University in the article 5 Benefits of Exercise states exercise helps with depression and anxiety, decreases stress, increases self-esteem and self-confidence, helps with better sleep, and is a brain boost.
Zach Deignan a University of Albany student states, “Most of my exercise comes from playing soccer, not only does it get me moving but it helps me relieve any stress that I have going on that day and also helps me get extra energy out which helps me sleep better at night.”
5. Set a routine for yourself
Routines can be calming and help reduce anxiety. In college you are responsible for your own routine it is not like high school. Routines create structure, planning when you want to wake up, study, eat, and exercise around similar times each day can help give students a sense of control over their life. Giving yourself a routine also helps you remain busy throughout the day instead of just sitting in your small dorm room. A routine does not have to be anything crazy either it can be a simple routine that just helps you get through the day with normal daily tasks. For more information read L K Monu Borkala's article The Daily Routine of a College Student: A Guide to Productivity, Health, and Happiness.
6. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help
It is OK if you are struggling with your mental health to ask for help. There are resources on college campuses no matter where you attend, like counseling, that are accessible to all students. Counseling on or off campus may not be what works for everyone, if reaching out to a family member or friend is more comfortable for you that is also an option to start with. Seeking help is not always the easiest, but it is necessary in order to get back on track. Everyone struggles with mental health at some point, it is important to remember you are not alone on this journey. There are others just like you struggling who are willing to help.
This is a Niagara University student-created piece completed as part of the course CMS 226A. For more information, contact the Niagara Frontier Publications’ managing editor.