4 Ways for New College Students to Support Better Mental Health

You may have heard that colleges and universities are facing an epidemic. The American Psychological Association reports that one in three college freshmen reported dealing with a mental health disorder in a report shared in September 2018. Why the increase in anxiety, depression and substance abuse? Most experts will point to the increased demands placed on new students and a large number of young adults entering college that already have a diagnosed mental disorder. Some of these students may already be in treatment, but many are reluctant to seek out services on campus that can help them.

Abi Leung, Brand Marketing Manager LIV Student shares, “Adjusting to living away from home, in addition to the financial strain of university expenses, the benchmark of academic success, the tension of career outlooks and the expectation of an active social life can be arduous for students to manage.”

There are several simple steps that new college students can take to ensure they help boost their mental health.

Exercise

It may sound too simple, or cliché but exercise is truly one of the best things you can do for your mental health. It doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming to make a difference. Start by finding something you love to do. Even something as simple as walking can be a great physical activity that boosts your spirit. If you love being in the water, taking up a regular swimming practice is a great form of exercise. Try out different physical activities and see which ones you enjoy most. The ones you enjoy are the ones that you’ll most likely stick with. Finding an activity to do three times a week for at least 20 minutes will provide a boost to your mood and your immune system.

Find a Hobby or Fun Pastime

One of the challenges of being at college is managing your time. It’s easy to spend all day wrapped up in studying for exams and not take time out for fun. You may find that you need to put it on your calendar like any other appointment you would have. If painting is your passion, carve out time to paint a few times a week. One of the best ways to keep up with activities you love, meet new people, and develop strong friendships is to join a club at your university. Most universities have hundreds of clubs to choose from for just about any interest.

Nancy Roy with HigherEdToday.org agrees. “Research has shown that loneliness and isolation are significant risk factors for mental health problems and suicidal behavior. Supportive social relationships and feeling connected to campus, family, and friends are protective factors that can help lower risk.’

Check Out the Student Health Center

Going to the health center to acquaint yourself with the services they offer is a great way to be proactive about your mental health. You can find out if they have walk-in hours for counselors, as well as finding out what services and resources they can offer. Many universities have support groups that meet regularly for students that have anxiety or depression.

Practice Stress Reduction Techniques

Before you start college, start learning techniques to help reduce stress, such as meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises. There are a variety of apps available to help you do guided meditation. Calm is a popular app that provides short meditations you can do throughout the day. Other similar apps are Breathe, Headspace, and Rootd. Not meant to replace a professional, these apps are great tools to help you when you need it.

College can be a stressful experience, as it’s a time filled with change and pressure. It’s important that you make mental health a priority, just as much as you would make physical health a priority if you had a sore throat.

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