Mental health in college is tricky. I feel like everyone has struggled at some point. While challenges often echo others, they remain individualized in source, severity, manifestation and solutions. Thankfully, it is finally being talked about, and students seem keenly aware now of its importance.
However, a greater awareness did not prevent mental health challenges coming in, in an immense wave during the pandemic, and the landscape we have been dropped into is far from the ideal for keeping a peaceful mindset.
Our education was restricted to small boxes on a screen, and the in-person interaction with our college friends, organizations and professors that previously defined everyday life took new forms that sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. The internet acted both as a social lifeline and a source of distress from increased use or already-present stresses from social media. In addition to the stresses with the pandemic and its multifaceted impacts and the reckoning with racial injustice many had to confront last year, we saw an election cycle spiral into what can only be considered distressing for all who could bring themselves to look at the horrifying spectacle.
In short, if you have found yourself struggling with mental health with regards to school or social interactions, just know you are not alone in feeling that way and our circumstances have made it so most of us are in similar mental states.
So then, what is to be done if everyone is struggling with different things in unique ways and toxic stress at times feels inescapable?
Well, I am far from a guru or expert, but the biggest thing to me is to find ways to center yourself on what you want to do and try to be consistent (at least a little). The best way to do this is to find some set rituals for yourself to do each morning and every week.
It can start small, like making sure your bed is made or doing some push-ups before you leave for class so you can start off your day with a little boost of accomplishment. Make sure not to spend too much time mulling in bed in the morning too! Those 15 or 20 minutes on your phone before getting up add to a lot of time each week. If you need to, I have found it helpful to use an app to block social media on my phone for a few hours in the morning and I think it is good overall to find some time away from those apps and sites in one way or another, either by setting time limits or blocking in certain windows. Schedule workouts or join an athletic club so you can keep up your fitness (and by extension, mental health) in a regular way while having a social group attached.
It is also a big help to ensure you have all of your tasks in front of you and organized. It can get hard not to feel overwhelmed, but using software like Google Calendar and Notion (for which there are some great YouTube guides) have become a great help.
Beyond day-to-day though, if you need help, make sure you take it and reach out. It may not be ideal for you that the Center for Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) remains on telehealth, but it’s still there for the students. While I have no direct experience with them, I always remember it as an option if I feel the need.