Being a college student can be extremely stressful. Especially as we get closer and closer to the end of the semester.
Between deadlines piling up and trying to take care of yourself, it can be challenging balancing the two. I have noticed this especially in the music school, but all students similarly feel the immense pressure of the demands that college expects. It can be difficult to balance mental health, stress and meeting all of the expectations of school. Many students try to overcompensate by pulling all-nighters, missing meals and giving themselves little room for breaks in between. This is not only overwhelming and stressful, but it is unhealthy for our bodies, and that only adds to the amount of stress students are feeling.
Students who have pre-existing mental health issues also struggle during this time, and even though they may have accommodations from Student Accessibility Services, it doesn’t make meeting these deadlines less stressful or worrisome. Some professors are wonderful with understanding how stress can affect mental health, and others not so much, which just makes this whole process even more stressful and tiresome. We tend to keep quiet about mental health because of the stigma surrounding it, even though 1 in 4 college students have a diagnosable mental illness. Why are we not talking about this? And even if you don’t have a mental illness, everyone has mental health, and it is important to take care of your mental health as much as your physical health. When students are overstressed and overworked, we tend to talk about it less because people are seen as just “complaining,” but in reality, they are really struggling, and everyone deserves to be heard. Mental health is extremely important and a vital part of our lives, and it deserves to be validated and recognized.
Finals week can be the most stressful time of the semester, and many students are burnt out at this point and are struggling just to get by. Students are scrambling to get everything together and make sure that they are submitting quality work and also making sure that they are submitting it on time. When it comes to exams, many students will spend hours studying without breaks and really push themselves until they break. Students will spend hours and hours in the library, and music students will spend hours in the practice rooms to the point where they are so exhausted it can become hard to function.
For music students, there is so much going on. Between performance juries, theory hearings, exams and all of the coursework outside of the music school, it can be a lot to take on. Perfectionism is a huge issue in the music school, and I think that this mentality comes from both the professors and the students. When it comes to the arts, many students can spend hours and hours perfecting their craft, which is a curse and blessing. Even though it is admirable to dedicate so much time to music and the arts, it can also be harmful to your mental health. Students need to be able to forgive themselves, understand that it is okay to fail sometimes and that you don’t have to be perfect.
I think, as a community, we really need to encourage one another to take care of ourselves and ask for help when we need it. Resources like the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services, SAS, tutoring services and off-campus resources are great ways to go and get the help that a student may need. Asking for help is brave and courageous, and it is okay to be struggling. College is hard, and sometimes people forget that. We need to change the conversation about mental health and start talking about it.