Going into college can be a difficult task on its own — a new setting, leaving friends and family, a completely new schedule and sense of independence, just to list a few things. But when you add any kind of mental illness or disorder onto the already existing loads of stress, it can seem extremely overwhelming. It’s officially Mental Health Awareness month, and I want to share my top tips for coping with mental illness while in college. One of the most important things is to realize that you are not alone in this struggle. There are so many other people, myself included, that have struggled to deal with mental illness while in school. I hope that these tips will help you, as well!
Please keep in mind that my advice is mostly centered around dealing with depression, insomnia, and anxiety, since those three things are what I have personal experience with, and I wouldn’t want to give you any misleading advice. However, the tips could be used for other issues you’re trying to overcome, so read on!
Find a Support System
I cannot stress to you how important it is to find a few people, even your family, (but preferably people on your campus) that you trust and can tell about your mental illness. These people don’t need to be your personal therapists; merely telling someone that you are dealing with struggling with things can be enough. This way, they can subtly notice if something is wrong, or be there as an open ear if you need it. I know it might feel like you’re “burdening” them with your problems, but trust me, if they’re really your friends, they’ll want to be there for you! Creating a real connection and establishing an authentic friendship with them will help in knowing that you are there for them, too.
Learn About Your Campus Resources
Though sometimes it isn’t always easily accessible and there might not be as many resources as you’d hope, most, if not all, universities have a counseling center that is specifically made for dealing with mental illness struggles. Their services may differ from school to school, but I know at mine they have free counselors for you to meet with. If they decide that you should also meet with outside resources, they will be able to refer you to an outside therapist or psychiatrist. Using in-house therapists can be especially helpful, as sometimes they can become expensive if you outsource.
Look Into Mindfulness
I’m just starting to get into mindfulness (confession: it’s been something I’ve been taught in groups and therapy for years now), but especially for anxiety and depression, it can be extremely helpful. Basically, it’s taking that “inner voice” that can make you think negatively, and turning it into something positive. It’s a great way to make you more aware of your thinking and thought process and reshape it into something productive. Courtney over at As We Stumble Along has some incredible guides on mindfulness.
Keep a Journal/Log
Though I’ve always been into planners, I’ve recently gotten into keeping a daily log of how I’m feeling. Sometimes, that takes the form of a journal or diary. Especially when you’re first learning how to cope with your mental illness, writing down what you’re feeling, what happened before and after, and how it changed the rest of your day can be very helpful. It can be beneficial in finding your “triggers” and creating ways of getting around them. It’s also really cathartic to be able to write down your personal thoughts with absolutely no censorship, and if you’re worried about people reading them, keep them in a locked diary or in an encrypted file on your computer.
Keep Yourself Busy and on a Schedule
This is something that works for me, and I’ve found that I struggle more with my depression and anxiety when I fall out of routine, like during breaks or days with low homework and study time.If you find that you have the same problem, you can establish your own personal schedule, even on days when you don’t have class or work. Wake up at the same time, stay away from your bed, set tasks for certain hours, and try to stick to it as much as possible. Keeping yourself busy is a majorly productive way of keeping your mental illness under control, and make sure you don’t out-do yourself and try and accomplish too much, or it could make it worse.
Find One or Two “Me Time” Activities
Along with your new personal schedule, making a conscious effort to find “me time” activities and allowing yourself to detox from work and school will do wonders for your mental health. Being able to relax is not only super fun, because it can involve activities like Netflix, reading, or bubble baths, but it’s also a vital part of coping. If you keep to your schedule 24/7 and go full throttle all day, every day, you’ll find that though you might be too tired to feel stressed or depressed, you won’t be happy, either. Plus, being tired and emotionally drained all the time leaves you more vulnerable to episodes (panic attacks, depressive periods, triggers), which are obviously not good at all.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help
Even though you’ve heard this multiple times, when all is said and done, you need to be able to ask for help when you need it. I am with you on this one, I know it is hard to admit that you can’t do it by yourself. It forces you to swallow your pride and make yourself vulnerable – one of your mental illness’ worst enemies. But, if you have a support system like we talked about earlier, they’ll be happy to help you! They love you and want to see you be happy and successful.
If you’re still struggling with anything or are looking for resources, there are a few websites and phone numbers that I’ve found particularly helpful listed below. These are good in your phone for when depression and anxiety hits. I’ve either used all these personally or I’ve had them just in case, so I can tell you that they’re all very good. You can also search on the Internet, there are massive communities in many places for mental health struggles, which means you just have to find one that’s right for you. Remember, if you’re dealing with any kind of emergency, please get the help you need. You are absolutely deserving of being happy.
- 7 Cups of Tea (Chat boards)
- SAM – Self Help for Anxiety Management
- Lifeline Crisis Chat
- The Thoughts Room (Calming, Your Thoughts Fade Away)
- The Comfort Spot (Chats and boards)
- The Quiet Place (Calming mindfulness)
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline
Alexa is a contributor for The Young Hopeful and a lifestyle blogger from New York City (born and raised in California). She is on her way to getting her BA in English and her MS in Publishing, with the dream of working in a publishing house in the city. She loves her friends and family, YA novels, and staying up until 3am watching Gilmore Girls. You can find her on her blog, Facebook and Twitter!