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7 Steps to Checking in On Your Mental Health During College

December 1, 2020

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College is a time full of new places, faces, classes, and decisions. Though it's true that all of these new experiences can be exciting, they can also be very overwhelming and stressful. Even when you think that you're "feeling fine", it's still important that you take a step back from time to time and evaluate the status of your overall well-being.  Why is this so important to do? Well, unfortunately, many college students do not realize that they are struggling with their mental health.

If you find that you're overwhelmed, stressed out, feeling down, or are just not feeling like yourself, here are 7 steps you can take to not only check on your mental state of being, but also to start feeling a little better:

1. Take a Break

The first thing that you should do when checking in on your mental health is to stop everything that you're doing. Shut your laptop, turn off your television, and put down your phone, textbooks, and assignments. This will give you the chance to clear your mind so that you can take a break and truly assess how you're doing. Even though it may be hard to take a little downtime, it's important for your wellness. You do not have to take a major break either. Instead, you could take a day or two to wind down and really give your mind the rest and reset it needs. 

2. Ask Yourself How You're Feeling

The next step you should take is to sit down and evaluate how you've been feeling over the course of the past week. Have you felt happy? Sad? Anxious? Stressed? Tune into your emotions and write down on a piece of paper how you've been feeling during each of the past 7 days. If you find that you've written down more negative feelings than positive ones, chances are, you may be struggling with something in your life, and your mental health could be taking a hit in the process. The key here is to be honest with yourself. After you've given your feelings some thought, consider taking Step 3.  

3. Write a List

If you find that you aren't feeling quite yourself, write out a list of all of the significant events that are currently taking place in your life. Then, divide that list into categories - events that are bringing you positive emotions and events that are bringing you negative emotions. Finally, look over that list and consider taking a break from anything that is stressing you out or making you feel down. Again, it's important to be honest and to take breaks from activities that may be weighing you down. Short, temporary breaks can make a world of difference and you can go back to those activities (should you choose to) when you feel better.

Student asleep at the library

4. Reflect On Your Sleeping Habits

Getting the proper amount of sleep each night is vital to your overall mental health. When you don't get enough sleep (the recommended amount of sleep for adults 18 years and older is 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night), your mental and physical well-being may be negatively impacted. This was proven in a study conducted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) which showed that with each additional night of insufficient sleep a person had, the risk of suffering from mental health symptoms increased by more than 20% on average.

5. Perform a Breathing Exercise

Another step you can take towards bettering your mental health is to perform deep breathing exercises. Most breathing exercises only take a few minutes to do and have many positive benefits for your mental health such as easing anxiety. Furthermore, studies have actually shown that deep breathing has the potential to reduce negative subjective and physiological consequences of stress in healthy adults. The best thing about breathing exercises is that they can be done anywhere at any time.

6. Talk to a Close Friend or Loved One

If you find that you're struggling with your schoolwork, are having a hard time transitioning to college life, or just aren't quite feeling yourself, give your loved ones a call. Tell them what's going on in your life and how it's making you feel. Don't be afraid to ask them for advice. Your family and friends are the people who know you best and will always be there for you, especially when times get tough. Having a strong support system can really help make challenging times easier.

Student with head in hands

7. Do Something That Makes You Happy

It's easy to get caught up in everything that's happening in your school and personal life which can lead to many students forgetting to take part in activities that bring them joy. Set an alarm on your phone during the day as a reminder to go out and do something you love such as exercising, painting, cooking, writing, doing a puzzle, or even talking to your loved ones on the phone. Trust us, your mental health will thank you!

College (and life in general) can be extremely stressful at times, which is why it's so important to keep a close eye on your mental and physical well-being. If you find that you're struggling in school or just don't feel quite like yourself, don't be afraid to try out these 7 steps to check-in and re-evaluate your mental health. Step 6 is the most effective for us. Just remember, when it comes down to it, a clear, positive, and healthy mind will always help you succeed in college and beyond.

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