Attending college is innately stressful — from taking exams and managing heavy workloads to figuring out how to pay for tuition and books. Short-term stress can be healthy and even motivating, providing you that extra energy boost to raise a grade, polish an essay or pursue a new career opportunity.
But the American Institute of Stress reports 4 in 5 college students experience frequent or chronic stress, which takes a toll on health. If you’re among them, take note that May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, the perfect time to learn new strategies to unwind and take care of your mental well-being.
As an adult learner who’s started or returned to higher education, stress can be heightened as you juggle multiple roles — as a student, parent, employee, and possibly a caregiver. Often all at the same time. National University recognizes and supports your roles by offering a holistic approach to student success and well-being called Whole Human Education™. We offer the academic, financial, career, family, and emotional support our students need to excel professionally, personally, and academically.
To support your emotional well-being, our Student Wellness Services provides self-serve resources and personalized assistance for challenges including divorce, custody, domestic violence, housing, and safe childcare. We offer services through Silver Cloud Health, an online behavioral health provider, and TimelyMD, which provides free on-demand remote mental health counseling.
Managing Mental Health When Life is Hectic
Perhaps you need to ace an exam to get a passing grade, or you’re working overtime to pay for an unexpected and costly car repair that just wiped out your budget. Ever feel like if one more thing goes wrong, you might just lose it? Before your stress or anxiety reaches the boiling point, here’s how to reclaim your peace of mind.
Six Ways to take care of your mental health and Destress
The World Health Organization offers tips on how to take care of your mental health and well-being to stress less.
1. Talk to a trusted friend or loved one
By talking to someone you trust — whether a friend, family member, or colleague — you may feel better simply by openly sharing what you’re going through with a caring listener. If someone you trust isn’t nearby for a face-to-face conversation, a video call, phone call, or messaging app can allow you to connect.
2. Get some daily physical activity
Be active for at least 30 minutes daily, whether it’s running, walking, yoga, dancing, cycling, or even gardening. Choose your favorite activity — any type of movement counts.
3. Do things you enjoy daily
Have a regular routine with activities that make you feel happy, whether playing with your pet, walking in the park, reading a book, watching a film or TV series, or cooking for yourself or loved ones. Doing activities you find meaningful and enjoyable helps you maintain good mental health.
4. Avoid harmful substances
Avoid drugs, alcohol, or tobacco to cope with what you’re feeling. Although they may seem to make you feel better in the short term, they can make you feel worse in the long run and put you at risk for diseases or injuries.
5. Practice grounding techniques
To free yourself from racing thoughts or worry, turn your focus to the world around you. Here’s a technique to try: Take three slow deep breaths, feeling your feet grounded on the floor, as you notice five things you can see, four things you can hear, what you can smell, and what it feels like to touch your knees or something else you can reach.
6. Find professional help
If you feel like you can’t cope with the stress you’re facing, seek professional help by calling your local mental health helpline, getting in touch with a counselor, or scheduling an appointment with your doctor. It’s important to remember you’re not alone, and there are people who can help you.
The Link Between Mental Health and Academic Success
If left unchecked, mental health problems can hinder your academic performance by affecting your energy level, concentration, dependability, mental ability, and optimism. An American College Health Association survey reveals that students who reported psychological distress also reported receiving lower grades on exams or important projects, receiving lower grades in courses, receiving an “incomplete” or dropping courses altogether.
According to the association, college students identified the following mental health challenges as hindering their academic performance within the last year:
- Stress (30% of students)
- Anxiety (22%)
- Sleep difficulties (20%)
- Depression (14%)
What are specific strategies for maintaining good mental health while in school? The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers five tips:
- Become self-aware. Learn to identify your strengths and weaknesses, and which learning and mental health coping strategies work best for you.
- Develop a supportive network. Form a group of friends with whom you can spend time and talk. If you feel uncomfortable sharing difficulties with friends, seek professional help at your school’s counseling or tutoring center.
- Get organized. At the beginning of each semester or course, set up a student success notebook with all of your course syllabi, needed books, assignments, and tests highlighted.
- Take care of your physical health. Eat regular meals, exercise, and get plenty of sleep. Some activities like meditation and yoga will also help with stress.
- Master time management. Avoid procrastination, be on time to class, turn in assignments on time, set up a study schedule, and stick to it. And don’t forget to balance your work schedule with time for leisure.
National University Student Services
At National University, we understand the demands of student life, and we’re working to take the stress out of the college experience by offering a wide variety of student and wellness services. Whether you need career guidance, veteran services, tutoring information, or help adjusting to our fast-paced 4- and 8-week courses, Student Services‘ knowledgeable and caring staff is here to serve you.
We also believe holistic wellness is integral to student learning and success. Our Student Wellness staff can help you on campus or online with a variety of issues, including mental health concerns; housing, financial, and food insecurities; financial wellness and budgeting; solutions-focused and options counseling; and referrals to University and community resources.
National University Supports the Whole You
National University is breaking barriers in education. Through our Whole Human Education™, you’ll get the emotional and social support you need to stay on track, finish faster, and reach your personal and professional goals. If you have questions about going back to school, contact us at [email protected]