College is SO great. I have already made friends that I love, and with those friends, I’ve made memories. I love all of the activities that are offered on and off-campus. I love my schedule and I love being independent. However, it is one of the biggest transitions I’ve ever gone through in my life. And sometimes with big changes come big feelings!
Homesickness, sadness, confusion, loneliness, stress, etc. Even in the midst of so much excitement, these feelings can still be valid. It’s okay to not be okay, but instead of staying stuck in these emotions, how could we take care of ourselves to push us towards personal growth?!? I’ve come up with a list of 10 practical ways we can take care of ourselves as college students!
- Prioritize sleep. Sleep deprivation has a direct effect on an individual’s mental health. The typical college student is supposed to receive 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Being well-rested helps people think more clearly and creatively and produces a positive mood! Sleep recharges our physical and mental batteries, allowing us to perform better in all we do throughout the day.
- Go for walks. Speaking from experience, this one works like a charm! Walking is a light-intensity activity that reduces anxiety symptoms. After a hard day, grab a friend, and bring your stress, then walk and talk it all out! It will feel so nice to get some fresh air.
- Spend time with friends. I’m going to preface with it is 100% okay to say no to social activities if you are overwhelmed and need rest. BUT there is a difference between taking time to rest and shutting out the world completely. Remember, you and your feelings are NOT a burden on others. Spending time with friends can improve your self-confidence and self-worth. Healthy friendships encourage positive mental health and well-being.
- Journaling. I used to hate when people told me to try journaling haha, it just seemed too cliche. But guess WHAT. The reason everybody tells people to journal is because it WORKS. It can greatly help someone who is anxious to take their thoughts out of their head and put them on paper so they can understand their own feelings more clearly. Journaling reduces stress, creates personal awareness, and helps people regulate their emotions.
- Carve out time for hobbies. It is helpful to have ways to express yourself. Having activities you enjoy is a great way to unwind from classes or studying. It can be art-related, it can be sports-related, it can be reading, it can be being outdoors, it can be literally anything. But find your “thing” and that thing may be able to help feelings of anxiety and depression!
- Message or call someone you love. I have yet to meet someone in college that doesn’t miss somebody. Staying connected with friends and family increases feelings of security and a sense of belonging. Text your high school friends, call your parents. Remember just like there are people you love, there are people that love you, and let talking to them put a smile on your face.
- Take breaks. I’m mainly referring to studying. Cramming too much information in your brain at once is extremely tiring and stressful. Taking breaks has shown time and time again to be important when recovering from stress which in turn improves your performance. A 5-15 minute break can consist of grabbing a snack/water, practicing a hobby, chatting with someone, etc.
- Exercise. The mental health and well-being benefits of exercise are endless. Exercise releases endorphins in the brain which help energize you and make you feel good. Working out can actually promote patterns that promote feelings of calmness. Can it really get any better than something that is beneficial BOTH physically and mentally?!?
- Buy yourself something. Okay, I don’t want you draining your bank account, we are college students, so there isn’t much to drain in the first place. Research has shown that shopping can help reinforce a sense of personal control over our environment. Also, rewarding yourself increases dopamine in the brain which improves your mood. Please use self-control when it comes to your money! But I do recommend treating yourself to coffee now & then, and maybe browsing around in the hawk shop haha.
- Listen to music/podcasts. I love music because there are so many different genres and artists! No matter who you are or what you’re going through, there is music you can connect with. Music can reduce stress, and elevate your mood. Podcasts, on the other hand, also offer a wide variety of genres. There are lots of podcasts specifically about mental health, encouragement, etc. Listening to music and podcasts can help you feel less alone, and leave you encouraged!
I genuinely hope that at least one of these ideas resonates with you! One last thing that helps me is… sunsets! A good sunset will ALWAYS make me feel better. For me, they put life into perspective, and remind me that life is beautiful! I’ve taken pictures of some of the sunsets I’ve seen so far in Iowa City, and have inserted them for you.