Prioritizing Your Mental Health in College

Editors Note: This article contains discussions of mental health. If you or someone you know needs support, there are resources available to help. Information about Millikin’s free counseling services can be found here: You can also call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) or text HOME to 741741 to speak to someone immediately. 

Do you ever find yourself feeling upset, overwhelmed, sad, or at a loss without clearly knowing why? Do you have issues falling asleep because of racing thoughts about every aspect of your life? Do you experience different levels of anxiety throughout the day related to college deadlines and activities? If you answer yes to any of these questions, you need to take time to prioritize yourself and your mental health to understand how to develop effective coping mechanisms.

Understanding the importance of prioritizing your mental health is the first step in recognizing its vital nature. According to the Journal of Medical Internet Research, 70% of college students have experienced increased stress, anxiety, and depression since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A range of stressors were identified and described as causing feelings of defeat and increased depressive thoughts. Due to being unable to interact with friends and peers, the looming pressure of the unknown state of one’s education and the stress of trying to stay safe from the virus has caused college students to spiral into a cycle of questions with no definite answer. 

Facing your fears and addressing possible barriers will allow you to take a step towards prioritizing their mental health and discovering coping strategies to ensure success through college.

Seeking mental health services within your college campus will serve as a great resource to address any apprehensions. Talking to school counselors, advisors, and support groups will allow you to engage in expressing your problems out loud. 

Taking proactive steps by setting up counseling appointments and verbalizing problems displays adaptive coping skills, and more importantly, recognizing the problem head-on. Identifying a reliable and compassionate support system will allow you to have a safety blanket to fall back on during difficult days. 

The effectiveness of verbally expressing feelings rather the bottling them inside will enhance a sense of relief.

Engaging in campus life, joining clubs, and participating in activities have proven to be beneficial in improving mental health. Though routines can be beneficial in acquiring an efficient lifestyle, they can also harbor repetition which is the friend of uncertainty, stress, and anxiety.

 In a study conducted by Harvard Review of Psychiatry, researchers identified altering routines and personal behaviors to be successful in relieving stress and anxiety among college students. Participating in intramural sports, campus clubs unrelated to your major, attending social activities, joining workout classes, and trying new restaurants prevent students from developing a repetitive lifestyle. 

For example, the Decatur Indoor Sports Center (DISC) is always offering group workout classes as well as intramural sports competitions. Attending plays, such as She Loves Me in November on campus can serve as a stress relief outlet and may also bring you out of your comfort zone.

Promoting self-care through various mediums nurtures your mind, body, and soul. Self-care activities are infinite, however, examples include exercise, eating healthy, yoga, meditation, getting a massage, playing games, and organizing your room. 

Balancing important tasks, such as college assignments and studying, with activities such as a walk in the park and hanging out with friends, promote a well-balanced life in college. Understanding, exploring, and respecting your limits and straying away from the idea that, “This is what I am supposed to do,” allows you to not lose sight of their personal journey.

Integrating mindfulness activities such as meditation and deep breathing will help clear your mind and regroup. A great resource is an app called Calm. It provides short meditation sessions that consist of guided breathing, short stories, and acoustic music.

Prioritizing mental health is a vital part of success in college. Understanding and accepting that constant challenges will be thrown your way will help you take the time to promote their mental health and seek out help. 

Taking the courageous step in addressing your mental health is half the battle. Conquer that step and not only will your mind, body, and soul thank you, but so will your conscience.

“Mental health is not a destination, but a process. It’s about how you drive, not where you’re going.” Noam Shpancer, PhD.