Finding Wellness in College

By Deonna Jackson (former MHANYS intern)

As college students, we are told that these years will be the best of our lives. College certainly has been a great experience but as a current college student, I can attest that it can also be very stressful. Throughout the school year I must balance many things. There is so much pressure to get good grades and I am constantly being told to study, study, study! There are exams, papers, midterms, and the dining hall food isn’t always the best. College students can have it rough. It is not uncommon to struggle academically and to miss home and your mother’s cooking.

The good news is there are a wide arrangement of activities in college. Participating in activities is essential to maintaining balance in my physical and mental health. I have found that keeping a reasonable amount of balance between school work and social activities is crucial in college. Too much of either can leave me feeling overwhelmed and neglectful of the other. What allows me to keep a balance is time management. Time management is so helpful in college. If done right I’m able to prioritize my homework and still have time to be social on campus. Planning ahead plays a large role in my ability to socialize the way I want to. If I have projects and assignments that will be due weeks or so after the assigned dates I attempt to start them as soon as possible. Not waiting until the last minute helps me to create a manageable balance and I feel less stressed as a result. I also practice balancing the different components of college by being intentional and deliberate with my time. This means realizing that I am human and I cannot be in more than one place at a time or give my attention to multiple things. I have to choose to be productive during that certain activity. I practice setting boundaries and time parameters for friends, school, and social activities alike.

The hobbies and resources that I have in college allow me to practice the best well rounded health. However, when I am stressed I also have strategies to help me deal with the stress. Some of my coping mechanisms include deep breathing, counting down backwards, and identifying objects I can see, hear, touch, taste and smell to stay present in the moment. I enjoy painting, writing, and coloring as a way of destressing. Throughout college I also noticed how much my diet and exercise affects my mental health. I realized when I eat a lot of fried foods over a long period of time my mental wellness suffers as a result.  On the days that I exercise I tend to feel my best. I don’t always get to do a full routine but doing some exercise has benefits because it gets my heart moving and my mind off of the work that I need to do.

I am also thankful because of my fitness tracker I can challenge myself to reach the daily suggested steps of 10,000 every day. This keeps me focused and excited about exercising. Exercising the way I want to is hard in college so with something like this I feel energized and as though I have accomplished something great. These are just a few of the daily routines that I practice in order to stay mentally healthy but it is so important to find out what routine works for you.

There are also other resources that are open to students and faculty at most colleges.The fitness center usually has the elliptical, treadmill, bike and a number of different weights and weighted exercises. Counseling, group therapy, and the spiritual life office are also great resources to take advantage of and are available to students even before they are stressed. Some colleges engage in what are called stress relief weeks. Stress relief weeks encourage students to engage in self relaxation through meditation, arts, and music. Joining clubs and study groups on campus can also be helpful in finding support and a network that fits best for each student.

As I mentioned before these are just some of the ways that students can deal with stress on campus. It is important for all students to explore what wellness means for them at college.