According to a survey conducted by the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors in 2013, a whopping 36.4% of college students reported having experienced depression. Depression is the number one reason students drop out of school and can lead to other problems that could hurt them academically and socially. 80 percent of college students said they sometimes or often feel stressed. Constant stress can lead to anxiety; uncurbed anxiety is a major contributor to depression.
I still remember receiving my college acceptance letter to my top pick school. I ran around the house jumping up and down and screaming with joy for a good half hour. I felt like I’d just gotten my letter to Hogwarts. When September came around, I packed up and moved across the country. The next four years (with a gap year in the middle) were easily some of the best of my life. Even though I didn’t actually go to Hogwarts, they were full of all the wonder and magic that I’d expected from college. What I didn’t expect was that those years were also full of types of stress that I’d never experienced before.
College is a time of new transitions. Even if you attend a school in the town where you grew up, most people experience more independence and than they did in high school and need to start making some decisions for their future. There are also new academic and financial demands to take into account. This stress can potentially trigger mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, which can be caused by struggling brain health. Below are some tips to help prepare you for the types of stress you might experience in college:
Give yourself time to adjust: Beginning college is a huge transition, so it is normal to be a little stressed out at first. Be patient with yourself, especially if you are living away from home for the first time. Give yourself time to meet new people and make friends.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself: With all of the new demands of college life, it can be easy to forget the importance of healthy food, exercise, and sleep. Use this as a time to focus on self-care and it will have a positive impact on other aspects of your life. For example, before starting a six page paper, make sure you’ve eaten a healthy dinner. This will make it easier to avoid binge eating while writing. Avoid waiting until you are starving to eat, as you will be more likely to end up eating out of a vending machine. Hunger and stress aren’t a good mix.
Get involved: Join a club or take up a new hobby. You might discover a new passion that will help you make new friends. A hobby is also a great outlet when you’re feeling stressed.
Set up an evaluation appointment with Nicholas Hundley of MindWhale. Severe or recurring depression or anxiety can be a sign of struggling brain health. Many people don’t realize that depression and anxiety are not only caused by personality traits. They can also occur as a result of chemical imbalances in the brain or neurotransmitter malfunction. Nicholas can assess your brain health and make a plan for healing with you. MindWhale’s Brain Health Quiz will also assess your personal brain health and direct you to how to improve it.
Talk about your stress: Talk to a trusted friend or family member. Seek a therapist if needed. Most schools offer counseling or other similar resources. According to USA Today, one in ten students today utilize their school’s counseling services and even more reported having reason to use it but don’t.
Set personal values: College is a time when you can figure out what is most important to you and what type of person you want to be. Most college students are away from home and have more freedom than they experienced previously in life. Figure out which values are important to you and stick to them. This will help you to avoid behavior you might regret and not give in to peer pressure. Many people end up being swept into a lifestyle they don’t want or that doesn’t fit them because they failed to consider personal values. Values contribute to a sense of purpose in life and build strong leaders.
Make a plan to combat financial Stress: Plan in advance, make a budget and learn how to live on that budget. Talk about financial stress! Even thinking about money is sometimes so stressful that it may seem easier to avoid it. However, it will help in the long run if you set some time aside at the beginning of each semester to figure out if the money you have will cover all of your costs. If not, you can take action in time to cover those costs by getting a job or taking out a loan.