As with any health-related issue, a proactive approach can be the best remedy. Before heading to school, students should prepare a six-part mental health kit to go along with their extra-long twin sheets.
1. Improve your decision-making.
You’re going to be exposed to plenty of new things, so set yourself up for success by taking on challenges. Start small by crafting a comprehensive list of things you’ll need for college. From there, expand to a larger task like planning a group trip. Begin to stand on your own two feet and you’ll be ready to fly long before you leave the nest.
2. Familiarize yourself with mental health resources near campus.
Many colleges and universities have health centers that offer free counseling services to students. Even if you never need to use these services personally, you might have a friend who needs help. Study the warning signs of anxiety and depression, and get to know the ins and outs of mental health resources on your campus. This might include student counseling centers as well as the school’s chaplain or on-campus spiritual leaders.
3. Practice healthy behaviors.
Get adequate sleep, exercise, and nutrition on a regular basis. This means working out several times per week, eating a nutritious diet — man cannot live on pizza alone — and sticking to a consistent sleep schedule. While it might seem like alcohol and drugs are great crutches for overcoming anxiety, they can actually worsen the effects of mental illness. Instead, explore relaxation techniques such as meditation.
4. Get organized.
Managing your time wisely can dramatically decrease your everyday stress and anxiety. Incoming freshmen might be used to their parents, teachers, and coaches keeping them on task at all times, but college professors expect you to handle that yourself. Set up a schedule — complete with deadlines — for studying and finishing class assignments. Rather than try to do everything at once, consider breaking up large tasks into smaller chores.
5. Build a supportive social network.
Students who feel overwhelmed and isolated from support networks back home should do everything they can to create new support systems. These structures can include parents and friends back home, but you’ll also want to involve campus resources. Seek student support groups as well as friends on campus who you feel comfortable being vulnerable around.
6. Seek help at the first sign of trouble.
Many young adults dismiss the warning signs of anxiety and depression and see them as a part of growing up. They don’t address the root causes until it’s too late, leading to far worse consequences. If you experience any symptoms of anxiety beyond the routine college jitters — particularly if they’re interfering with your studies or social life — reach out for professional help as soon as possible.
College is a time of incredible change and self-discovery, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t stressful. Long before they move into the dorms, college students should give some thought to how they’ll tackle any mental health concerns that might arise. Students can do that by honing their time management skills, identifying resources, practicing self-care, and building a strong support network. It’s important to pay attention to potential warning signs of anxiety gone too far, but it’s just as crucial to be able and willing to ask for help.