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How I Take Care of My Mental Health as a First-Gen Student

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

College isn’t easy; that’s kind of the point, right? But it can get even harder when you have no background knowledge or any parental advice to guide you. For me, being a first-gen student not only put extra pressure on me when I first started college but also, unfortunately, made me feel like a failure if I didn’t succeed at something on the first try. 

This made me fall into a really bad seasonal depression my first fall semester, one that was so bad that I knew that I needed to start taking care of my mental health and make some changes so that it wouldn’t happen again. This task was very trial and error, but lucky for you, I did that hard part so that you wouldn’t have to. 

Something that helps me tremendously is finding other first-gen students who understand what I am going through because they are also going through it. I lucked out with this because I had a requirement from a scholarship to go to workshops for first-generation students, where I met many other first-generation students during my first semester of college. Talking to people who understand me in a way that others can’t is very helpful in not feeling so alone. Surrounding yourself with people who understand your experiences can really help you realize that most of your anxieties and worries are actually just in your head. At least, that’s what I experienced. 

Another thing I utilize to help my mental health is reminding myself that I am human and I am bound to make mistakes at times. Sometimes, especially growing up as one of those pesky gifted kids, I feel like I’m not allowed to make mistakes. For so long, I felt like if I made mistakes, I was taking my parent’s sacrifices for granted. But that is also something that was just in my head, a fear I created myself. Once I accepted that I was bound to make mistakes and there was no avoiding that, I started to feel more at ease with things like schoolwork and exams. That isn’t to say that I stopped putting effort into school; more like I stopped overanalyzing and overworking myself. 

Taking care of my mental health also means not allowing myself to barricade myself away from everyone. When I was in that bad seasonal depression, I would spend days where the only time I left my dorm was to go to class. This didn’t help how I was feeling and actually made it ten times worse. Now, I prioritize seeing my friends or just going out for a walk if I catch myself spending too much time just in my room. And while, yes, our rooms can be spaces of comfort, they can also be spaces of destruction. The power that a simple girl’s night or a quick walk admiring campus holds over making a day go from bad to good is incredible. Reminding myself that rotting in my room is actively making my mental state worse is hard when all I want to do is take a nap, but it truly does help so much. 

Lastly, remembering that being a first-gen student is already a major accomplishment helps with the pressure so much. That reminds me that even if I fail at everything else in life, I will always have that accomplishment under my belt. As a first-gen student, I am actively experiencing something that no other previous generations in my family have. That’s the coolest thing ever. 

As the semester continues and school gets harder and more intense, it is so easy to fall into a sad, droopy, no-bueno mental state when you have no one to guide you or help you through that. But prioritizing mental health is a vital aspect of being a college student, and as a first-gen student, it’s especially necessary for me. And if you’re a first-gen student, I recommend trying these tips out, and even if they don’t work for you the way they worked for me, try new techniques to help yourself find your groove in college, and hey if all fails, I’m proud of you for even making it this far.  

Adamari Ruelas

CU Boulder '26

Adamari Ruelas is a contributing writer for the Her Campus chapter at CU Boulder. Her job within Her Campus is to write at least two articles a month, one contributing to a theme week. Outside of Her Campus, Adamari is a first-generation college student who is currently a sophomore at the University of Colorado Boulder, majoring in English Creative Writing. During her spring semester of freshman year, Adamari studied abroad in London, wanting to learn about different cultures while also being able to study in a Literature-rich city. Adamari also interned at the Aurora Public Schools Communications Department during her senior year of High School, where she learned how to write articles, interview subjects, and create social media posts for the department under the guidance of multiple professionals. In her free time, Adamari enjoys reading and writing, at least when she isn’t hanging out with her friends or playing Overwatch with her little siblings. She is a very proud Mexican-American who loves sharing her culture as long as Mexican history with anyone who lends an ear. Adamari is also a massive nerd, especially with Harry Potter (she’s a Ravenclaw btw) and Marvel. In the future, Adamari hopes to become a published author, sharing her works with the world and hoping they help people the way books have helped her.