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Journals of a First-Generation College Student and Immigrant: How to Look Like You’re Keeping It Together & Your Mental Health

I know that oftentimes, for many young immigrant kids, we weren’t raised being able to recognize or even affirm our mental health issues. So we carry these habits and methods of coping with us until we’ve reached a point where we know better.

By now, we should know better.

Listen, I’m not coming here to say that I have it all figured out because that would be comical. I don’t have my sh!t figured out at all. However, there are habits I’ve developed and knowledge of these habits that have helped me feel like I do.

My motto is that if my space, appearance, and routine are in check, then I’m in check. I have to reverse psychologize myself, and it sounds crazy, but it’s been working for me, especially having made it well towards the end of my sophomore year. I will say that thinking this way does come with a downside, meaning that if one of these things is out of whack, my whole system can feel out of whack too. But, between you and me, it’s okay when everything isn’t perfect.

Your routine:

A few questions to ask yourself before looking at any tips from this section: What is my daily routine? How could it be maximized? Is my current routine something I find effective?

  • Incorporate something that is work but feels like it isn’t.

Make doing certain tasks fun. For example, I love to dance, so I make sure I listen to music while doing my laundry. I also like making videos, so I record my cleaning routine and daily tasks to romanticize my life and make every little thing something that makes me better than I was yesterday.

  • Start a project you are passionate about.

Start something on your list of “if it weren’t for this, I would do this.” Basically, everything you want to try doing but are afraid to. I started my own business because my creative mind feels like it will flourish that way. I started a podcast because I felt like I, amongst my peers, had important things to say. Making this work has everything to do with you and nothing to do with me. It doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t have to be little, just whatever your heart desires.

Your APPEARANCE :

This may not go for everybody, but when I step out of the house looking good? Baby, I feel good.

  • Develop or refine your skincare routine.
  • Haircare.

This goes for my young college men too; I know those haircuts make y’all feel like new men.

  • Shop for yourself every couple of months. 

I’m not saying spend all your money on a shopping spree, but go online shipping, or take yourself to a business you love, and get one thing for yourself every couple of months that you feel confident in, or that makes you feel confident in your space and routine.

I Look Good Feeling Myself GIF by Worldstar Hip Hop - Find & Share on GIPHY

Your Space:

This can be your room/home, and this can also be the people you surround yourself with.

Remember: stay close to people who feel like sunlight.

  • Cut negative people out.

Easier said than done, I know. But, if your family members are the negativity, try not to allow them the same amount of space in your life anymore. Try and make boundaries, even if they are small ones.

  • Invest in your space. 

Make your room look like something you’d want to come back to after a long day. If that’s things neatly packed away with your cleaning supplies’ scent everywhere or your really comfortable messy bed, make your physical space something you can’t wait to be in.

Your actual Mental Health:

  • Stop making excuses about taking steps to recognize your mental health issues.
  • Go to therapy or if that’s too intimidating, engage in something that allows you to work through any prior traumas and how they still affect your life and relationships.

 I know as POC, it’s hard to go to therapy because white folks predominantly drive the field, but there are therapists out there who are POC; you just have to find them.

Remember to give yourself some grace. You’re accomplishing so much.

If you believe you go win.
Stephanie Sika

CU Boulder '24

Stephanie Dzidzor Sika is a Ghanaian-American first generation college student at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her hobbies include dancing, cooking, and writing. Stephanie is currently working actively towards informing, sharing, and loving by way of her work as much as she can.
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