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Ways to Stay on Top of Mental Health in College

       College is often described as “the best four years of your life,” and while that might be the case for some folks, this representation can make individuals feel alone when they go through difficult times. It’s perfectly normal to experience ups and downs in your mental health; the American College Health Association reported that 62% of undergraduates experienced “overwhelming anxiety” in 2015.  

        With this round of midterms reaching its peak, and the next cycle right around the corner, it’s hard not to feel stressed at some point. Coupled with psets and projects from other classes, and commitments to extracurriculars and relationships, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the emotional and physical strain of college. While we are often resilient enough to “tough it out,” and just brute force our way through the difficulties in life, it’s important to make sure that you won’t end up being burned out. Taking care of your mental health before reaching a crisis point can help you succeed academically and personally and help you feel less stressed in your day-to-day life.

       Keeping up with your mental health doesn’t have to mean talking to a therapist, or seeing a psychologist–there are easy ways to self care that don’t even involve the presence of others. Read on for some concrete steps and resources you can utilize to manage your stress and improve your mental health!

Self-Care

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       What is self-care, anyway? It’s a phrase that is frequently tossed around and often associated with pampering oneself. The truth is that self-care is unique to each person that practices it–it can range from drinking more water to taking a long shower to talking to friends. How we take care of our mental and emotional health is personal and varies incredibly between individuals, and there is no “right way” or “best way” to self care. 

       A great way to check-in about what might be a great self-care activity is asking yourself “what ‘refuels’ me?” For some people, that may mean taking alone time to meditate, write in a journal, listen to music, or exercise. Other people may need to be around people to recharge, forgoing homework for one night to have a long dinner with friends, or hosting a board game night. Sometimes self-care is less glamorous, and means taking small steps that improve your quality of life, like taking a nap, using a good smelling lotion, taking medication as prescribed, or accomplishing an errand. Do what you need to take care of your mental health.

 

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           It can be difficult to regularly carve out time to practice self-care, but try putting it in your calendar or to-do list or set daily reminders on your phone. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as checking off academic and work-related tasks, and budgeting time for yourself will end up saving you time in the long run. You will do and feel better if you give yourself time to recharge.

            If that doesn’t seem realistic for your schedule, try to sneak in self-care in small places: set aside the 10 minutes between classes for a meditation in a quiet spot, grab a coffee and really pay attention to the taste and warmth, stretch your muscles or do a few quick yoga poses while studying, and walk mindfully from class to class, paying attention to the colors and movement all around you. These small acts of self-care definitely add up.

 

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Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Grab a table at Crema Café and savor your favorite drink with a friend

  • Walk along the Charles River and spend some quality time by yourself

  • If you want even more nature, head over to Fresh Pond, just a 15 minute bus-ride away

  • Cuddle up in your favorite blanket and watch an episode of TV

  • Spend some time with Tulip and Thomas during the Counseling Center’s Take a Paws drop-in hours (Thursdays from 12-1pm and 5-6pm)

  • Spend some time with a good friend (if they’re far away, arrange a Skype date!)

  • If exercise gets you going, make time to get to the gym! Maybe head to a group class like Zumba, Yoga, or Barre at the gym!

  • Meditate using an app like calm

 

Know your Resources

Another important aspect for taking care of your mental health? Knowing your resources. Check out these amazing services on- and off-campus. Never be afraid to reach out for help. Whether you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, or like you’ve been run over by a thousand trucks, there is never a wrong time to seek out help. There are many resources available, and everybody there wants to help you out. 

 

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Resources at Harvard:

Harvard University Counseling and Mental Health Service

      Harvard’s counseling center provides free counseling services, peer support groups, and peer counseling. They also have two therapy dogs available during drop-in hours and for appointments. They can be reached during business hours at 617-495-2042, or for urgent care at 617-495-5711 (ask to speak with a mental health provider).

 

Bureau of Study Counsel

      Harvard’s Bureau of Study Counsel is a great resource for support in academic and personal concerns. You may want to reach out if your mental health starts affecting your school work or motivation. They run counseling, workshops, support groups, and have online resources. You can call them at 617-495-2581.

 

Office of Seuxal Assault Prevention and Response

        The Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response is Harvard’s resource for survivors of sexual assault, harassment, domestic violence and other interpersonal violence. They provide confidential assistance and provide information, and can be reached at 617-495-9100.

 

Harvard Student Mental Health Liaisons

      Harvard Student Mental Health Liaisons (SMHL) is a group that strives to promote a campus community that “attends to the emotional wellbeing of students” and provides factual information regarding mental health and illness by students, for students. If you’re interested in learning more about mental health, they’re a great place to start.

 

Resources Outside Harvard:

Zencare (https://www.zencare.co/therapists/boston)

     Zencare is the simplest way to find an off-campus therapist. Find quality-vetted therapists, psychiatrists, and dietitians recommended by peers, and book free a phone consultation directly on the site. Search for therapists in Cambridge and view introductory videos and photos to help you find the right provider for you!

 

Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC)

     The BARCC provides support to survivors of sexual assault and their loved ones through medical and legal advocacy, hotline services, and mental health counseling. They also provide group counseling for English and Spanish speakers. They can be reached at 1-800-841-8371.

 

National Suicide Hotline

     The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open 24 Hours, 7 days a week, and takes both calls and messages through their online chat on the website. This confidential resource services those in distress, as well as friends or loved ones who may be concerned about someone dealing with the effects of suicide. They can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.

 

Trevor Project Lifeline

       The Trevor Project provides crisis intervention and counseling via phone and messaging for LGBTQ+ people ages 13-24. Their website is full of resources for LGBTQ+ individuals regarding sexual orientation, gender identity, suicide prevention, and more. They can be reached at 866-488-7386.

 

Bri Pastro is an intern at Zencare.co 

     

Amy Zhao

Harvard '18

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