Balancing Mental Health and College

I will start off by saying something very cheesy: a healthy mind equals a healthy body. It may sound very cliché, but when I finally decided to receive counseling for the first time freshmen year, I understood how true it is. I always thought that my mental health was perfectly fine but being a college student really showed me that counseling during this stage of our lives is indispensable! 

Before starting my first year at Lafayette, countless scenarios ran through my mind about my perfect freshmen experience. Scenarios like hanging out with a large group of friends with similar interests, reading my romantic novels on the quad, working on my art, being part of many clubs, and being the best in my class to name a few (also having a handsome boyfriend on the soccer team wouldn't hurt either haha).

It was not until I arrived here and faced a completely different world, far from home, my family, and starting from zero, that I realized that attaining the unrealistic standards I had created in mind was going to be un poquito difficult.

College can be a place where we meet our best friends and live the best experiences of our lives, however, it can also be a source of stress and social anxiety for this same reason. At least for me, it has never been easy to socialize and make new friends, and I think it is a very common pressure that many of us experience as we reach this new stage of our lives at college.

Forming a social life in college is scary, and undoubtedly induces a lot of stress. We have the pressure to talk to new people and there is always the lingering thought “but what if they don't like me?” How do I know that they are the friends I want to spend my next 4 years with? How can I fit in the group while also being true to myself? These are many of the questions that I asked myself many times (and I even continue to ask myself). Those are normal doubts and concerns when experiencing something new, however, it is when those questions and those concerns consume all our energy and thoughts that our mental health can begin to decay.

I remember getting so worried about making friends and being liked by everyone. Whenever an attempt to approach someone didn't work, I began to wonder if there was perhaps something wrong with me that made people dislike me, or that I needed to change in order to adapt to my social circle. Suddenly, my enthusiasm to meet new people transformed into discomfort when being in public, feeling judged or feeling watched by everyone, and resulted in my isolation from everyone for fear of not being good enough. Not only did my mental health deteriorate but I felt the harmful effects on my body. I lacked the energy to get up every morning, to laugh, to do what I liked, my eating habits were harmful and I no longer performed well in my classes. 

It was at this precise moment, that I understood that I needed to seek help. Giving ourselves a reality check is something we all need to do to check in on ourselves. It is brave to admit that we do not feel well and need to take a break. We each need to tune in with our emotions in order to understand what is truly causing our stress and anxiety and then find a solution for it. It is never too late to face that anguish and fight it for our mental, physical and emotional good.

When dealing with balancing health and college, the counseling center has played a very important role in my life. I had never received therapy before and I must admit that I had many assumptions about what it meant to open myself to a stranger. But, the first step in overcoming our fears is to put aside such assumptions and give it a try. Believe me, you will not regret it. It is healthy and an act of self-love to look for a way to let off steam, to talk about our feelings, to cry all the anger or frustration we have inside.

In my experience, the counseling center at Lafayette is a very friendly and confidential space where you can request a counselor and setting that suits your identity and personal needs. Perhaps it is not easy for everyone to take the first step of opening up, but trust me, the simple act of making an appointment is already great progress.

Something that I must make clear is that the counseling center is only a resource. The real change begins within us and our own mentalities toward overcoming adversity. Being able to talk with a counselor allows us to learn new ways to manage our stress, or what habits to incorporate/avoid in order to maintain a healthy mind. However, we are the ones who need to first claim responsibility for our own wellbeing by being the change we wish to see in our world.

I am a sophomore now, I am still shy and struggle to make friends sometimes (and in case you were wondering, I still haven’t found that perfect soccer boyfriend). But I like to remind myself to take it easy and give my mind and body time to rejuvenate. Never forget that this is a process and you shouldn’t feel discouraged if you may not feel better right away. Give yourself some time and credit for every little step of progress you make. It is a very slow but gratifying journey where you’ll find you end up learning even more about yourself than you could’ve imagined.

 

Counseling Center information:

610-330-5005

607 High Street

2nd Floor Bailey Health Center