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Mental Health

The Good, the Sad, and the Lonely: Battling Mental Illness as a College Student

As anyone who has suffered from mental illness can tell you, it is a constant uphill battle. Though some days can be better than others, traversing the darker moments in life can be daunting – especially as a full-time student. Navigating through undergrad is a feat in itself Add the fact that you can barely get out of bed, and you have a recipe for disaster.

During my freshman year at Rhodes, my mind was in a constant tug-of-war between obligations and the desire to succumb to the constant impulses of staying in bed and wallowing. Below, I’m going to tell you a few tips I followed to stay sane and make it through the school year (virtually) unscathed. 

1. Make a Routine

  This tip alone was probably my saving grace. As someone who suffers from depression, it can be hard to accomplish basic tasks such as cleaning, homework, exercise, or even basic hygiene. To make it through the day-to-day, I adopted a regimented routine that I completed day in and day out (apart from when I was deathly sick). Here’s a rough sketch of my routine on a normal weekday!


4:45 a.m.: Wake up, head to ROTC PT

7:00 a.m.: Leave PT, shower, make my bed, eat a small breakfast

7:45 a.m. – 8:50 a.m.: Finish any remaining work from the previous day

9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.: Class

1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.: Work-Study/Study time/Lunch

3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.: Unwind time, tidy up my room if needed

7:00 p.m. – 8:15 p.m.: Dinner 

8:15 p.m. – 11:00 pm.: Study time/ Homework time

**4:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.: Work at restaurant (this was only once or twice a week!)

10:30 p.m. – 11:15 p.m.: Get ready for bed, lay out clothes for the next day

Just because you’re sticking to a routine doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your social life! Socializing with my friends was an invaluable aspect of college life and helped me through some of my roughest periods. Social time with friends during the week usually took the form of lunch or dinner breaks, unwinding time, or sometimes we met up to study!

2. Sleep

GET. ENOUGH. SLEEP. I cannot stress this enough. As college students, it can almost seem as though we are in a competition with our peers to boast about who pulled the longest all-nighter. This is a competition you do not want to win! I made a personal rule with myself that if it isn’t done by 11:30, go to sleep and finish it in the morning.  I followed this process all year and it turned out just fine! That assignment will be waiting for you in the morning when you wake up, and your body will thank you for allowing it to get the rest that it needs. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults aged 18-25 receive 7-9 hours of sleep , but states that anything falling into the range of 6-11 hours is deemed acceptable. Moral of the story? CATCH THOSE Z’S! 


3. Emergency Kits

During rough patches, just going through daily hygiene seemed impossible. Luckily for those days – which thankfully were few and far between – I had an emergency kit. My emergency kit consisted of abbreviated versions of all my basic hygiene needs and allowed me to stay somewhat fresh in about half the time my regular routine takes. Basic hygiene is essential, and if it’s not taken care of, can affect your entire mood. Here are a few basics that were in my emergency kit. 


  • Mouthwash/Floss

  • Spray Deodorant

  • Burt’s Bees Face Towelettes

  • Hair moisturizer/Comb/Brush

  • Lotion

  • Vaseline

  • Body Spray

4. Seek Counseling 

Most schools have great counseling and therapy options that you already pay for through tuition! Rhodes offers free counselling sessions with any of their psychologists or clinical counselors; however, you can schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist for a per-visit fee. Take advantage of the resources your school offers and swing by the health center. Counselors are more than happy to talk to students about a range of issues whether it be mental illness, stress, homesickness, or even testing anxiety. If talking to a counselor one-on-one seems daunting, most schools offer some variation of group therapy that allows you to express yourself through various forms and process with a group. I took advantage of this resource my first year and learned some valuable coping skills that I still use to this day! The Rhodes counseling center is located in the Moore Health Clinic next to the refectory. Email [email protected] or call (901) 843-3128 to schedule an appointment. 


5. Take a Day Off

This one is a last resort option, but there have been a few occasions where I have emailed my instructors to inform them that I cannot make it to class and submitted my work via email. Rhodes’s class attendance policy notes that specific attendance policies are put in place by individual instructors, but it is strongly recommended not to miss any more than three days of a MWF class and no more than two days of a TR class as that amounts to a week’s worth of classes. There are exceptions to this rule which include school sanctioned activities, medical emergencies, or other circumstances that may arise. I have found that the best policy is to come to class on a regular basis. Personally, missing class only added to my anxiety since it would put me behind in group discussions. Use your best discretion when determining if you need to miss class. Make sure it does not turn into a habit, but remember you have the option if you need it!


College can seem like an inescapable pressure-cooker that keeps building , but it is important to remember that your mental health comes first! Those assignments, deadlines, and club meetings won’t mean anything if you’re not okay. If you are ever in crisis or need someone to talk to, reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255).


Taylor is a Computer Science major and Spanish double major at Rhodes College and a member of the Army ROTC program at the University of Memphis. In her free time, Taylor enjoys cooking, exercising, and spending time with friends and family!
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