The Mental Rollercoaster of College

DISCLAIMER: This article is subjected to the opinion of the author and is not true to everyone.

While being on campus has made my overall experience better than staying stuck at home, staring into a computer screen every day, it still feels like I’m fighting with my own brain and emotions as the days go by. It’s more than just stress: I’m consumed with the idea of failing, falling behind, wondering if the work I submit is good enough, hoping that the information I intake is enough to help me pass my midterms. Every college student reaches their breaking point.

College students are consumed with the thoughts of not having a due-over in their education: we’ve reached a point where we’ve grown past high school and need to be successful in order to get a degree, get a job, make a living. College students live in a stigma of imperfection, a stigma that often defines the high rates of failing mental health. 

Waking up early for classes with my eyes practically glued shut from no sleep, my deprived energy beats at my motivation: I walk to classes like a zombie and I don’t process the lectures. The more I begin to force myself to pay attention, the less inspired I become. The less inspired I am, the more I begin to feel physically and mentally sick. 

As someone who had to grow up in the shadow of my siblings who went to nursing school, I focused my time on being an overachiever; my goals have always been sighted on being good enough and smart enough for everyone around me. It made me an A+ student in high school who became an executive member for multiple clubs and pushed me to take the tough classes in college, but at what point do we address how abusive it is to ourselves?

Nawal Mustafa, a Ph.D. student in clinical neuropsychology and an M.A degree shares the process of high functioning anxiety on her mental health Instagram, The Brain Coach. She describes high functioning anxiety as “a continuous loop of overthinking, self-doubt, and uncontrolled worry hidden behind a mask of achievements, fulfilled obligations, and minimal participation in daily activities.” 

College students who are noted as ‘over-achievers’ are more likely to have a form of anxiety or other mental disorder. Having high functioning anxiety means appearing to be social, proactive, and hardworking, but really being critical of their own work, pushing for perfection, and procrastination due to fear of failure and stress.

Another form of anxiety college students–much like myself–may struggle with is revenge bedtime procrastination. Students who spend the entire day working and studying tend to use the little time they have left to sleep to do anything but actually sleep. This includes spending time on social media, playing games, or any way ‘me time’ is spent. 

The Just Girl Project magazine on Instagram shares that revenge bedtime procrastination is often tied to those with a circadian rhythm sleep disorder known as delayed sleep phase syndrome, in which individuals refuse to go to sleep because they feel as if they have no control over their free time during the day. It’s a way of gaining control overtime to make up for the lost time spent during the day that isn’t contributed for oneself. , attempting to stay up late to get “revenge” on no free time is more damaging to our health than “reclaiming’ it.  

The first step is really overcoming the mental disorders I struggle with as a college student by addressing the fact that I struggle with them, to begin with. My self-awareness to understanding that they’re common among people my age is crucial to my knowledge and acceptance. Next, I take some time between my cramping for classes and exams to really understand what these mental challenges mean and how I can resolve them.

It’s easy to feel like something is wrong with me because I’ve developed self-hatred for the work I serve out when it comes to my education and career. Even without the best management of my time, step by step I teach myself how to make time for myself (that isn’t taking away from my beauty sleep, that is) and how to care for my mind.

Without healing, the way I think of myself will never change. I won’t make space for properly growing and maturing. Learning about the mental struggles of college can be difficult to process, but information on how to combat these anxieties and fears and the constant anchor of unworthiness is all over the internet; taking a trip to see a counselor on campus isn’t anything to be ashamed about either. 

This article isn’t a step-by-step guide on how to erase these mental struggles from our lives to be better functioning student in college. This is about understanding that, yeah, college is a tough world for us to survive in, and it’s going beyond what I’m capable of. But you’re not alone. We deal with these struggles differently, but we can deal with them together.