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Now at the halfway point through my college experience, I can’t believe that I was a freshman a full two years ago. It’s a mildly confusing yet amazingly fun time in your life, where you’re confronted with so many changes. You have tons of new social, academic, and professional opportunities right in front of you. I also remember that while it was such a fun experience, I felt overwhelmed and a little unsettled at times. Even small amounts of change can be difficult, so uprooting your entire surroundings can require some adjustment! It’s important to try and take the time to develop a few strategies that can help you feel more grounded, a little less overwhelmed, and ultimately enjoy yourself even more! Here are a few mental health tips that I wish someone had shared with me when I first moved to college.

Develop a sleep schedule

I know that going to bed at a decent hour is virtually impossible sometimes (especially in college), but I've found that I feel much better if I consistently go to bed and wake up at the same times every (week)day. Obviously this doesn't get accomplished every night and virtually goes out the door on weekends. But if you at least try to get comparable hours of sleep most nights, you'll feel more alert and generally better throughout the day!

Don't be afraid to take alone time

I know that one of the biggest adjustments for me when coming to college was how I felt that I never had time to myself. With classwork and more opportunities to go out, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and like you don't have enough time in the day to do everything. I'm also the kind of person who always wants to say yes to plans! However, I sometimes find that taking an hour of alone time to either get my work done or just chill can be helpful. It also helps you to be more present next time you go hang out with friends!

Find your favorite study spot

Having that one consistent spot in the library, dorm, or anywhere else on campus that you can always go to for studying can make a big difference. It helps establish a routine and makes you feel little more organized and motivated. At SMU, I'd recommend the centennial reading room, or the fourth floor of Fondren! Having a study spot that you always go back to is also great for when you need to get out of the dorm room, but still have a lot of work to do.

Establish a morning routine

This can be difficult before an 8 am, but I promise it makes all the difference. Just waking up, doing your skincare routine, and making a cup of coffee + breakfast helps you wake up and feel more awake for your morning classes. Starting your day off the same way all week also help you feel less overwhelmed as classwork starts to pile up.

Spend time with the people you connect with the most

You're going to meet so many new people when you first get onto campus, and in the very beginning it can feel like you don't know who your solid friend group is yet. Personally, I found that I felt the best freshman year when I spent my time around the people who I had the most fun with! Prioritizing my time with these people helped me establish a friend group/support system that keeps me grounded during times of stress.

These are some pretty generic tips, but they really are helpful to keep in mind as you go through your first year of college. Overall, don’t forget to prioritize your mental health and take time for yourself! 

Ruthie is a junior at SMU studying Psychology, Spanish, and Neuroscience. Born and raised in Texas, she loves to travel and enjoys reading, watching Netflix, and spending time with friends.
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