Managing Mental Health in College

There is no doubt that college is stressful. Trying to balance a social life, job, and of course hours of schoolwork can seem like all too much. College students experience stress due to academic work, exams, grades, sleep deprivation, financial worries, relationships, and future plans. I am currently taking a healthy living class, and one topic we discussed was mental health on college campuses. I was fascinated becoming more aware of how mental health can really take a toll on college students' lives. Something that really stuck out to me was that college officials have stated that although more young people are attending college, the majority do not know how to handle college stressors. With not being able to handle these stressors, higher rates of depression have been on the rise in colleges.

Being a first year student at the University of Iowa, so many changes took place in a short amount of time. I moved five hours away from my parents, I left behind my friends and walked into a new social environment where I knew no one, and I had to tackle problems on my own as a mature adult. Being so far away from home with few social connections makes for one lonely adjustment. I know the most common saying is, "you find your best friends in college," but what nobody mentioned was the process of finding them. My first month at Iowa I tried so hard to meet as many people as possible. I thought that having so many friends would make me feel less lonely, but in reality I was filled with more stress and anxiety about trying to keep up with all of their plans. I tried so hard to fit into certain peoples lives because I wanted to find my college best friends. It wasn't until I took a step back to realize that I didn't need a hundred friends. Yes, having good social connections is important and I can still talk and hang out with them every now and then, but really all I needed was four or five close people to connect with. After I got over the fact of wanting everyone to like me, I really started to see the true people around me. I really opened up to some and I started to see the common traits I shared with them. My mental health started to spike up in a positive direction.

Having a good friend base is really important for mental health. Everyone is stressed in college, but having people to turn to for support is really important. Ever since I found the people that make me feel good about myself and allow me to take a breath and have fun, I found myself to be more positive and actually have a better mindset when it came to my education. I love how I can do homework and talk about school, but at the same time still go out and make life-long memories. Looking back to even three months ago, I would not have been able to tell you that my friends I have now would mean so much to me. I could also tell you that my mental health was not in a very good place either three months ago. I had such a negative attitude and really thought I would never find people who would get me. 

That's the funny thing about college and life in general - there are days where nothing will go right. Everyone has bad days, but prioritizing your mental health is so important for not only your mental sake, but for your life in general. Putting yourself first and making sure you stay on top of your sleep, healthy eating habits, and social life can be beneficial towards your mental health. Although this post was not just to brag about how supportive the friends I met at Iowa are, I hope reading this made you think of some awesome people in your life that push you to be a better you. Life is so messy, and sometimes we forget to stop and give ourselves credit for what we are doing. With only one month of the DECADE left and THREE WEEKS of the semester left, try to be nicer to yourself. Don't stress about the little things, and know that everything will be okay.