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rory and paris from gilmore girls
rory and paris from gilmore girls
The CW
Wellness > Mental Health

If Your Living Situation Is Harming Your Mental Health, Here’s How You Can Cope

College is one of the most mentally taxing times in a person’s life. Whether you’re a bright-eyed first-year, or a post-grad still new to the working world, you’re sure to have had your fair share of struggles. And between balancing meetings, never-ending lecture halls, part-time jobs, sports, job hunting, homework, grad school applications, and cramming cold pizza between your teeth in the spare 15 minutes you have in your schedule, the last thing you need is another stressor.

The very last thing you need as another burden on your backpack-laden shoulders is a stressor that not only follows you home, but lives with you. 

That’s right, you won’t always be as fortunate as Paris and Rory in Gilmore Girls to land a roommate who has differences, but that is willing to learn how to live together. Or, you might find yourself living with your best friend only to realize that you do not live well together a month into the semester. Roommate spats are almost always inevitable, but disagreements can quickly turn into hostility. Which can, in turn, really mess with your mental health — especially if it’s happening in the space you’re meant to call home.

So what do you do when the Yale dream turns into the episode of Gilmore Girls where Paris throws Rory out, and you find yourself walking on eggshells in your own home or bumming it on one of your classmate’s crusty, college couches? 

I spoke to Milton Gonzales, an educator and life coach from McAllen, TX on managing your mental health in a living situation that harms it.

Implement Stress Management Into Your Routine.

This may seem like a big ol’ duh in the era of self-care, but it’s still so neglected in the average student’s routine. 

“College can be stressful, so it’s important to have healthy coping mechanisms to manage stress,” Gonzales says. “Consider practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, or mindfulness meditation, having a structure can help you feel more grounded and reduce stress.” 

Even if it’s just 5 minutes, you’ll find that those deep breaths you took before you walked through your apartment door, or that daily walk you implemented into your routine, can really help you relax and give you a boost of confidence. 

You might not have an immediate solution to a difficult roommate, but incorporating stress management activities like meditating can help ground you and improve your mental well-being as you figure out what to do. 

Build a support network.

When you don’t have a healthy relationship with your roommate(s), social time outside your dorm walls becomes even more important. “Make connections with friends, roommates, or classmates who can offer support and be there for you during challenging times,” Gonzales says. Setting aside time to just have fun with friends can feel like a waste of time for an anxious, overextended college student. But, you’ll find that after a quick coffee date with a good friend, you’re better able to cope and have a higher emotional tolerance when you go back home to a tension-filled environment. 

“You can also seek out mental health resources on campus, such as counseling services,” Milton tells Her Campus. Therapy can be pricey, especially for an undergrad student subsisting off of $2 pizza rolls, but a lot of campuses include these services in tuition prices. It may be worthwhile to take a trip to your Health Center and find out!

Seek help.

Navigating roommate tensions can be tricky, especially in a new environment. Although it may feel uncomfortable, living in a potentially toxic environment can really harm your mental health in the long run.  If finding a new living space seems to be the best option for your mental health, and if you’re in college, you can reach out to your RA, Student Life Director, or director of student housing, and they can help you navigate safely relocating. However, if you’re in an off-campus apartment, or trapped in a lease, you can look around for someone to take over your lease. The most important thing, however, is to reach out for help, especially if your mental health is strained.

“Don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you’re struggling with your mental health,” Gonzales says. “Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional if you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression.” 

It’s disappointing when living situations don’t live up to your 00’s TV show standards, but you’ll find that you’re not alone. Your space is your space, and you deserve to protect it.

Ashlynn is a published poet who studies Religion and English at Southwestern University. On the off chance she isn't writing or burying her nose in another psychology book, she is probably eating sushi with her friends. She loves boba, doing yoga, and rummaging antique vinyl stores!