An Evidence-Based College Mental Health Checklist for Students
If you or a loved one is studying, it can be a difficult time for your mental health. Today’s students are subjected to more stress, more workloads, and more peer pressure than ever before. That’s while living in a modern world of “always-on” communication, managing stress at home and from social and economic factors, and trying to get good grades at the same time. The result, in 2022, The Harris Poll conducted a study with Fortune Magazine, finding that 3 in 5, or 60% of all college students reported symptoms of mental health issues.
Balancing the stress of college, moving away from support networks and family for the first time, peer pressure, and economic and social crisis can be difficult. Explicitly making time to take advantage of mental health facilities, to assess mental health, and to deliberately take part in activities that improve your mental health.
This evidence-based checklist is a good place to start.
Be Aware of Campus Mental Health Offerings
Nearly every campus offers significant mental health offerings, ranging from real clinical psychological help to awareness courses and classes. Simply checking what your college or university offers means you will be aware of those resources when and if something goes wrong. You’ll want to know:
- What mental health services are offered?
- Can you attend preventive courses or sessions?
- Are there sessions to improve mental health before something goes wrong? E.g., stress management or meditation?
- Is there an emergency hotline or text line you can call at all hours of the day? If so, add that to your phone.
- What do you do if you have to take a break for your mental health? Who do you talk to?
In most cases, you can walk into campus office to discuss what your options are, how you can get help, and what the steps are. This is important because one study showed that 48% of young adults suffered mental health problems during the pandemic. Yet, of those, 36% were unable to even access counseling.
Get Involved in Social Activities
Loneliness and isolation are key contributors to mental health problems of anxiety and depression. With many students moving away from friends and family to study in dorms, loneliness is also a major issue on campus. Focusing on studying and avoiding parties and people can be helpful at times, but if you try it for the long-term, it will negatively impact your mental health.
In fact, over 34% of all college students report feelings of loneliness, emotional or social. Taking the time to get involved with social activities, to make friends, and to get and give support can help with your mental health. While that will start out by taking part in sports, clubs, and activities, it should grow into having real friends whom you can get support from and give support to.
Build Realistic Habits
Good self-care habits can do a great deal for your long-term mental health. However, if you try to take on too much or too much at once, you will fail and will only make yourself feel worse. For that reason, it’s important to set realistic goals, to build them up slowly, and to focus on improvement rather than suddenly better.
What are good habits?
- Getting 7-9 hours of sleep a day
- Keeping your space tidy (Spend 10-15 minutes cleaning up before you to go bed, every day, don’t use more than one plate at a time and wash it in between use, etc.)
- Getting 1800-2200 calories per day
- Sticking to daily recommendations for alcohol intake (0-1 serving a day for women, 0-2 servings per day for men)
- Eat healthy meals, roughly following the guidelines of something like MyPlate.gov. Doing meal prep once a week so you have food ready and don’t have to stress about it can help.
- Avoiding recreational drug use
- 30-60 minutes of light to moderate exercise per day (walking, swimming, cycling, etc.)
- Keep caffeine intake to 1-2 beverages per day
In most cases, you want to start small and build up over time. So, it wouldn’t be a good idea to start everything at once. But you could start going to bed and getting up at the same time every day and making sure you eat healthy about 80% of the time is a good start.
Work On Your Mindset
Most people spend a lot of time stressing, caught up in thought, and seeing negative as the normal. For many people, disrupting those cycles is critical to mental health. In fact, a significant amount of behavioral therapy and counseling centers around doing just that. For many people, taking time to see positives, to relax and focus on the present moment, and to break negative downward spirals when they start is a powerful and major step in improving mental health.
Doing that will often mean recognizing when you’[re in a negative spiral. Stopping to go “Here are the pleasant things about X” or taking time to consider what good things happened that day can do a great deal for how you feel.
At the same time, people often need help with this. Finding perspective and mindset shifts on your own is difficult, especially if you’re already in a bad place. Getting help, counseling, going to therapy, or going to something like mindfulness can help with creating those perspective shifts.
Make Time for Yourself
It’s easy to get caught up in constantly having to work, to study, to do things for your friends or family, etc. Unfortunately, that’s not good for you. In fact, it’s a good way to increase stress and even to burn out. Making time for yourself, on as many days as you can, is an important part of mental health.
That may mean taking 30-60 minutes a day for a hobby. It may mean taking time out to read or to be on Instagram. It may mean going to the park and feeding birds. Whatever you do, make it something you enjoy. Most psychologists will recommend that you choose a hobby that doesn’t involve social media, just because social media can introduce a lot of peer pressure that makes you feel bad.
Eventually, taking care of your mental health may involve getting help. It may mean recognizing that you’re not in a good enough state to do self care yourself. Part of your mental health checklist should involve taking time to talk to counselors and professionals to make sure you’re doing well. Simply discussing your mental state and how you feel with school counselors and your doctor will allow you to get some insight into that every time you go.
If you or you loved one need help with mental health treatment, drug rehab, or alcohol rehab Compassion Recovery Center is here to help. Contact us to ask about our mental health programs and how we can support your specific requirements as you move into treatment.