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How to Maintain Mental Wellness as a College Student

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We’ve all heard someone say to us, “Just take it one step at a time and you’ll be okay!” Well, that’s easier said than done. Life has many stressors and life doesn’t care when those stressors hit us either. There’s the stress of financial problems and wondering how you are going to afford your $200 car payment, the stress of the family member who is battling depression, and for those of you in college, the stress of how you are going to maintain your grades, and also balance all of these other stressors on top of that. So, what do you do when you have so many things going on at one time and you’re trying to please 50 people while making sure you stay happy and well? It’s a tough question to think about. When you think about it, we have multiple identities that we must satisfy. We can have the identity of a student, a wife, a mother, a friend, a coworker, or even a counselor. We don’t act the same exact way in front of every single person. Well, I am a student, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a co-worker, a friend, and also a person who is trying to make it through this crazy life. So you might be wondering, how do you make sure to please everyone, get tasks done, and also maintain your mental wellness in this process. It’s not easy, that is for sure. And it’s important to remember that before you please others, you’ve got to make sure you are healthy, happy and well yourself! Two years ago I got engaged and almost one year ago I got married to the person I call my best friend today (I know that saying is overused, but it’s true!). I knew it would take a while to plan a wedding but I had a goal in mind. I wanted to lose a little weight before my wedding, maybe 20 pounds or so. I began eating healthier (counting most of my calories) and working out about 5 times a week. I can’t even describe in words how much better I felt about myself! It’s like I got addicted to being healthy. I did lose about 20 pounds overall also. Meeting my goal helped my mental wellness. Even though I had the stress of school and taking tests and volunteering in research with my professors, the exercise is what kept me going and actually reduced my stress! During this time I was in my junior year of college so it was definitely getting close to the end, but at the same time it was so far away. I actually went through a brief time a few months ago of feeling depressed. I figured out why I felt that way. It was because I wasn’t exercising the way I had been. Some people understand this logic, and then there are some people who think I’m crazy for running 3 miles a day. The thing is, you don’t have to run 3 miles a day to improve your mental wellness! There are other things you can do such is walking, joining a yoga class, getting involved in a campus club, or even just being more conscious about what you eat most days. It WILL make a difference. The rates of depression, anxiety, and stress in college are extremely high. It shouldn’t be that way, but I think it may be because people don’t know how to improve their mental wellness state. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, 40% of college students don’t ask for help when they feel anxious or depressed, and 80% of college students do feel overwhelmed with their lives. I have to say, I get that way sometimes, but it is critical to step away from what is stressing you out, pray about it (that is always what I do to make myself realize I’m not alone), and realize that you WILL get through it. Do something to distract your mind from the stress you feel such as exercising, meditating, yoga, or talking to a supportive friend. There are going to be obstacles in your life. Things happen that are unexpected, but the way you LEARN to deal with them will help your mental wellness, and that is extremely important. I hope that you who are reading this realizes that there is a healthy way to handle stress, since it is inevitable. Find a way that helps you, because your health matters and so do you!

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Intern Stephanie