The final weeks of summer have just wrapped up. Now, as September looms ahead, is the time to get serious about mental health on campus. Whether you are a first-time student or coming back to school, mental health impacts many students. While living on campus, and away from home, I struggled with anxiety and depression. I was also living in a new province so going home to see my main doctor wasn’t always possible. While university can be scary and challenging, it also has the potential to be the best time of your life! One particular campus mental health challenge I had was knowing when to say “enough”. As a student, this was a struggle that was remedied by practice and changing my expectations.
Below I list my top 10 favourite ways to foster your campus mental health.
- Keep in contact with family and friends: having an emotional support system is important. This is particularly important when you’re away from home, stressed from school, and spending much of your time studying. Even if it’s a quick skype call once a week, make sure that you never lose sight of your emotional grounding. These people love you, care about you, and these relationships will last even when the final bell tolls and you receive your degree.
- Know what’s too much: If you can’t take 5-6 classes a semester without feeling too haywire, don’t. While we may feel in a financial rush to finish school, academic performance, and our health will deteriorate if we take on more than we can chew. Sometimes going at a slower pace is important. Many schools allow for full-time students to take 3-4 classes. Check with them to see what your options are.
- Utilize academic counseling: Your school hires a staff of people to help you with your questions and devise a plan for you. Each student is different, so don’t feel ashamed if your course-load isn’t the same as your friend or classmate. Universities and colleges are designed to for education, and they aren’t a race.
- Keep an eye out for campus events: When attending St. Thomas University in New Brunswick, the student union put on many events to help students with stress. One such event brought in puppies to cuddle during exam time. Universities often host events that can help persons with disorders, or persons having a tough time – make sure you’re subscribed to your own campuses event calendars.
- Sign up for campus health services: Most campuses have services for physical and mental health. Sign up as soon as you get to campus, or even before so that you can start booking your appointments as soon as possible. Since campuses may have wait lists, you should not wait until the problem has gotten out of hand, and you should find support right away.
- Don’t be afraid of your RA: As a first-time dormer, I worried about talking to my RA about challenges. Since my RAs were mostly my exact age, it was weird to rely on my peers for the type of support I would have gone to a guidance counselor in the past. However, after meeting with my fellow RAs I realized that RA training gave them the basic tools to help mediate some conflicts and the list of resources to point me in the direction of campus staff that was available for my larger issues.
- Try new things: One of the best parts of university is the larger community that surrounds it. Now that you’re at school you can try new cultural events, go to plays, and reach out in ways that may have felt scarier before. Trying new things while in school can help you foster new experiences, and removes much of the fear because you’re surrounded by your peers.
- Eat right: As much as possible. While you may fall into the pizza and wings trap that many university students fall into, try to keep this for special occasions. For most students, a meal plan means you can make healthier choices that you may be able to make when footing the entire bill for an apartment. Keeping mentally healthy means caring for your physical health.
- Take advantage of the gym: You don’t need to be doing advanced training every day. However, the campus gym is a great opportunity to keep fit – and find new and interesting exercise classes you may have never tried. Gyms keep schedules and calendars, and most events are free (or a low fee) for students. You may have never known you liked Jiujutsu or a new kind of dance, but campus gyms can help you find new and fun ways to keep in shape.
- Don’t take classes before you’re ready: Sometimes at university, we think we need to get it all done as fast as possible. Unfortunately, this can lead to more stress, and eventual burnout. Try to take as many interesting classes as you can in your first years, and don’t feel guilty about your “elective” fine arts course. School is about discovering yourself and opening up to the world, and it doesn’t have to be a rigid and stressful path.
About Shaylynn Hayes
Shaylynn Hayes is a 23 year old writer, advocate, graphic/webdesigner, and student. She is the Editor-In-Chief of Misophonia International and Author of Full of Sound and Fury: Suffering With Misophonia. I am also the founder of www.lovenotstigma.com an advocacy project that aims to share mental health stories, lift up advocates, and create a world that promotes love instead of stigma. Misophonia has created trials and tribulations, but it’s also changed her life in good ways. It is due to Misophonia that she ended up switching schools, but it is also the reason she has been able to focus her voice and try to help others that struggle with the disorder. Alongside Dr. Jennifer Brout, Shaylynn runs the Newssite and adovacy site, www.MisophoniaInternational.com. Most recently, Shaylynn founded www.thoughtful-gaming.com, a resource for disabled gamers to find groups for their favourite video games. The site focuses on Research, Coping, and Awareness for the disorder. Shaylynn has also been actively involved in the International Misophonia Research Network, founded by Dr. Jennifer Brout. What used to be a life-ruining disorder has become an interesting and defining adventure that has proven that the things that are “ruining our life” may very well be creating a new, interesting life in the place of the old.