Whether you’re a senior or just in your second semester of college, one thing remains true: school can be stressful. Sometimes being away from home or a heavy workload of assignments and tests can catch up to you and take a toll on your mental health. Whether you’re happy, sad, or stressed, all of your feelings contribute to your mental health and overall well-being. The same way you put due diligence into taking care of yourself when it’s flu season or nursing physical injuries, you should also make a commitment to take care of your mind.
Luckily, for all our SUNY students, there are plenty of helpful techniques and services to take advantage of on a college campus to avoid letting stress get the best of you. SUNY campuses provide counseling centers and resources to help students maintain a healthy and productive lifestyle. For example, Fredonia’s student health and wellness center provides its students with a resource document with ideas on how to manage stress.
Let’s take a look at some ways to de-stress and take care of one’s mental health all year long.
Acknowledge your feelings and practice mindfulness
The way we respond to stressors in our daily lives (e.g., a flat tire, doing poorly on an exam, a breakup) varies from person to person. Some people react strongly whereas others have little to no reaction. What’s important is that when you start to feel yourself reacting to something happening in your life that you honor those feelings instead of pushing them away or ignoring them. Once you identify how you’re feeling (e.g., angry because you overslept and missed a test you can’t make up) and spend time with those thoughts, you can come up with a game plan to avoid that situation again, if possible (e.g., set multiple alarms or have a friend call you so you won’t oversleep).
Another practice that can help you navigate your emotions, and by extension thoughts that may negatively affect your mental health, is practicing mindfulness. This can be done in a number of ways: meditating regularly, journaling, checking in every so often with yourself to see how you’re feeling, or focusing intently on an activity such as coloring, listening to music, or exercising. The more you learn to be connected with your emotions and thoughts, the less power they’ll have over you.
Move your body
Who needs a yoga studio when you have the WISER Greenhouse!? The heated floors, sound of water and plethora of oxygen make WISER a perfect space for a lunch time de-stress. Yoga will be offered on Tuesdays at 12:30 pm through March 20. ???♀️ #PotsdamProud #Greenhouse #Yoga pic.twitter.com/uqKDPfSvZo
— SUNY Potsdam (@sunypotsdam1816) February 16, 2018
Don’t let a lack of activity put you in a rut. Get active! A simple 30 minutes of any exercise – a jog, intramurals, weight lifting, or even going for a walk – will help you release endorphins – your body’s natural mood enhancers – which can do wonders for you both mentally and physically. When your body feels good, so does your mind. Yoga is a great, simple activity that can be done with a group of people to help you feel connected with both yourself and your peers. For example, SUNY Potsdam has yoga in their greenhouse on Tuesdays at 2:30 p.m. until March 20 to help students make time for exercise and relaxation together.
Get community oriented
Take the time to get involved with something besides your assignments and other work-related tasks. Not sure how to get involved? Take a look at SUNY Geneseo for example, who host a Relay for Life in April, along with many other campuses. The annual event is a campus-wide fundraiser that raises money and awareness for those suffering from cancer throughout near by communities. Grab a group of friends, put together a team, and help others in need.
However stressed you may be, helping others is always a great way to put things into perspective and to make some positive change in the world. You’ll have an opportunity to view things through others’ perspectives and see how your small efforts have a direct impact on others’ lives. Last year, the students at SUNY Geneseo helped raise more than $160,000 for cancer victims by working together.
Make time to play
Another great way to relieve some stress is to get out and play. Even if you just want to meet up and goof around with friends, go ahead and make it happen. Play time has numerous benefits for adults as well as children. A board game, tossing a frisbee outside, or any such activity can relieve stress, improve brain function, improve personal relationships, and more. When the weather is warm, find a field to play your favorite game (kickball or four-square would be great). In the cold winter months, grab a sled and hit a hill for some sledding. Engaging in child-like activities gives you a chance to stretch your brain and experience feelings that aren’t a part of the classroom experience.
Take advantage of campus resources
Unfortunately, seeking out counseling or going to therapy is sometimes associated with a stigma or feeling embarrassed, but there are signs that these associations are falling by the wayside. Today’s college students are seeking out mental health treatment at rapidly growing rates, according to The Huffington Post. If you are feeling overwhelmed and are unable to handle the mental stressors going on in your life, take advantage of your campus counseling center and all the resources it has to offer.
If the counseling center is not available or not something you are ready to use, a new form of support is coming online at SUNY in tele-counseling. Remote tele-counseling and tele-psychiatry interventions to students at select SUNY campuses has begun at Upstate Medical Center. With this service, students can speak to a professional via secure video connection from the comfort of their own home if needed.
As this offering at Upstate Medical grows, it can be used as a pilot for other campuses to start their own tele-counseling services.
So yes, college can be stressful and amazing all at the same time. You get to be on your own, make friends, and learn things of your own choosing that you’re passionate about and really interest you. However, just because they interest you, that doesn’t mean assignments, exams, and projects can’t get overwhelming. Take time to remember why you’re there and enjoy your experiences. Regardless of your workload, staying healthy is most important. Your mind is just as powerful as the rest of your body, so take care of it and yourself as best you can.