Managing Your Mental Health Disorder as a College Student

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Hollywood blockbusters would have you believe that college is all about having the best years of your life. While this might …

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Hollywood blockbusters would have you believe that college is all about having the best years of your life. While this might be the case, managing a mental health disorder as a college student makes things a bit more challenging. You can still have an incredible time at school but it’s important to take care of your mental health while you do.

The mental health of college students has been an important topic during the past decade. Competition for admission to four-year colleges has become intense. There’s a growing sense of pressure to balance academics, extracurriculars, and social life while still performing at a high level.

It’s easy for anyone to feel overwhelmed and anxious trying to keep all these things on the same plate. Managing college as a student with a mental health disorder adds another layer of difficulty to the mix. You have all the stressors your peers have to deal with while keeping your mental health in mind.

As the time to head to college approaches, how can you manage your mental health disorder as a college student? There are some important things to remember while you get ready to start college.

College Students and Mental Health Disorders

College is an exciting time for many people. It’s the first time that most young adults move out of their parents’ homes and live on their own. You’re in charge of your schedule and get to make your own decisions about when to do things. You no longer need to follow the rules dictated by your parents and instead start determining your own rules.

This newfound freedom comes with weight though. It’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed by the lack of structure compared to when you lived with your parents. Learning to navigate life on your terms while managing a mental health disorder is also a new challenge.

You’re not alone if you’re overwhelmed by the prospect of going to college while living with a mental health disorder. According to a study by the National Alliance on Mental Health, many college students are concerned about or struggle with their mental health.

  • 80% of students feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities
  • 50% struggle with anxiety that affects their academic performance 
  • 50% rate their mental health as below average or poor
  • 30% of students report problems with schoolwork due to mental health
  • 24.5% of college students report taking some kind of psychiatric medication

Mental health disorders that commonly affect college students include anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and substance or alcohol use disorders. These serious conditions make it difficult to balance school alongside other everyday responsibilities.

Make Use of Mental Health Resources on Campus

The move to normalize mental health struggles over the past decade started a shift toward more acceptance of mental health disorders from the public. There is still plenty of stigma, misconception, and misunderstanding, but there is also more awareness and support than in previous years.

The majority of college campuses across the United States have responded to the growing need for mental health resources. Still, 40%of students report not seeking help for their mental health concerns. 

If you have an existing mental health disorder, make sure to search for resources offered at your campus. There are usually campus-provided counselors at an on-campus counseling center available for traditional talk therapy or telehealth options for virtual students. Meeting with a counselor for weekly therapy can be a great resource for consistent support throughout your time at college.

Most campuses provide various support groups to their students as well. Whether you struggle strictly with a mental health disorder or substance use disorder, campus groups are available to connect you with supportive and understanding peers. Make use of these resources so you can make the most of your time at college.

The Importance of Schedule and Routine

Schedule and routine are an important part of managing mental health disorders for many people. Building a consistent schedule keeps your workload balanced throughout the week. The more balanced you are the lower your levels of stress and anxiety.

Make sure you don’t start with too heavy of a course load when you beginning a semester at college. Start with your class schedule and build from there. Give yourself enough time to complete your assignments, study for exams, and leave room for a social life and time with friends.

Once you have your course schedule, add in blocks of time that are dedicated to coursework. It’s easy to tell yourself, “Oh, I’ll just finish this assignment later.” If you do that too many times, you’ll find yourself cramming to finish your work an hour before class starts. You’ll stress yourself out and increase your anxiety which takes a toll on your mental health.

Incorporating a morning routine is also a great idea. Morning routines are some actions you take before the main part of your day to set the pace and start on the right foot. Your morning routine can include anything that makes you feel centered like: making your bed, going for a walk, meditating, journaling, or reading a few pages of a book. 

There’s no single right way to have a morning routine; your morning routine is simply a way to center yourself before starting your day. When you’re going to college with a mental health disorder, starting your day at your own pace with a morning routine can make a big difference.

Finding Things that Bring You Joy

Courses in college can be hard work. There’s enough homework and studying to do to keep you busy for hours at a time. You can’t make it all about working day and night, though. You have to find a few activities that bring you joy during the days and weeks to keep yourself balanced. Having things to look forward to will give you a reason to stay focused during your homework and study hours too.

On-Campus Clubs

There are dozens of on-campus clubs that cover a wide range of hobbies, activities, interests, and more. Your campus activities group will usually host some type of activities fair where each club sets up a booth. You can find groups or clubs that sound like fun and join them to connect with some students who share similar interests.

Off-Campus Activities

The areas surrounding your campus are filled with plenty of local activities to try. If you enjoy music, find a local venue that hosts concerts. Museums and art galleries can keep you occupied for hours if art is more interesting to you. Perhaps there is a local theater that puts on plays or musicals. Your on-campus Student Center should have plenty of information about activities available to students in your area.

Seeking Additional Support

Sometimes the on-campus offerings aren’t as extensive as you might need. If so, you might want to seek additional support outside of your college campus. Or maybe you prefer to seek off-campus support to keep your mental health treatment and college life separate. Your local area should have qualified psychiatrists, psychologists, and other specialists available. 

Managing a mental health disorder as a college student can be challenging at times but it is worth it. You’ll learn more about yourself and discover effective ways to integrate with the world around you despite your mental health. 

Pasadena Villa provides outpatient mental health services, in addition to telehealth options. It’s easy to balance your school schedule with an effective outpatient mental health treatment program. Would you like to find out more about your options? Call our admissions team today to learn more!

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