As summer comes to a close and you make your way back to your (online or in-person) campus, it can be challenging to refocus your energy and get back into the swing of academic life. College can be an incredibly exciting time for young adults – and it comes with potential stressors like financial burdens, academic pressure, homesickness and pandemic-related hardships like social isolation, any or all of which can lead to mental health challenges.
In 2021, a study by the American College Health Association found that 48% of college students reported moderate or severe psychological stress, 53% reported being lonely, and 26% had considered suicide. It’s important for students to practice self-care to reduce stress, avoid burnout and maintain and enhance overall health and wellbeing. According to the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) curriculum, practicing self-care helps you be able to adapt to changes, build strong relationships and recover from setbacks.
Keep these tips in mind to help you or someone you know practice self-care and take care of their mental wellbeing while in college.*
To practice gratitude, focus your attention on things you are grateful for. Benefits include improved relationships with others, experiencing more joy and pleasure and even strengthening your immune system. There are many ways to practice gratitude like keeping a gratitude journal, thanking others and asking yourself questions that promote grateful thoughts such as, “How do other people make me happy?”
Creating a self-care plan can be helpful in keeping yourself on track. To get started on your plan, ask yourself these three questions from the MHFA curriculum: Have I decided what I will do for self-care? Who can I speak with now? Who can I call if I feel upset or distressed later?
Check out these related blogs and sign up for a MHFA training to learn more about how to practice self-care!
*These self-care tips are not a replacement for professional treatment. If you feel you or someone you know is in danger, call 911, a local mental health crisis hotline or one of the following national crisis resources for immediate assistance:
American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (2008, June 9). Poor sleep can negatively affect a student’s grades, increase the odds of emotional and behavioral disturbance. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. https://aasm.org/poor-sleep-can-negatively-affect-a-students-grades-increase-the-odds-of-emotional-and-behavioral-disturbance/.
An, H. Y., Chen, W., Wang, C. W., Yang, H. F., Huang, W. T., & Fan, S. Y. (2020, July 4). The relationships between physical activity and life satisfaction and happiness among young, middle-aged and older adults. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7369812/.
Cedars Sinai. (n.d.). Sleep deprivation. https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/s/sleep-deprivation.html
Cherry, K. (2020, April 26). The importance of maintaining structure and routine during stressful times. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/the-importance-of-keeping-a-routine-during-stressful-times-4802638#:~:text=Research%20has%20consistently%20shown%20that%
Cronkleton, C. (2022, Feb. 25). Mindfulness and emotional well-being strategies. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/mindfulness-for-mental-wellbeing.
Gordon, S. (2021, Feb. 23). The relationship between mental health and cleaning. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/how-mental-health-and-cleaning-are-connected-5097496.
Greater Good Science Center. (2016, March 23). A simple weekly mindfulness practice: Keep a gratitude journal. https://www.mindful.org/a-simple-weekly-mindfulness-practice-keep-a-gratitude-journal/.
Harvard Summer School. (2021, May 28). Why You Should Make a Good Night’s Sleep a Priority. https://summer.harvard.edu/blog/why-you-should-make-a-good-nights-sleep-a-priority/.
Kennedy, K. (2022, June 30). Hydration calculator: How much water do you need to drink a day? EverydayHealth.com. https://www.everydayhealth.com/dehydration/hydration-calculator/.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2022, April 29). Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858.
Mindful Staff. (n.d.). How to practice gratitude. Mindful. https://www.mindful.org/how-to-practice-gratitude/.
Northstar Transitions. (2021, April 24). Can drinking water help improve mental health? Northstar Transitions. https://www.northstartransitions.com/post/can-drinking-water-help-improve-mental-health.
Suni, E. (2022, April 13). How much sleep do we really need? Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need.
Sutter Health. (n.d.). Eating Well for Mental Health. https://www.sutterhealth.org/health/nutrition/eating-well-for-mental-health.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2019). Physical activity guidelines for Americans, second edition. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf.
Yang, J. and Mufson, C. (2021, Nov. 2). College students’ stress levels are ‘bubbling over.’ Here’s why, and how schools can help. PBS News Hour. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/college-students-stress-levels-are-bubbling-over-heres-why-and-how-schools-can-help.