People tell us that college will be this amazing experience, one full of lessons and lifelong friendships. They warn us about the long study hours and the sleepless nights, but they also say it will all be worth it.That is all well and good, but they do not warn us about the toll it may take on our mental health. Perhaps it’s because they are looking at college through rosy glasses, or perhaps it’s because they did not attend college during a worldwide pandemic – who’s to say?
The truth is, college is hard. College is more than being pushed academically; it pushes us emotionally, and especially under the stress of a pandemic. I do not want to speak for others, but I know that I have been pushed to my limits. I often feel pushed beyond what I have to give.
Now, I am not writing this to say “woe is me.” I am not looking for pity. I am simply writing this to raise awareness of the mental state of myself and many of my peers.
When I ask people how they are, the most common responses are any variation of “eh, tired,” “stressed,” or “hanging in there.” In my opinion, that should not be the norm. At this point, stress is the most common feeling I hear about, which is normalized far more than it should be.
I believe that it is also important to recognize that students are not only stressed about doing well on homework or exams, but we have spent the last year and half being worried about our own health, the health of our families and loved ones, and watching our world fall beneath the weight of COVID-19.
I also do not want to claim that college students have it harder than others – only that we are in the unique process of trying to find ourselves and form an identity, and it can be extraordinarily hard to push through the stress to work on the things that fulfill us. College is supposed to push us, not overwhelm us.
All that being said, I want to end on a higher note, by making some suggestions to those of you who are feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
My number one suggestion is to try to not take yourself too seriously. It is okay to laugh at yourself. We are all trying to do the very best we can and it is okay to make mistakes. I do apologize to the profs for this one… but if you need to turn in an assignment late, just communicate and turn it in late. It will be okay, your mental health should always take precedence.
It is okay to be frustrated with the state of our world. It is okay to feel tired all the time. Make sure you schedule things that make you smile or laugh.
Plan at least, AT LEAST, one hour a week for uninterrupted and intentional self-care. People are right, college can be a place to make lifelong friends and they can be a very important support system, so use them. You can always be there for your friends, but you also deserve to ask them when you need a little extra support.
Most of all, it is okay to say “no.” If you need any encouragement to say “no,” this is it.
I hope that with fall break and all of that intentional self-care I mentioned, you are each able to finish the semester with strength. Good luck!