Intro to Guest Blogger
I would like to introduce you to guest blogger and friend, Shane Thomas, M.A., who discusses being mentally healthy with his college students on a regular basis. What makes Shane an expert on being mentally healthy? He is the Director of the Advising Center for Exploratory Students (ACES) at Indiana University Southeast in Southern Indian. In this role, Shane helps students find their true fit in a major and explore career options. When not working with students on time management, study skills, and their academic goals, he is writing songs, playing music and traveling throughout the United States.
Be Mentally Healthy While Becoming Mentally Healthy
By Shane Thomas, M.A.
As an academic advisor, I hear firsthand from students the stress that can occur when trying to adjust to college life. Beginning your academic career can be a difficult experience. In this article, I will offer some strategies to help students become mentally healthy while in college.
One of the best ways to launch your stress management plan is to become aware of the pressure. You can do this by simply paying attention to the three areas below. Start by noticing the following:
Be aware of the stress around you:
- Know the situations that make you stressed.
- Are there certain places that make you stressed? If so, where are they?
- Do you become stressed if you are around certain people? If yes, identify them.
- Do certain subjects that you are trying to learn cause stress? List them.
Symptoms can be both physiological and behavioral when it comes to stress. Become aware of the various ways how stress can present itself.
- Short, rapid breathing
- Muscle tension
When it comes to stress, typically the behavioral symptoms come to mind.
- Irritable and not pleasant to be around.
- People can sometimes start using alcohol and/or drugs to try to cope with the stress they encounter
- If your family and friends have noticed a negative change in your behavior and habits then you could be stressed.
Having an awareness of these changes and symptoms can start you on the way to being able to be mentally healthy while in college.
Stress Management Planning
Once you develop the habit of noticing the symptoms and situations of stress, you can learn to manage them. As a college student you have the challenge of trying to balance being a student with working, having time for a social life and for yourself. Let’s look at each one of these aspects of your life and learn how to maximize them in order to be mentally healthy.
As we go through each of these areas, it is important to keep in mind that you want to plan and prioritize. This will increase the chances of you thriving in each!
We will start with your role as a student first. If you are enrolled in college, your studies should be a top priority. You can lessen the probability of stress as it relates to your academics by incorporating some of these tips.
- Plan your classes in a way that best fits your sleep patterns and when you are mentally at your peak. If you are not a morning person then strongly reconsider signing up for afternoon classes.
- A good formula to remember is for every credit hour you are enrolled in, you will want to plan 2-3 hours for homework, studying and working on group projects, etc.
For example if you are a full time college student that is enrolled in 15 credit hours then you will want to plan 2-3 hours for those classes. Therefore 15 x 2-3= 30-45 hours total for the week to make sure you budget enough time to succeed in the classroom.
- Visit your institution’s financial aid office to see what options you may have to reduce the financial stress of college.
- Prioritize your classes. Know which courses will require more energy and work. A key to having a nice course schedule that doesn’t overwhelm yourself is to balance out hard classes with ones that come fairly easy to you and that you are interested in.
Now that we have made being a college student a top priority, let’s look at fitting in your professional obligations.
- Most college students have to and should earn income because it is important. Through work, you can potentially learn new skills, make friends and build your professional network that can benefit you for years to come. However, the vital item to remember is resist the temptation to work too much. If you are a full time college student which is typically 12 or more credit hours per semester, then try to work no more than 20 hours per week.
- Once you plan on working 20 hours or less a week, then make it a priority to find employment that will work around your class schedule.
- Ideally find a job that interests you and that you can gain valuable experience. You can also put the knowledge you gained on your resume. It is never too early to get skills in a field that interests you!
Just as important as making time to succeed in the classroom and work, you need a social life. Human beings are social creatures that require connection with others. Here are strategies to help you devise and maintain a healthy social life. Building a healthy social life has a direct correlation to optimal mental health.
- Plan enough time to spend time with those that have your best interest at heart. Having a strong support system that you can trust is imperative. These include family members, friends, mentors or even pets. Have people in your life that you care about and that care about you.
- Get involved – but not too much! You might hear from people that work at colleges encouraging you to get involved and for good reason. Extra-curricular involvement has numerous benefits. You can make friends, hold leadership positions, build your resume and it offers opportunities to give back. However, many college students take on too much and over-commit It is highly recommended to put quality over quantity. Join 2-3 organizations and clubs that you really want to commit to and make those a priority and excel at them. However, do not get too involved so much that you neglect your academics and your grade point average suffers.
Last but certainly not least is finding time for yourself. “Me time” is synonymous with being mentally healthy. Let’s look at some ways to make the most out of our personal time.
- Make sure you take care of yourself and your health. If you don’t look after yourself then you won’t be in good shape to thrive academically, professionally, or socially. Unfortunately, many students try to take care of everyone but themselves. Therefore plan to get 30 minutes or more of physical activity at least 5 days a week if not daily. Also get plenty of sleep and rest that is free from distractions. Make nutritious food choices.
- Prioritize time for things that you enjoy doing. This could be watching Netflix, traveling, or cooking. It doesn’t matter what the activity. What does matter is that you like engaging in them.
- Besides getting adequate activity, nutrition and sleep, make sure you have enough quiet time to de-stress and reflect. The contemplation, relaxation and deep breathing that results from activities such as mediation, yoga, and tai chi have been shown to improve mental health.
There you have it. A blueprint for you to be mentally healthy during your college years. To summarize, be aware of the things that can elevate your stress. Then when stressful situations arise and they will, be aware of both the physical and behavioral symptoms of stress. Next, plan your life in a way that allows you to optimally balance being a student with having a productive, fulfilling professional and social life, while still allowing time for yourself. Finally, prioritize the things that you need to do in each of these areas along with things that are important to you and bring you enjoyment.
College can be one of the biggest transitions you will ever make in your life. And stress can sometimes accompany transitions. However, college can also be some of those most memorable times of your life. Your college years can be one of tremendous growth and a time when you become your own person and find your way in life. Hopefully some of the tips in this article cannot only help you survive but thrive mentally while you are on the road to become a college graduate.
IUS image via https://www.ius.edu/
Contacting Shane Thomas
Below are the links where you can find Shane Thomas, M.A. on the internet.
About Amy Pierce Romine
I am a content and freelance writer, published writer, award-winning blogger, public speaker, copy editor and social media consultant. Life Conquering Blog for Mental Health was chosen to be one of the “Top 100 Bipolar Blogs”. Please visit my award-winning blog at the address below.
Check us out on the web and become a Follower while you are there.
FOLLOW. LIKE. SHARE.