Managing Mental Health as a College Student
By Logan Coffee
Change is inevitable, there’s no getting around that fact. That being said, the transition from high school to college is a big one, and it’s not easy no matter the school you attend; academic, social, and environmental changes all occur at the same time. It is important to recognize the challenges these changes present and learn to manage the mental stress that often accompanies them! I will present three aspects of the college transition–adjusting to academics, a new social scene, and getting involved on campus–and possible ways to manage your mind as you confront them. Overall, mental health should be a priority, and it’s sometimes easy to forget this amidst all of the chaos that ensues once you become a true college student.
Adjusting to college academics is often a formidable task. At Furman, the curriculum is challenging, and the professors are commonly some of the top professionals in their subjects; a lot is expected of students simply because the faculty knows that Furman students are capable of high achievement and great work. Once you are settled into your classes, you might become overwhelmed with the assignments and work you have to do; in any college setting, assignments, papers, projects, and exams can be quite taxing for students. Many Furman students want to give their best effort in their classes, so they become stressed often. If you’re struggling in a class or feel overloaded with work, remember not to be afraid to ask for help. At Furman, there are many resources in which students may turn if they are struggling with academics. Advisors, FRADS, and Professors are all in your corner. Advisors can help you sort out your schedule, figure out your major requirements, and more. Advisors and FRADs are here to talk to you and give you advice! Your professors at Furman WANT to talk with you and help you. It makes each professor so happy to see students attending their office hours, emailing them, and asking questions; they genuinely want to see you succeed. In addition to accessing resources, it is also necessary to learn your own tendencies: how much you need to study, how to organize your schedule, and when to take a break. Yes, remember to take breaks when you need them (and don’t feel bad about it)! But, learn how to manage your time and plan out your work–in an online calendar or planner–so that when you take breaks they’re helpful and not hurtful to your productivity!
In addition to an academic adjustment, college life presents an entirely new social scene. During these four years, you’ll meet many new people, attend events, and likely join different organizations. This social scene is usually more expansive, diverse, and time-consuming than one’s high school society. When it comes to balancing social expectations, academics, and mental health, there are some important things to remember. One is to manage your priorities! Spending time with friends and going out is a lot of fun and can often provide a much needed break, but make sure you remember what’s the most important for you. If you have a major exam on Tuesday but your friends are staying up all night on Monday, maybe spend a little time with them but retreat to your room for rest when it gets late. This is the art of knowing when enough is enough, and you’ll learn your limits quickly; make sure to listen to these limits! Also, learn that it’s okay to say no. Your friends will understand if you need to rest, take a break, or get work done; do what you feel will benefit you the most! One pattern that many Furman students follow is getting work done during the week, taking Friday and Saturday off for fun, and then finishing up assignments on Sunday before the next week begins. This way, you get a two-day break but also stay on top of your work; don’t procrastinate if you can help it!
At Furman, there are over 165 different organizations, so getting involved can definitely be daunting for new students! Stress often accompanies this undertaking because students are overwhelmed and don’t know what to join, want to be involved in everything, or are fearful of being turned away! Thankfully, there is definitely some advice that might benefit students with any of these fears or stressors. First, there’s an online database called SyncDin in which students can join clubs at the touch of a button. This is also a great place to read about different clubs on Furman’s campus and gauge your interests! Second, it’s important to state that you don’t have to be involved in everything; I repeat, you DON’T have to be involved in everything.
For the typical Furman student, overloading is common. To limit the stress that accompanies having too much on your plate, figure out what you enjoy and narrow down the clubs you want to join; if you join a club and decide that it’s not your thing or is weighing too heavily, it’s okay to leave that club! Finally, some clubs do require an application and interview process, and this is often terrifying for new students. The main point to remember is that putting in your best effort is all that you can do. If you don’t make it into a club you wanted, there’s another opportunity waiting for you around the corner; it’s not a problem with you, and you should keep trying. Getting involved, joining clubs, and applying for different opportunities doesn’t have to be scary!
Overall, your mental health is THE most important factor when considering your success and happiness as a college student. It’s important to navigate the stressors and changes that college life brings one step at a time. You will face many different challenges, but if you prioritize your mental health and overall wellbeing, you will make it through. In general, it’s great to just talk about how you’re feeling and adjusting. At Furman, you can talk to professionals in the Counseling Center, in the Center for Spiritual Life, and especially to your friends. There are so many people that care about your mental wellbeing, and you should too! Even if you don’t want to talk about your challenges, journaling about them is great; just get those thoughts out one way or another!
Along with talking, there are some great practices that can be useful when coping with the stress of college life. For example, reflecting, breathing, and meditating is very beneficial when you need a moment of calm to gather your thoughts. Also, exercise is a great practice when dealing with mental strife. You can go to the Physical Activities Center, go on a run, do yoga in the Furman Amphitheater, or go for a calm and scenic walk around Furman Lake. The main point to take away is that your mental health matters. Even though the transition from high school to college is daunting and these four years will present many challenges, you should always focus on your mental wellbeing and focus on being your happiest and healthiest self!