Hi, my name is Nina, I’m a psychology student and I was diagnosed with depression and an emotion regulation disorder. That is not how I normally start off, but I know there are a lot of people with mental disorders out there who are facing difficulties in life and, more precise, going to college.
As a mentally ill student, I faced my own difficulties along the way, but I also figured out a few tricks on how to deal with them. Below you will find three of those. (This is probably the point where I should mention that the things that help me do not necessarily help everyone else, but I hope that some of the following tips will make your life a tad easier.)
Your Safe Place
Let’s assume you made it through high school and are already halfway into starting college, obviously, there are a hell lot of important things to consider, but one decision that in my opinion will have a big impact on you is that of how and where you are going to live. There is a variety of possible living situations ranging from a single room in a student apartment complex to your own apartment that you might be sharing with somebody else, and everything in between. Often it’s hardly your decision, be it money or just the university you chose, your living situation may be determined by a bunch of external factors.
If you do however get to have a say in it, choose wisely. If you get frequent breakdowns/attacks, have a hard time leaving the house, have depressive episodes or tend to neglect yourself, I do not recommend living alone, at least not if you move far away from the people you’re comfortable around. The tricky thing here is that living with strangers may not be such a good idea either. Of course, it might turn out that those people are amazing, but it will take time for you to get comfortable and your apartment is supposed to be your safe place, especially during the stressful times like the beginning. Living with a friend that knows you rather well is my preferred way, but it is also something that is rather unusual, especially when you move away for college.
Now, a compromise would be living in a student apartment complex. You will have your own space, but also people close by and the chance that you will befriend some of them is huge. Don’t forget to inform yourself about the student housing in the destined city, though, prior information is key when applying for college.
In general, this is a very broad topic and your choice will depend on more than a few factors, but what I am trying to stress here is that your apartment being your safe place should be one of those factors. If you like it or not you will have to spend quite some time in your first apartment (most contractors seek a minimum of one year) and if that ends up being a place you feel uncomfortable at it will have negative effects.
Quick tip: As I said information is key. Make sure to check the availability of health support at your university, those more often than not include mental health.
Do not let anxiety lock you in
Making friends at college is easy because everyone is looking for new friends. If you do go to college with friends of yours, then try not make them your only friend group. There are a lot of different and interesting people everywhere and even if you decide not to hang out with them outside of college that much, it is always great to have someone on campus you can rely on. Having friends in your classes can be very helpful and even reduce anxiety in certain situations, for example, lectures, those and the anxiety they may trigger are way better to deal with when you have someone to sit with.
From time to time, you might also push yourself a bit: somebody invites you to something and you’re unsure whether or not you should go? Go. If it gets really ugly you can still leave, but normally it won’t. Even if you get invited to a party, but consider yourself not much of a party-goer or don’t drink alcohol, you should consider going. College students are rather tolerant and if you don’t want to drink, they won’t make you; all they want is for everyone to have a good time. It is also one of the best places to meet new people and bond over some hilarious things you tell each other while being tipsy (or they tell you while they’re tipsy).
Something else to consider is sports clubs or other hobbies outside of college, e.g. playing an instrument. Unfortunately, you might end up having less free time than anticipated (always depending on your choice of study), but see if your university offers certain memberships and if so, go to the tryouts. After a long day of class or a week of paperwork letting out some steam cannot hurt.
If at some point your anxiety gets really bad and you can see yourself retreating into your room more and more: go for walks, frequently. Start with tiny walks or go explore your neighbourhood, but preferably keep it up. It helps to clear your head, may lead to some exciting adventures and gets you used to being outside. This is not only a sign of anxiety but also part of depressive episodes for example and going outside is a rather general way of dealing with things.
Insomnia and late-night study sessions
Suffering from insomnia or otherwise disordered sleep is especially unhandy as a college student. I would be lying if I said that I’ve found the perfect way to deal with it. After all, it is no secret that at some point you will be loaded with work and end up pulling an all-nighter or losing at least a couple of hours of sleep. Two or three hours less may not seem much, but they are if that’s already the time you need to fall asleep.
But I cannot stress it enough: sleep is important. I even dare to say that it is one of the most important things during your college life and if you haven’t started dealing with your insomnia yet, you might as well wanna start now. Before you start popping pills, there are somethings called sleep hygiene and it refers to certain behaviors that will help you. I won’t go into detail or start explaining it, but you will find it on the internet and even so it might sound very restricting at first, it is super helpful if you manage to stay true to it.
The thing with sleep is that one night of less sleep will not harm you, but a week of four hours or less? That’s going to leave a mark and you might not even notice because your body can adapt, but your brain will be the one taking the blow. Lack of sleep will impair your memory, your learning process, and other higher cognitive functions, so please, next time you think about skipping bed for studying, think again.
Quick tip: If possible try to schedule your sleep in a ninety-minute rhythm because that’s the typical time it takes one to get through a cycle of stages of sleep and waking up in the wrong stage will leave you even more exhausted.
Quick tip #2: In general having a schedule will work wonders and if you are the kind of person that likes to schedule things, schedule away because it will save you from at least an hour of stress.
If you have any tips or encouraging words for others struggling with their mental health while juggling study, leave them in the comments below!
This post was written by Nina from studyblr.ray on instagram for Study Break Down’s #HappyHealthyStudy series.