CARING FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH AS A STUDENT
School-related stress is a major aspect of being a student. Learn more about how to manage this stress, regardless of whether you are in high school, college, or graduate school.
FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS
High school student stress is unique because there are so many aspects of your life that have to be balanced. School work, college applications, extracurricular activities, and parental expectations contribute to high school stress. Check out the tips below for how to manage and balance your stress.
Setting boundaries (regardless of your age) is important to ensure you are staying mentally healthy. In high school, there are so many expectations and pressures from parents, colleges, and even yourself. To relieve some of that pressure, try setting boundaries to ensure you are giving your full attention to one task at a time. You will be much more effective this way, rather than giving only partial attention to several different tasks at the same time.
Create a schedule of activities. Whether you have sports practice or a club meeting, write it down in a planner or online calendar. This will help you visualize everything you have scheduled so that you do not get overwhelmed.
Plan out your time. If you are supposed to be at sports practice, focus on the sport. If you are supposed to be studying for a test, focus on the test. Try not to get distracted with all of your other responsibilities. That will only lead to more stress!
Set physical boundaries. Do your homework at a desk, eat your meals at the table, only sleep in your bed. By setting boundaries like this, you can narrow your focus and separate these different aspects of your life.
Take a Breather
As a high schooler, you are likely facing expectations from everyone around you, including yourself. If you are getting stressed or overwhelmed, acknowledge how you feel! Remind yourself that it is okay to take a break.
Do something for you. A high schooler's life can be very fast-paced, with so many responsibilities and commitments. Do not forget to take a break and do something fun that you enjoy. This mental break can help you balance your school life and social life.
Take a break. If you have been studying for a big test and you are getting overwhelmed, take a break and walk away for a little while. Maybe watch a show or check your phone. Whatever helps you to destress can also help recenter your mind.
Applying for college is stressful and time consuming. You have to consider so many different variables such as location, extracurriculars, campus size, etc. While several colleges are on the CommonApp, some are not, and applications take time to complete. Below are some tips for how to handle the stress of college applications:
Prioritize. Create a list of must-haves and see which colleges have those features. You might not find a college that has everything you are looking for, but if you prioritize, you will know which features are most important to you.
Voice your opinion. While parents and friends might have their opinions, they are not the ones who will be attending the school. If you and your family have conflicting opinions about colleges, try having an honest conversation with them. Tell them why you are looking at or choosing a specific college. Having open communication is the best way to voice your thoughts and hear others' input.
Visit, visit, visit. If you really like a school, make sure you visit the campus. You might have fallen in love with the school online, but you might feel differently when experiencing the campus environment firsthand. Visiting a college campus allows you to see students in action, and it can make or break your college decision.
FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS
For most students, the college lifestyle is completely different from that of high school. Most college students are living on their own for the first time (with strangers), experiencing a totally different social atmosphere, and having to balance their school work with different extracurriculars. Check out the tips below for how to balance work and life as a college student.
Living with Roommates
Most college students are living on their own for the first time, which is stressful enough. To add to the stress, they might be living with strangers in a smaller room and with communal bathrooms. Living with roommates can have a huge impact on a freshman's college experience. Check out the tips below for how to be a good roommate and to make the most out of your first year.
Keep the space clean. Dorms are small and students have a lot of stuff. Keeping your belongings in your space can help keep the dorm room clean. Make sure you and your roommate(s) are sharing the responsibility of chores, as this can reduce roommate conflict.
Respect personal space. Ask before borrowing anything, do not go through their belongings, and do not eat their food without checking with them first. While this sounds like common sense, it important to remind yourself to respect others' personal space - regardless of how close you might be with your roommate.
Balancing a new routine with all of the new college experiences can be difficult. You might want to join clubs, sports teams, or Greek Life. Staying organized is the only way you will be able to participate in activities without sacrificing your academics. Check out the tips below for how to stay organized throughout college.
Get a planner. This will be your saving grace. Since planners are dated and usually cover a full academic year, you will be able to keep it for the entire year and keep track of all your commitments. Online planners, calendars, and to-do lists also work if you prefer to organize your life electronically.
Write it down. Make sure you write down assignments and due dates when they are given to you. This will help you manage your time and ensure that you do not turn in anything late. Writing everything down can also help you keep track of social events like sports games, club meetings, or philanthropy events.
Prioritize. If you have a lot of things written in your planner, sit down and prioritize. What needs to be done by the end of the day? What is due at the end of the week? What needs to be done but has no deadline? By prioritizing your work, this can help you manage your time and finish what needs to be done.
If you go to a larger school, joining a club can help make the campus feel smaller. If you go to a smaller school, it can help you explore your interests and connect you to others with similar interests. Getting involved in clubs and teams helps foster friendships and create connections. Check out the tips below for how to get involved on your campus:
Club fairs. At the beginning of each semester, Student Life will typically hold a club fair. This is an opportunity for students to walk around and learn about the clubs that the university offers. If you were involved in a certain club in high school, there will likely be a similar version of that club at your university!
Ask your Resident Advisor. RA's are more than just a person that lives down the hall. They are there to help you adjust to college life and answer any questions you might have along the way. Ask what they are involved in or what club they think would be a good fit for you. This might be a less intimidating option, since club fairs can be overwhelming and chaotic.
Tag along with friends. If your roommate or friend is in a club, attend a meeting with them to see if the club interests you. Going with somebody you know is always easier (and less stressful) than going alone.
Whether you are a freshman or a senior in college, the tips below can be applied to any college student.
Stay Safe. Having complete independence at a young age can be exciting, but it can also put you and others in dangerous situations. Make sure you are always traveling in groups at night, using well-lit paths, and using basic common sense. Universities always have a safety system in place for students who might be in danger, so educate yourself on your university's protocol.
Give yourself credit. Failure in college is inevitable. Remember your accomplishments, be proud of them, and then learn from the challenging experiences. If you fall short, remind yourself that you are doing your best. Be kind to yourself! For more information about self care, click here.
RELAX. Take time every week to do something for you. Do not feel guilty if others are still doing work but you need a day to relax and recharge. You will not be able to finish what needs to get done if you are stressed and overwhelmed.
Get out of your comfort zone. By trying new things that might be out of your comfort zone, you can meet other people with similar interests, and also expand your knowledge. Regardless how old you are, it is never too late to pick up a new skill!
Make sure you actually need your books. College textbooks are expensive. To save money, wait until the first week of classes has ended and double check if the required textbooks are actually necessary.
FOR GRADUATE STUDENTS
Whether you are continuing your education right after college or are coming back to school years later, being a graduate student is very different than being an undergraduate student. You have more work and more responsibilities, but still want to have a social life. Check out the tips below for how to balance business and free time as a graduate student.
Coming Back to School
Whether you are continuing your education immediately after undergrad or you are coming back after some time, getting back into the groove of academics can be difficult. Check out the tips below for how to reacclimatize yourself to college life.
Get organized. Graduate students typically have more work and responsibilities than undergraduate students. Ensure that you know everything you are supposed to get done by writing it down in a planner.
Get to know your professors. Graduate classes are smaller than the hundred-person lectures of undergrad. This gives you the opportunity to really get to know your professors and the other students in your classes. Do not be afraid to go up to your professor at the end of class and introduce yourself. You never know if you might need a recommendation from them in the future!
Get to know the campus resources. Even if you are continuing your education right after undergrad, specific resources can be different. There are always more focused resources and services for graduate students; to maximize your experience, make sure to learn what they are.
Managing a New Workload
Graduate school programs typically contain more challenging coursework and more responsibilities. Professors will not remind you of deadlines every class, because they will expect you to know when assignments are due. Check out the tips below for how to manage a new workload.
Prioritize. By prioritizing what needs to be completed and when, you will be able to manage your time more effectively. What absolutely needs to get done today? When are big assignments due, and can they wait to be started?
Plan ahead. Planning your weeks/months can help with time management. For example, if you know a major deadline is approaching, try meal prepping the weekend before. This will take away the stress of cooking during the week, so you can focus more on the project.
Take a break. While planning ahead is helpful, taking breaks is also beneficial. Do not stress yourself out over strict schedules or personal pressure. If you are feeling overwhelmed or stuck, acknowledge how you feel and take a step back. Watch TV, listen to music, or go for a walk. Do whatever you need to in order to reset your mind and body.
Being a graduate student can be difficult regardless of your current life circumstances. Below are some general tips for how to make the most out of your experience.
Your family is always there for you. Even though you are getting older and more independent, your family will always be there as a support system. Lean on them if you need a shoulder to cry on, ideas for a project, or just somebody to talk with.
Keep a social life. It can be easy to become overwhelmed with all of the work and deadlines that you have as a graduate student. It is even easier to forget that you are still young. Do not shy away from social events, such as getting food after class or going to a campus event with friends. Keeping a balance of work and socialization will help keep your head clear and reduce stress.
Reward yourself. This can serve as motivation to keep going! Maybe tell yourself that once you finish a project, you will get to treat yourself. Rewards can be as small as a piece of candy for turning in a paper, or as big as purchasing an item you have been saving up for after you submit a final project.