Stressful events in our lives can have a negative impact on our mental health. College students, especially adult learners, may face extreme academic and financial pressures that result from balancing school with work and daily life. Although not everyone experiences problems with mental health during their years in college, students can avoid potential problems down the road by staying aware of common stressors and being proactive by using the following tips:
1. Remember the Rocks
Managing academic stress is no easy task, especially when you’re balancing school with the demands of your job and/or your family. Imagine that your life is a jar filled with a combination of rocks, pebbles and sand. The empty jar represents all of your free time — the rocks, pebbles and sand are the activities. When the rocks are placed in the jar first, the sand and the pebbles easily fill the spaces in between. But, when we fill the jar with sand and pebbles first, there isn’t enough room for all the rocks.
In considering our mental health, we need to remember to prioritize the things that are most important to us — our “rocks” — and not worry quite as much about the small stuff. When school gets hectic and overwhelming, try to take a step back and nurture connections with people in your life who support you. Most importantly, you need to remember to nurture yourself. Make sure to stay healthy with good food and exercise, and spend time doing things you enjoy. When you fill your jar with rocks — like your family, relationships and passions — you’ll be able to find more room to take care of the pebbles, such as work and bills, without sacrificing your mental health.
2. Get and Stay Organized
Procrastination is a common problem among college students — and often a significant source of stress. Although easier said than done, organization is essential to balancing the demands of college life. Many students at Herzing juggle full-time jobs and families in addition to studying and keeping up with challenging assignments. Daily planners and personal assistant apps can help you keep track of assignments, remind you of deadlines and provide structure by setting aside time specifically for academics. Staying organized is one way that students can save time, avoid stress and maintain positive mental health during the school year.
3. Reach Out and Use Resources
Being part of a college community does not always protect a student from feelings of isolation, especially if you’re an online learner. Reaching out to fellow students for academic and social support can be essential for a successful and positive college experience. Herzing students also have access to ULifeline, a free wellness and counseling website that offers helpful articles about sleep, exercise, nutrition, stress management and emotional wellness. For more personalized help, students can also call ULifeline’s confidential 24-hour hotline to speak with a mental health counselor. Fostering connections with classmates and professors, as well as making use of all the available resources, can help students proactively manage their stress and emotional well-being.
Going back to school is an exciting but challenging endeavor. It is important to remember to take care of yourself physically and emotionally to avoid burnout and be successful in your classes. Stay organized and connected with fellow students and support systems, and remember to take advantages of the resources available to all students.
BriAnne Nichols is the System Director of Student Services at Herzing University. BriAnne has earned her Master of Science degree in Higher Education from Illinois State University and is earning her Doctoral Degree in Education from Northeastern University. She is also passionate about assisting students to meet their academic and personal goals.