“Are you ready? Do you have everything you need – toothbrush, Tylenol, chargers – a pillow?” These are the last minute questions we’re asked when we set off for university or college, yet we’re rarely prepped with a mental health tool kit before leaving home for the first time.
After completing our first year of studies, the majority of us find a summer job and work for four months before returning to campus. Exchanging a stable summer routine for the chaos that awaits us on campus can pose a lot of challenges for someone who has been diagnosed with a mental illness or for someone experiencing less severe mental health challenges. Cooking meals, getting to classes, completing coursework, exercising, volunteering – school life is demanding; adding mental health care to the list can be tough.
Here are some tips and tricks to make sure your mental health is well taken care of!
Know the signs and symptoms when you’re feeling unwell. It may not be as evident as a cough or fever, but it’s important to identify mental health struggles. Taking an online quiz can help you assess your mental health.
Practice self-care. There are a lot of articles that explain self-care as bubble baths and treating yourself to ice cream. Understand that sometimes self-care is done in the form of cleaning your room or making a to-do list, maybe even just writing the first paragraph of that paper that’s due next week! It’s important to find strategies that work for you.
Create a routine. The 9-5 work routine is great but nearly impossible for life on campus. In your new job as a full-time student, do your best to set-up a routine that allows enough time for everything on your list. Be sure to build in time to sleep since 1 in 4 young adults aged 18 – 34 do not get enough shut-eye – a finding directly linked to mental health. Creating consistency and balance whenever possible is the key to success.
Know your resources. Many campuses have peer support and counseling available at their wellness centers – check out the options available on your campus. Good2Talk is a confidential helpline (1-866-925-5454) for all Ontario college and university students – it can also connect you to more resources.
Seek help when you need it. There’s no shame in getting help – maybe start by sharing your concerns with a friend. Remember: it takes a strong individual to know when help is needed and to ask for it.
Coming from someone who’s been there, it can be scary and tiring to take care of your mental health; finding the right strategies and resources that work for you doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes, even when you’re on top of things, new mental health struggles can creep up. My best piece of advice is to take 30 seconds and breathe – the way forward often looks clearer when you do!
Emma Little is passionate about creating a positive change in the world. A recent graduate from Queen’s University in Global Development Studies, Emma is also a mental health advocate. Recent engagement includes: volunteering with jack.org, becoming certified in mental health first aid and applied suicide intervention skills, and taking courses in clinical psychology and global mental health.