Prioritize your mental health

Victoria Johnsson

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I’m worried about my college experience.  It seems like I never have enough hours in the day to do everything I want to.  Dashing from class to club to class leaves me exhausted and afraid of missing out on that crucial opportunity or time with a new friend. I fixate on my responsibilities and the work I’ve taken on. Then, my stress consumes me and I end up procrastinating, missing time with my friends or engulfed in a late night (and early morning) homework crunch.

Does any of this sound like you? Are you homesick?  Unhappy?  Having trouble making friends? Disorganized and stressed? Distracted? Anxious? Just not feeling great emotionally, for some reason?

That’s all valid. Iffy mental health might even be expected when transitioning to college. College is when all the social structures we’re used to from high school break down and reform into something new.  All the freedom to decide your own schedule, the physical separation from parents and friends back home and the unfamiliar environment combine.  It’s a whole new world.

It also seems that people aren’t discussing mental health.  Now is the perfect time to do so. Getting a good start on your college career isn’t just about joining the right clubs or meeting the right people. It’s having a solid support network for when things get rough or when exams loom ahead.  It’s crucial to have a mindset that enables you to tackle Washington and Lee fearlessly.

New students, like me, can become so fixated on the perfect college experience that we ignore our problems.  There’s always pressure to look put-together and be the very best in your class, and it’s exacerbated by our university’s culture of perfectionism. But I’ve found over the past few weeks that acknowledging my struggles saves me time, energy and stress.

Several resources and tips can help you cope with this crazy new situation.  If you need to work through your emotions, you can chat with your RA or peer counselor.  Washington and Lee also offers professional counseling that is included in tuition, if you’d prefer a conversation with an expert.  I’ve personally found both options helpful. You can also, of course, reach out to the people in your life you already know and trust.

If you don’t want to discuss your mental health in conversation, 7cups.com provides casual emotional support chatting and the US Crisis Text Line can be reached by texting HOME to 741741.  Making scheduled time to destress and relax can help keep homework anxiety under control. If you feel burned out, try keeping your blood sugar up and cultivating a strong sense of humor.

We’ve all got the resources to make our college experience healthy and fulfilling.  It’s no magic solution, but it is a stronger foundation for the future.  I hope that in the haze of new experiences you don’t brush off your personal mental warning signs.

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