How University Students Can Reduce Stress & Maintain Mental Health

How University Students Can Reduce Stress & Maintain Mental Health

Many young people look forward to attending university, seeing it as the ultimate rite of passage, the unofficial beginning of their adult lives. After all, you’re out from under the watchful eye of your parents. You’re making your own decisions. You’re making a life on your own terms.

There’s another side to the transition to higher education, though, one that many students may not expect until they actually experience it. For many students enrolled in tertiary education programmes, the stress of living on their own, learning to balance academics and social life, and even figuring out how to manage finances can be overwhelming.

For some, the intense pressure of university life may even spiral into mental illness, ranging from depression and anxiety to addiction and eating disorders. Fortunately, there are ways that college students can reduce stress and maintain their mental health.

A Difficult Adjustment

Teenagers often eagerly anticipate heading off to university, savouring the idea of finally winning their independence. They often envision this time in their lives as one long party. Homesickness rarely enters into their calculation and thus they’re often unprepared when the heady excitement wears off and the reality sets in.

The transition can, for example, trigger full-fledged adjustment disorder in some students. This is a risk even for those who have chosen to live at home while completing their studies, simply due to the intense rigour of the curriculum. Such adjustment disorders can often instigate others, such as addiction and eating disorders, as students grappling with depression and anxiety struggle to cope.

Because of the important mental health risks that higher education students face, students must have easy access to affordable care. Consulting with a professional or even a peer support group can help students stop the spiral that may lead to significant psychological disorders, Indeed, without proper support such as this, students may experience both the physiological and psychological impacts of burnout, which can seriously jeopardise not only their academic success but also their overall health.

Learning to Manage Finances

Financial stress has been shown to take a tremendous toll on persons of all ages. However, money worries can be especially detrimental for higher education students who are also trying to deal with academic pressures and the challenges of living away from home for the first time.

Tertiary education students, for instance, often carry at least some amount of student debt relating to the “student contribution” they are required to make toward their tuition. This can intensify the pressure to do well and finish their academic programmes as quickly as possible.

Even for students who do not have student debt, however, living independently and managing finances, perhaps for the first time, can be difficult. The temptation to overspend can be great, especially when you’re setting up your first flat or you’re indulging in nights out with friends.

For this reason, another highly effective way to help college students manage their stress is by supporting them in managing their money. Early education on how to save, how to spend judiciously, and how to avoid loan and credit card debt can liberate students from one of the most debilitating stressors possible.

For students who may not have received this financial education in their teens, consulting with a financial advisor through your school or in the community can be a wonderful way to get your financial footing. You’ll be on the way to building a future free of money worries!

Setting the Scene for Success

Time management is often one of the most difficult skills for students to learn. Without this skill, students may find themselves constantly playing catch-up, rushing to complete projects or prepare for examinations and, in the process, only ratcheting up their stress quotient.

Fortunately, solutions for mitigating this source of stress can be fairly simple. The key is in having the right planning and organisational tools to help students stay on track.

For instance, creating a DIY chalkboard for the student’s apartment can be an ideal way not only for them to plan their work and study schedules but also to coordinate timelines and deadlines with their housemates. House rules may stipulate, for example, that no parties or guests are allowed when the chalkboard shows that somebody in the apartment is preparing for a big exam or project the next day!

Severing Academic Success From Self Image

As significant as stress may be for the mental health of tertiary education students, it’s perhaps an even greater risk factor for those who have already achieved success in higher education. Studies show that graduate students are far more likely to experience mental health challenges than the general population.

Often, this can be attributed not only to the inherent difficulty of graduate-level work but also to the tendency of this particular student population to link academic success with self-image. Graduate students almost always have a history of academic achievement, and when they face the inevitable challenges of graduate work, they are far more likely to experience a decline in self-esteem and an increase in anxiety and depression.

For this reason, graduate students must prioritise their mental health, including taking proactive steps to recognise when a mental health concern may be emerging. Once students learn to identify these warning signs, such as difficulty sleeping, irritability, or loss of appetite, they can more readily seek out the professional help they need and deserve.

The Takeaway

University truly is a rite of passage, but it can also bring with it tremendous stress that students may not be prepared for. The good news, however, is that there are many steps higher education students, parents, faculty, and administrators can take to help these students reduce their stress and maintain their mental health.

About the Author

My Headshot_Katie
Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in lifestyle, mental health, education, and fitness-related content.

When she isn't writing, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. To connect with Katie, you can follow her on Twitter.

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