Maintain Your Mental Health

Being away at college means managing your own life (perhaps for the first time) and learning how to live with other people. Making new friends and trying to find your way in the world all at the same time can be an overwhelming experience. In addition to feeling stressed, you may experience other emotional conditions — from simple and common things like homesickness and anxiety to more serious problems like depression and sleep disorders.

Homesickness

Missing home (including siblings, friends, pets, or family traditions) is a very common experience at the beginning of the freshman year. Fortunately, there are easy workarounds for it.

  • Attend a mini reunion. Most colleges and universities have a Parents' Weekend during the first couple of weeks of October, with a whole series of campus events open to the entire family. This is a great time for your family to meet your new friends. Take the time for a meal or a night away from campus to reconnect with your family and get away from the school environment. For most mild cases of homesickness, this dose of your family in early October can do the trick.

  • Let go. Homesickness brought on by missing a boyfriend or girlfriend you left behind is perfectly normal. But holding on to the past can prevent you from living (and enjoying) the present. Getting past this relationship (at least for now) is important to your acclimation to and full engagement in your college experience. Holding on to your high school romance can lead to a wealth of distraction; a failure to connect with roommates and others on campus; and a resulting college life that may well be less than what you expected.

  • Stay busy. Balance your studies with fun things like parties, lunch dates, and shopping with your friends. By the end of the day, you'll often be too tired to remember how much you miss home.

Anxiety

As is true of homesickness, a little anxiety in the freshman year is also completely normal. You're likely to experience some anxiety as you approach your first set of midterms and as you write your first substantive college paper, or if you discover that you're having trouble in one or more of your classes. This anxiety may manifest itself in a few nights of disturbed sleep or some disturbance of appetite. Staying organized, getting some exercise and reaching out to your roommates can often go a long way toward quelling this anxiety.

Serious anxiety, depression, and more

You can't breathe, feel nauseous, and start to shake. You're extremely nervous or feel impending doom, and you're breaking into a cold sweat. You feel out of control . . . terrified. It's a full-blown anxiety attack and time to get in touch with someone at the Student Health Center. Likewise, if your homesickness or anxiety develops into depression, long-term sleep disorders, or suicidal thoughts, immediately reach out to the appropriate campus service.

Mental health services

The Health Center has a number of confidential counseling services in place to respond to whatever is ailing you. They will schedule appointments for you — and a counselor is almost always available for walk-in or emergency appointments. Your tuition funds these services, and they're there for you.

College students seek counseling services for many reasons. You may be struggling with the workload, with the adjustment, or with your life after your high school relationship ended. You may be worried about a sick parent or sibling at home. Perhaps you have an untenable roommate situation and need someone away from the dorm to talk it over with. Perhaps you've just learned that your parents are getting divorced and want to talk about it with someone. Maybe you're frightened by some recent addictive behavior with drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, or your new credit card.

All these reasons, and anything else that is bothering you, are reason enough to schedule an appointment with a counselor. Unlike years ago, when seeking counseling could be stigmatizing, these days it is quite common. Many students use these resources at some time during their college careers, seeking help in dealing with a whole range of issues from stress to depression to sexual identity.

There's a huge amount of pressure to be found in college. So instead of turning to drugs, alcohol, or other destructive behaviors to escape, give your campus's counseling service a chance to intervene and help.