Making the Most of Your Semester: A Guide to Student Mental Health

Student life can be a lot. Between going to class, studying your face off, squeezing in extracurriculars, trying to maintain a social life, getting your meals in, and hopefully drinking enough water, that doesn’t leave time for much else — like mental health. While it can seem impossible to create time to focus on your mental health, it’s something that needs to be prioritized. Your state of mind and how you feel is the backbone to everything else you do.

How can you keep yourself (and your mind) in top shape?

Know Your Resources

It’s no secret most campus mental health resources are not where they need to be. Students often encounter long waitlists, costly services, or resources that don’t fit their needs. Doing a bit of research and staying aware of resources around you is a secret tool you can keep in your back pocket — so if you do find yourself struggling, you’ll know exactly where to go.

Many communities offer support groups, crisis centres, and helplines tailored to specific needs like mental health, drugs and alcohol, for LGBTQ2S+, for newcomers, and so much more. Necessary resources can look different to everyone, and they can even change over time.

Whether it’s a support group, or something as simple as joining a student club, make sure you know your options. If you don’t have time to seek in-person help, online counselling services like Wellin5 can help connect you to a counsellor that fits your specific needs and your busy schedule.

Seek Counselling

There’s a misconception that counselling is only for those going through a tough time, or working through past trauma. That’s not the case at all. Counselling is for everyone. All of us. Even you. Seeing a counsellor can actually improve the way you navigate your student life. To name just a few benefits, counselling can:

  • Teach you to effectively manage stress
  • Improve your decision-making, problem-solving, and conflict resolution skills
  • Increase your sense of confidence and self-acceptance
  • Assist you in managing complex emotions like anger, anxiety, and sadness
  • Help you change poor habits or behaviours that no longer serve you

Prioritize Your Health

Student life, unfortunately, can create the perfect circumstances to ignore your health, if you let it. Long days in class, long nights studying, scheduling social events during rare blocks of free time. To fit this all in, students often give up sleep, proper meals, and exercise. But the thing is, healthy behaviours are fuel. And what happens to a car when it’s low on fuel? It stops running. Proper health is what gives you energy to power through your day, so it’s time to give it the attention it deserves.

  • Eat well: If finding time to eat three meals a day sounds impossible, start small. Carry healthy snacks with you and munch on those throughout the day. Work your way up from there.
  • Catch enough Zzs’s: A wonky sleep schedule can ruin your entire day. Oversleeping can leave you feeling groggy, and undersleeping doesn’t give your body enough time to restore. So how much sleep do you really need? 7 to 9 hours seems to be the magic number.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol: For those with existing mental health disorders, drugs and alcohol can significantly heighten symptoms. For those with a higher likelihood of developing a disorder, like a family history, substances can trigger symptoms. The ups and downs substances take your brain and body through are tough to bounce back from. Time spent recovering equals less time to focus on your studies, and yourself.
  • Try to stay active: Exercise can be a serious mood booster and lead to feelings of happiness and clarity. Try to incorporate it into your schedule, even if it means walking across campus.

Celebrate Your Wins

Many of us overlook small wins while simultaneously cursing ourselves for our setbacks. This is the perfect recipe for killing positivity and fuelling self-doubt. I invite you to celebrate whenever you can, even if it doesn’t feel like a win. Celebrate even when there’s still a ton on your plate, even if it’s just for a moment. It doesn’t have to be elaborate — it can be as simple as grabbing yourself a pastry from your favourite coffee shop. Rewarding yourself when you pass that really hard test, or make it through a particularly busy time in your semester is a small but mighty way to keep yourself going.

Mental health matters

A positive state of mental health can be the difference between surviving, or thriving during your semester. It’s true students are busier than they’ve ever been, but health is the foundation to a great student experience. As always, if you’re looking for a counsellor to support you during your studies and beyond, Wellin5 has got your back.

Sarina Arefzadeh is a Vancouver-based content marketer, mental health advocate, and pop culture enthusiast. She brings her education in psychology and sociology to unpack topics like tech, gender, mental health, and online life. She’s a speaker with Jack.org, regularly visiting schools to talk to students about their mental health, what it means, and how they can be there for themselves and their peers. Connect with Sarina on LinkedIn, Twitter, or by email.