Finding balance as a college student
College is a time in life where people can experience the most freedom. This freedom comes with opportunities such as academic endeavors, new friends and having extra time to learn more about yourself.
While this freedom comes with opportunities to explore new things and expand your interests, it also comes with pressures from all around. These pressures can lead to high stress levels and mental health problems.
More than 25 percent of college students have been diagnosed or treated by a professional for a mental health condition, anxiety being the most common. Depression is also a common mental illness among this group and often exists alongside anxiety. After talking with our experts, we will detail common stressors for college students and give advice on how to stay balanced in college.
Common stressors for college students
There is a prevalent idea that the college years are solely a time to study and prepare to become a contributing member of society. However, there are so many other aspects of college that make it unique. All of these things are positive in moderation but can cause high levels of stress when they fall out of balance.
- Pressure to achieve: You may feel pressured to get all As whether that pressure is placed on you by someone else or yourself. Unfortunately, this sometimes comes at the expense of other vital aspects of wellness, such as being socially healthy, physically healthy and emotionally healthy.
- Social pressures: You will likely experience social pressures throughout your years in college. There is practically always something going on and the fear of missing out is a constant challenge. However, giving yourself too much time to socialize can pull you out of balance.
- Relationships: In college, you will meet new people and might develop romantic interests. Similar to social pressures, giving too much time to a romantic relationship can pull you out of balance and sometimes even ostracize you from your other friends.
- Parental involvement: Many students want to experience the freedom that college offers at its fullest. However, parents may want to remain heavily involved in the lives of their children. This can make the student feel less capable of trying new things and make them overly focused on only one aspect of college, usually academics in this case.
Self-reflections to help you become balanced
- What aspect of my life do I need to pour more time into? You need to check in on yourself frequently. If you are feeling stressed or unwell, assess if you are sleeping and eating enough, if you have a healthy social life and if you are staying on top of your academics, among other things. If any of these aspects are lacking, try to adjust your time to fill in those gaps. If you are especially excelling in one aspect, you may have the margin to devote slightly less time to it and shift your focus elsewhere.
- Does this opportunity align with my goals? Whether you want to gain the most from your friendships, studies, internships, campus involvement or anything else, you are in college for a reason. As you continue, you will have more clarity on what is important to you and what your goals are. Each time a new opportunity presents itself, consider if you have the margin for it and if it will help you achieve your goals, or if it will provide unnecessary stress.
- Am I doing this because I want to or because I feel like I have to? It is a common phrase that comparison is the thief of joy. Throughout college, you will see others thriving in different aspects of their lives. When you see someone else receive a prestigious internship for their field of study, you may wonder if you are doing enough. Try to remind yourself that they are on their own path, and yours is just as valid. They may even be unsatisfied with some parts of their lives – no one has it all figured out. Do things that are right for you and that bring you fulfillment.
- Do I need to have some difficult conversations? You may have to be vulnerable with your friends and family so that they understand your needs. This can play out in several different ways. If you have focused most of your energy on your social life, you may need to tell your friends that you can’t be as active as before. Conversely, if you have not devoted enough time to friends, you may want to acknowledge this. If your parents are overly involved, you may need to ask them to step back and give you more space. But if you are struggling and need your parents more than before, be honest and tell them that.
Centerstone counselors are dedicated to providing life-changing mental health care to people of every age and life stage. To learn more about Centerstone’s services, call 1-877-HOPE123 (877-467-3123) or visit centerstoneconnect.org.