Back to School in Stress?

Going back to school is never an easy time. It often involves leaving family, friends, and diving into new habits. This year let’s make it a goal to manage school-stress early and keep healthy habits throughout the school year. Not only will this help the transition, but it will reflect on student’s work ethic throughout the school year and encourage better mental health.

The Transition

As a freshman going into college, students are entering an environment they have never been in before. Parents will no longer be watching over them, best friends are living across the country, the people around you haven’t seen your biggest mistakes and largest accomplishments. Everything is new, which is why it is an important time to be in touch with your mental health and aware of how you feel about the transition. Old friends and family will always be there to help through tough times, but don’t be afraid to form relationships with new people too well as it is an important part of this fresh start.

Each student may handle this transition differently, from staying up all night to eating unhealthy food at the dining halls, to focusing on only school because of the amount of educational opportunities. Finding a balance is the hardest part. One of the best things to do is to set your priorities straight in your mind before joining every club and saying yes to every experience. That will help you decide what is important to you. Stay true to yourself.

However, at the same time, don’t be afraid to branch out. It may be scary to make new friends or try new food, or go exploring on your own, but if it is something you want to do, then give yourself the chance to do it. These experiences are things you will remember for the rest of your life, and people who may be around for many years. So become who you want to be, it is your time to develop your individuality and a strong mental head space.

Healthier Habits

Getting back into a school lifestyle may be difficult for any age, whether it is second grade or a senior in college. After a summer off either socializing or working, people have fallen into very different habits. As the school year approaches or starts make sure you or your loved ones try to set promising habits for the remaining year. If they start early, before academics and student organizations get too busy it will be easier to keep the habits constant throughout the school year.

Some of the habits may include:

  • Writing to-do lists/filling out planners

  • Eating healthy

  • Going to sleep and waking up at the same time everyday

  • Exercising

  • Doing homework when it is assigned

  • Study gradually throughout the class

Although week one of school can be fun in the chaos and excitement of seeing old friends, making new ones, and enjoying life before classes get too hard, getting into these habits early will pay off. If you begin the semester only getting four hours of sleep because you have the time to go out with friends and socialize, your body will never catch up when it needs the sleep later to do well on tests. Also if you don’t make the time to exercise while your schedule is open, it will be much harder to do so later in the year. Do your best to keep everything constant and the transition may not be as hard on your mental health.

What’s going on with mental health on college campuses

Clearly, there is a lot that plays into the mental health of students. From the very competitive nature that college campuses have embodied; not only to get in, but now also competing within the classroom and in professional internships outside the classroom, there is a large amount of stress put on students. It is not only about succeeding in the classroom any longer, but getting involved and getting out of your comfort zone as much as possible. With the fast paced lifestyle of college sometimes this can lead to burn-out and deteriorating mental health conditions. Not only that but being in a completely new environment and relying on yourself and new people with novel experiences can be shocking for many people.

These stresses coupled with two week long waitlists to get help and a limited amount of therapists available to students is not healthy, and is contributing to an unhealthy university environment. Students are often left in the lurk to deal with their anxiety, depression, eating disorders, OCD, etc. on their own while more stress builds up.

During the first few weeks the counseling centers are often quite empty, but by the time midterms roll around students begin to build bad habits, often triggering symptoms of mental illnesses, whether it be the depression telling students to stay in bed and skip class, or the anxiety that hits before tests that hurts their test scores. By the time students finally reach out for help there are waitlists of 2-5 weeks, which then leave students trying to navigate their own mental health throughout midterms and up until the even more stressful times of finals. This build-up is not healthy, and only adds to the conditions that students are dealing with.

Many counseling centers at schools are trying to address this problem, however, with limited resources, space, and time, it is hard to rely on colleges to give students the accessible care they need. Part of this could be the reason that suicide is so devastatingly high for college-aged students and more and more students are stating that they feel overwhelmed and stressed during the year. This transition phase of life is hard and with added pressures of academics and professional life, student’s need support.

AYANA and back to school

Part of Ayana’s mission is addressing this problem. Many students of color, or LGBTQ+ students go into their college counseling centers and do not see a therapist who reflects their identity. While navigating college and developing an identity it is important for these students to talk to someone who truly understands their intersectional identity and can help them through each struggle they may face. This is why Ayana is hoping to target many universities in order to provide accessible and affordable therapy for students where they can talk to their therapist on their busy schedules, and will be understood. We want to change these bad patterns, and the time is now.

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