College isn’t always easy, whether you’re a freshman going away for the first time or you’re a senior looking forward to your last year. There are many challenges, especially if you’re living on your own for the first time in your life, as most college students are.
Luckily, there are things you can take with you to college or university to help improve your mental health and keep yourself balanced. Here are a few…
1. Your Belief That Anything is Possible
For better or worse, as people age, they tend to become more cynical. Life has a way of teaching a person things over time — what we eventually call “experience” — that also limits our openness to new things and new ways of thinking.
Young adults tend to be less cynical. Life is still full of possibilities. While not every road will lead somewhere, you’re still open to giving them all a try. While at university, this belief will serve you well. Try and hold on to this open-mindedness as you wend your way through your college life and young adulthood.
2. Your Ability to Bounce Back
Psychologists call this ability to bounce back a person’s “resilience.” Not everyone has it, and some people feel things more deeply for a longer period of time than others. But it seems this ability is formed during our developmental years — as a child and teenager — so this is the prime time of your life to build this skill further.
College is the first time many people experience their first real failures in life — in a serious relationship, in academics, in applying themselves in some way that doesn’t turn out the way they had hoped. How you deal with these setbacks is the foundation for how you’ll learn to deal with failure for the rest of your life. Think more mindfully of failure in order to better help you cope with it in the future.
3. Your Connections with Family & Friends
While you will grow the number and type of friendships you have in college, you bring with you the social bonds you already have made with your family and friends. College is as much about learning what it takes to be an adult and expanding upon your social skills as it is about learning a specific academic subject.
Take this opportunity to build upon your existing social skills and challenge yourself to expand them. Most of us can be a little shy around people we don’t know, so why not break that pattern and be someone different — the person who makes the first move to make a new friend?
4. Your Lack of Prejudice Toward Mental Health Issues
You are the generation that has totally changed the way society looks at people with mental health concerns. You are the generation that freely acknowledges your own mental health challenges and shares them with friends, family, and complete strangers, through Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, blogs, and a dozen other social media apps.
Your fresh perspective and ability to say, “Hey, this is no different than when a person has cancer or diabetes,” has helped to encourage millions of people to get treatment instead of hiding in the shadows. It has allowed your friends to reach out to you for help when they needed a caring ear. And it has allowed you to reach out when you needed help too, instead of cowering in shame.
5. Your Love of Technology
Your love of technology has helped transform the conversation about mental health. The battle I used to fight was one of simply educating people about the basics of mental illness — that it’s not a personal failing or character flaw. But technology has changed the conversation, starting more than 20 years ago with the web.
Technology has allowed us to talk about these issues in ways we never could’ve imagined a generation ago. It has created apps to help us improve our mental health, to track our moods on a daily basis, journal our thoughts and feelings, and share in social networks that foster support. Your embrace of technology has helped everyone who’s ever suffered, and provides a valuable tool for not only yourself (if you ever need it), but also millions of others.
Enjoy college, and take these strengths with you. Remember, you are living during one of the most amazing times in history, and college becomes one of the fondest memories of most adults. Don’t throw away your shot.