When the school year comes to a close, college students across the nation breathe a huge sigh of relief. A year full of papers, presentations, projects, readings, research, quizzes, and tests are left behind and a summer full of sun, fun, internships, and jobs lies ahead. With academic pressures put on hold, summer time is the ideal time for college students to invest in their mental health. Early adulthood is a prime age for many mental health conditions (such as anxiety and depression) to emerge. Here are five tips for college students to improve their mental health in the summer season:
- Regulate sleeping and eating: It’s no secret that university students stay up late and occasionally pull all-nighters – particularly during finals. Adequate, quality sleep is the foundation of mental health. Summer is a good time for students to fall back into better sleep habits – making sure they get in enough sleep hours and maintain consistent bed and wake times. Summer is also an opportunity for students to leave campus convenience foods behind and to start making healthier choices. It’s time to stop skipping meals and begin to be more thoughtful about food intake. Proper nutrition can have a significant impact on mood. (Ever feel “hangry?” It’s not fun!)
- Keep connections going: Classrooms and residence halls naturally bring students together. When students return to their hometowns, they no longer have the same easy access to friends and peers through proximity. It’s important for young men and women to keep in touch with college friends who may be scattered across the country, connect with friends from home, and seek out new friendships. Isolation can contribute to mental health issues, such as depression, and so socialization can be a protective measure.
- Find a new interest/hobby: The increase in free-time that summer usually allows, creates an opportunity for students to dabble in new interests or hobbies. Maybe it is learning a new instrument, picking up knitting, or attempting to surf. Whatever it may be, dedicating time and effort towards leisure activities can build self-esteem, satisfaction, and may provide a new way to cope with stress that students can bring with them into their upcoming school year.
- Pursue therapy: If a student is receiving counseling on campus during the academic year, it may be helpful to continue therapy with a clinician in their hometown. And if a student has been struggling with a mental health issue at school and hasn’t had the bandwidth to get counseling support, summer provides the time and space to finally explore the benefits of therapy.
- Re-evaluate/start medication regimen: If a student is working with a psychiatrist who has prescribed medication or perhaps considering it to help manage mental health challenges, summer could be a good time adjust or begin medication. Efficacy and side effects may be more closely monitored over the summer months without the distractions of school pressures and potential impact on academic performance.
Students can make great use of their summer break to boost their mental health. I have a lot of experience working with college students and I love working with them. If you live in New York and would like to learn more about working with me, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
<Photo credit: Elizeu Dias via Unsplash>