When you step onto Northwestern’s campus this fall, you’ll step into a world of changes: new friends, new classes, new profs, or new living situations. At Evanston Counseling, we want to support you as the semester kicks off. We know that you have Northwestern counseling services to go to for help with the transition. Our therapists are here, too, to help you set healthy habits. Who doesn’t want to feel happier this school year?
We’ve Got You
Any one of these changes by itself could cause you to feel anxiety or depression. A little grief might mix in with the excitement. After all, you left behind your support system and the familiar things of life.
We’ve put together 5 tips to keep you feelin’ “good vibes.” You might pick one and focus on it during the first month of school. See how this habit helps you to feel better.
The Thing About Habits: Take the Pressure Off
Have you heard of James Clear? He’s a guru on habits and how to make them stick. In his book Atomic Habits, he says this:
“All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. But as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger.”
Our therapists at Evanston Counseling love this idea. One single, tiny decision. That’s where you start. So, pick something easy and doable. Check out how this one decision can lead to you feeling better over time.
The tips we have below you’ve probably heard before, but it’s for good reason. They work!
Evanston Therapy Mental Health for College Students Tip #1 – Exercise, Shake Your Groove Thing
Okay, we’re not talking about hitting the gym every day for hours. Unless that’s how you roll! (Remember the part about one, single, tiny decision?) But research has shown that exercise and movement will lift your mood, lower stress, and improve memory and brain function.
Check the personal and group fitness options on Northwestern’s campus.
Or put on some throwbacks and have an old-fashioned dance party. (You might not realize how much of the day you spend sitting!) You’ll feel better, and your brain will thank you for it.
To see the most benefits to your brain and mood, exercise regularly.
Evanston Therapy Mental Health for College Students Tip #2 Watch What You Eat and Drink
When you feel pressed for time, you may just snack and not take time for meals. But, your brain and your emotions thrive on healthy foods. But you knew that.
Ramen and pizza are just a part of college life, right? Along with that, work fruits, veggies, healthy protein, and whole grains into your meal plans. You’ll think more clearly and generally feel better.
Have you dealt with an eating disorder in the past? You might want to work out a plan. When life is feeling out of control, what can you do? This is where mental health services for Northwestern students or talking with one of our therapists can offer relief.
Do you love to hit all of the parties on the weekend and end up drinking too much alcohol? Perhaps you do drugs to relieve social stress. You want to be more social and get to know people, but it’s hard and the alcohol and drugs make it easier and more fun. This might feel good temporarily, but in the long run, your grades will suffer and the embarrassment over what you did on Saturday night will live on.
It’s so socially acceptable to turn to substances or food to calm the stress and anxiety. But using food, alcohol or drugs as your go-to to deal with life is gambling with your future and addictions can form. And, before you know it you could find yourself thinking more about the next snack attack or vape and less about your school work. Talk to one of our Evanston therapists. We’ll help you find and stick with more healthy ways to relieve your stress. Let’s devise a personal strategy that works for you.
Evanston Therapy Mental Health for College Students Tip #3 Find Your Squad
Surround yourself with your people. You know, the ones who get your jokes and are as crazy about social justice, being vegan, fashion, Harry Styles, or whatever it is, as you are. They know how to listen without trying to fix you. With them, you truly feel it’s a judgment-free zone.
Robert Waldinger, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard, is the director of a study that tracked the lives of a group of sophomores over decades. One surprising finding about mental health was that:
“our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health.”
Yeah, you know all that stuff about how important relationships are. But making friends is perhaps not something you do easily. Making friends is super hard to do and that’s normal. Everyone is struggling, especially at the beginning of college. It’s just that some people are good at not showing it!
Find out where your people hang out. If you love sailing, singing or club sports, there’s probably a group on campus for you. You can start here to see the activities, clubs and sports Northwestern has to offer. Hanging out with people who love what you love is an easier way to start building friendships.
In college, you may find friendships that will last over your lifetime. Your squad could be the best support in getting you through the semester.
Evanston Therapy Mental Health for College Students Tip #4 Value Yourself
There is a lot of talk these days about self-care. Yet, what it comes down to is valuing yourself.
You value yourself enough to know when you need a break. You’re tuned in to your emotions and the weight of all your responsibilities. So, you take a Sunday off from studying to “get lost” in nature with friends on a hike. Or you indulge your inner introvert by spending a night in and reading, journaling, or binging your favorite show.
Find what refreshes you. If you’re more “shoot some hoops” than “mani-pedi and spa treatments”, do you. Discover those activities that take the pressure off and allow you to exhale.
Rinse and repeat.
Evanston Therapy Mental Health for College Students Tip #5 Know the Signs of Mental Health Changes and Where to Get Help
This bestcolleges.com article gives these signs to look out for if you feel your mental health is shifting:
- Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
- New behaviors, such as engaging in risky actions or refusing to socialize.
- Changes in mood
- Changes in speech, like talking really fast or struggling to tell a coherent story
At Evanston Counseling, we would also like you to look for the following signs: changes in drinking or substance abuse, feeling badly about yourself or feeling extra stressed, feeling like you aren’t yourself, not wanting to engage in your normal activities, feeling hopeless and not wanting to continue living.
Keep track of the changes in how you feel.
The earlier you reach out the better. You’ll more likely avoid a crisis situation.
What single, tiny decision can you make today to feel better this semester?
We are available to help you If you’re feeling anxious about college life. Call us at (773) 983-8444 for a free, 15-minute phone conversation with one of our Evanston Therapists. We will listen and direct you to the right person to help you with your anxiety. Or you can schedule a time to chat with us here.
Are you looking for therapy for school stress, anxiety, life transitions, or relationships? You can read more about how our therapists can help here. We look forward to meeting you.