May is Mental Health Awareness Month!
It’s no secret that college can take a serious mental toll on students as they experience pressure coming at them from multiple sources.
Students are often faced with bouts of academic pressure, financial pressure, and peer pressure as they journey through college.
According to the American Psychological Association’s 2020 Stress in America report, 87 percent of college students report that their education is a significant source of stress.
They experience the pressure to succeed academically and do well in classes from their parents, professors, coaches, and themselves. Academic pressure may come from family expectations, whether the student is a first-generation college student or carrying on a family legacy. This pressure can be detrimental to a student’s development and well-being, causing them to put their academic success over their mental and physical health, relationships, and creative outlets.
Students also experience stress over the financial aspect of college.
According to the Education Data Initiative, The average cost of college has more than doubled in the 21st century, with an annual growth rate of 7.1%. Many students struggle with financial support to attend college and as a result, take out loans or get a job to put themselves through college. As student debts increase, the stress of producing money to pay back loans also rises. This financial pressure can affect academic performance, in turn worsening the feelings of academic pressure.
Finally, maintaining relationships and dealing with peer pressure is another key source of stress for college students.
Going to college opens the door to new relationships and connecting with people from many different walks of life. Entering a new environment and getting to know new people is a part of the college experience, but it can also be a daunting task. Many college students feel the need to alter themselves or succumb to peer pressure in order to fit in with their peers. They may also compare themselves and their experiences to their peers and may find themselves thinking that they are behind academically and socially. Peer pressure can look different depending on one’s morals, values, or interests but it is simply when members of the same social group influence others to do things they would otherwise choose not to do. Students may pretend to be someone they’re not in order to fit in, losing their sense of self-worth and self-respect or they may choose to stick to their principles yet then risk feeling lonely or ridiculed.
Dealing with the pressures of college can negatively affect students’ mental health, resulting in feelings of anxiety, depression, stress, and burnout.
Students may also experience increased substance use, impaired overall health and well-being, and poor sleep quality, leading to problematic coping strategies such as taking sleeping pills, smoking cigarettes, and drinking alcohol to help them sleep, depersonalization (feeling disconnected from one’s body and/or thoughts) and poorer quality of life as a result of academic pressure according to a 2019 review study.
So how can students overcome the pressures of college and the mental health issues that may arise as a result?
It is important to manage stress by taking care of your physical and mental health. This means first identifying the source of your stress and carving out a path to alleviate it.
For instance, if you’re struggling in a class, consider asking a friend for help or taking advantage of the resources on campus as many colleges and universities offer academic support programs. Most schools also offer mental health support services for students, however, there are some steps that students can take on their own to alleviate the pressures of college.
These steps are: exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, eating well, avoiding procrastination, and following a routine.
Click here to check out more of our mental health tips for college students!