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Mental Health in College

3 Tips on Maintaining Self-Care as a Student

College can often be described as “the best years of your life,” and while that might be true for some, this representation can make others feel alone or different when they go through difficult times in college.

It’s perfectly normal to experience highs and lows during college. However, it appears the mental health of college students is worsening. During the 2020-2021 school year, more than 60% of college students met the criteria for at least one mental health diagnosis, according to the Healthy Minds study, which collects data from over 350 college campuses nationwide. Furthermore, almost three-quarters of students reported moderate to severe psychological distress. 

While you might think you can tough it out, this can contribute to reaching a point of burnout. 

Taking care of your mental health before reaching a crisis point can help you succeed academically and personally and help you to feel less stressed in your daily life.

college students studying

Additionally, recognizing your warning signs of stress is critical in managing them, so it’s essential to know the signs. Common effects of stress on your mood include anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation or focus, irritability or anger, sadness, or depression. Common effects of stress on your behavior include: 

  • overeating or undereating
  • angry outbursts
  • drug use or alcohol abuse
  • social withdrawal
  • reducing exercise or overexercising. 

Here are some creative steps and resources to better manage your stress and improve your mental and emotional health in college. 

1) Have a variety of self-care ideas ready

Self-care is a phrase that is often tossed around and associated with pampering yourself. In my opinion, self-care is unique to each person that practices it. There isn’t a “right” or “wrong” way to practice self-care. Self-care is all about what refuels you or fills you up. Here are some examples:

  • Take a walk outside
  • Listen to music
  • Watch an episode of a show that interests you
  • Listen to a podcast 
  • Read a book
  • Reach out to a friend that helps uplift you
  • Grab your favorite drink from Starbucks
  • Take a long shower
  • Drink more water
  • Take a short nap
  • Accomplish an errand
  • Take your medication
  • Order your favorite food
  • Log out of social media for a period of time
  • Set screen time limits
  • Try a new recipe
  • Use your skincare products
  • Clean a portion of your room
  • Mind dump in your journal
  • Allow yourself to cry when you need
  • Listen to a meditation for 5 minutes
  • Just breathe
  • Forgive yourself or be compassionate toward yourself
  • Prioritize sleep
  • Identify something good that happened today
  • Focus on what you have control over in the present moment
  • Give yourself permission to say no to plans 
male college student

2) Prioritize your self-care

It can be challenging to carve out time for yourself, especially when you have put it behind other things for so long. Schedule it into your calendar or set daily reminders on your phone. Slowing down and filling yourself back up is just as crucial as completing homework or studying. You will be more successful and feel more capable if you give yourself time to recharge. Start with small acts of self-care. They add up over time. You need to start somewhere.

3) Know your resources

Challenge yourself to reach out for help. Whether you’re feeling a little overwhelmed or like you’ve been run over by a truck, there is never a wrong time to seek help. There are many types of resources available.

Find a therapist— You can look through your campus counseling center or outside your school, depending on your financial resources. You can take a look at our therapists on our website: or if you need additional options, look into Psychology Today: psychologytoday.com.

National Suicide Hotline— The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open 24 hours, seven days a week. When you call, text, or chat 988, you will be connected to a trained counselor that can listen, provide support, and connect you to resources if necessary. The previous Lifeline phone number, 1-800-273-8255, will always remain available to people in emotional distress or suicidal crisis. 988 was designed as a three-digit dialing code that is easier to remember and utilize. Here is the website: 988lifeline.org

Trevor Project Lifeline— The Trevor Project provides crisis intervention and counseling via phone and messaging for LGBTQ+ individuals ages 13-24. In addition, their website contains sexual orientation, gender identity, and suicide prevention resources. You can reach them at 866-488-7386, or you can access online chatting through their website: thetrevorproject.org.

The National Eating Disorders Association— NEDA works to support individuals affected by eating disorders. Their website is full of resources, a helpline, and messaging services. You can reach them at 1-800-931-2237, and messaging is available on their website: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.

Contact Deva

Deva Murphy MSW, LCSW

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Deva Murphy, MSW, LCSW

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