Stressed out at university? Here are five essential readings on how to take better care of your mental health

Nearly 70% of college students report experiencing emotional distress or anxiety related to the pandemic. That’s according to a January 2022 poll, which also found nearly 9 in 10 college students believe US colleges and universities are facing a mental health crisis.

Below are five articles from The Conversation archives that highlight tips for college students to take better care of their mental health.

1. Prioritize your mental health

Occasionally, when students do poorly in a class due to mental health issues, they seek a Therapeutic Use Exemption, which can expel them from the class rather than pass it. But students who get this exception often fail to seek the actual help they need to cope with the mental health issue that caused them to perform poorly in the first place.

So says Nicholas Joyce, a psychologist at the University of South Florida.

“In my experience, many students who receive the TU return the next semester without addressing their mental health needs and end up failing further classes,” Joyce writes.

Joyce recommends four ways college students can avoid having to apply for a medical exemption in the first place.



Read more: Are you mentally fit for college?


2. Look for campuses designed to boost your mood

When choosing a college, students should consider whether the campus design will benefit their mental health.

Green spaces on college campuses can reduce stress.
Rana Faure/Getty Images

Two researchers from North Central College in Naperville, Illinois — Carly Drake, assistant professor of marketing, and Diane Bruce Anstine, dean of the School of Business and Entrepreneurship — write about five campus design features that benefit student mental health.

“Campus design impacts the college experience, and students may choose a campus or modify their existing routines to support their mental health,” they write. “Such consideration is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, when new rules and norms are making many students more anxious and depressed than usual.”



Read more: 5 things to look out for on a college campus that benefit mental health


3. Create a wellness plan

Before students even step onto campus, they should develop a wellness plan that will help them avoid major emotional distress. So says Sandra M. Chafouleas, professor of educational psychology at the University of Connecticut, who explains exactly what every student’s wellness plan should include.

“…personal wellness plans must be tailored to the needs of each individual student,” she writes. “And I think with it being unclear whether new college students will be on physical campuses or learning online this fall, those plans are more important than ever.”



Read more: 5 things college students should include in a well-being plan


4. Avoid academic burnout

When college students experience burnout, it often leads to feelings of isolation, underachievement, and depression.

Ryan Korstange, assistant professor of college studies at Middle Tennessee State University, writes about five tips college students can use to avoid fatigue.

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“The most effective way to prevent burnout is to know why you’re going to college from the start,” he writes. “Build your inner motivation by identifying the skills you need to develop and the experiences you want to have during your studies.”



Read more: 5 tips for college students to avoid burnout


A group of students is playing with a dog.
A survey found that 62% of colleges offer dog therapy programs.
Paul Aiken/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images

5. Spend time with a therapy dog

Research has shown that spending as little as 10 minutes with a therapy dog ​​can reduce student stress levels. For this reason, Christine Kivlen, an assistant professor of occupational therapy at Wayne State University, encourages students to look for therapy dog ​​programs on campus. Kivlen writes about the calming effects of spending time with a therapy dog.

“Among other things, therapy dogs can help students develop a stronger sense of belonging and better cope with homesickness and loneliness, while reducing their anxiety and stress.”



Read more: Therapy dogs help students cope with the stress of college life


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