In my second year of graduate school studying speech-language pathology, I was feeling tired, anxious, and spread thin by my academic, clinical, and extracurricular commitments. I was not spending enough time on myself to support my mental health, and my daily life was impacted by negative and anxious thoughts. I realized that I needed to make a change.
So, I started by setting better boundaries around my time. I stopped overcommitting myself, and I increased time spent on activities that improved my mental health, being outdoors and feeding my photography hobby. By taking these steps, I was able to improve my outlook and refocus on graduate school. I know that my experience with stress and anxiety in graduate school is a common one, so if you or someone you know is having a similar experience, remember that you are not alone—and there are things you can do to help yourself.
What Is Mental Health, and Why Is It Important?
According to the Mayo Clinic, mental health is defined as “the overall wellness of how you think, regulate your feelings, and behave.” Researchers have found that many college students experience challenges with depression, anxiety, stress, and burnout. According to a 2019 study, maintaining a healthy mindset mental health may be particularly challenging for students pursuing degrees in the discipline of communication sciences and disorders (CSD) due to stressors such as applying to graduate school, meeting clinical requirements, and navigating financial pressures. If you or others you know are experiencing some of these challenges, you may want to do a mental health check. PositivePsychology.com offers a free self-evaluation checklist for different areas of self-care.
Work on Self-Care
It is important to find ways to center yourself and stay engaged with things that support your whole self, including
- participating in activities like movement and exercise;
- spending time outdoors;
- listening to music;
- doing your favorite hobby;
- doing guided meditation and mindfulness exercises (tip: there are many good videos on YouTube);
- maintaining a nutritious diet; and
- getting adequate sleep
Check out this new mental health resources page on the National NSSLHA website for a list of handouts/activities, videos, blog posts about mental health, and more. The page was created for students by students who volunteer on the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Action (IDEA) Work Group.
If it’s hard to find the time to participate in these kinds of mood-boosting activities, try scheduling some “me time” into your day, even if it’s only 10 minutes. You could also try to find a friend who may like the same activity—ask them if they want to do something together, like taking a walk, so you have another person to help motivate you.
Seek Support From Others
Many people struggle with their mental health in school, and there is nothing wrong with reaching out or taking time for yourself. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please seek professional help. Some signs indicating that you may benefit from the help of a trained mental health professional may be having persistent thoughts that bother you; noticing that you are no longer enjoying or participating in your favorite activities; or experiencing increased difficulty in school or at work. If you notice these or other concerns, you may want to explore the counseling and wellness services available on your campus. Remember, you’re not the only one who has experienced this—many students benefit from these services.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers many tips for navigating mental health in college, provides resources for low-cost services, and maintains a list of mental health service providers. You can also use these resources:
- National Institute of Mental Health: Where to find help
- Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: Call or text 988
Academics are a stressor for any student. Try to manage your time, courseload, and other commitments in ways that work best for you and that have a positive impact on your mental health. It helped me. It’s also important to set boundaries and find the right balance between school and your personal life. When I set a goal for what time I’ll stop my schoolwork for the day and give myself personal breaks, it helps me feel less stressed—especially when I have a lot of schoolwork to do. Make sure to carve out time for yourself, take breaks, and use your study time wisely—it’ll help you reduce those feelings of being overwhelmed with school.
And, remember, you’re not alone!