Minding your mental health at college

Shona’s tips for looking after yourself when you start college

Written by Shona O'Boyle


We often hear the phrase “college is the best four years of your life”. Moving away from home, becoming independent, meeting life long friends and just simply having fun. However, when you have to cope with a mental illness like anxiety or depression it can make the transition from secondary school to college a little bit more difficult.

Growing up I always thought that I was just an excessive worrier and would always try and shrug it off whenever these episodes occurred. It wasn’t until I started college that these feelings became more intense and before I knew it my ‘occasional worry’ had turned into almost constant anxiety and fear. It got to a point where all I could do was go to college, cook and study and then repeat it all again the following day.

For me the feelings of fear and worry were the worst symptoms but others include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, nausea and tense muscles to name a few. It wasn’t until a few months into college that I realised my problems were becoming more than what I could cope with so I found ways for dealing with it.

Talk to someone

Having someone to express your worries or concerns to, be it a family member, a friend, lecturer or even a student advisor can help lift a huge weight off your shoulders. Colleges or Universities should also offer therapy or counselling to students who feel they cannot talk to someone close to them or who need advice and tips on how to manage how they are feeling.

Get involved

Getting involved in clubs and societies is a great way to meet new friends, get some exercise and of course have fun. Unlike secondary school, college is a great way to explore your interests or even try something new and exciting that you normally wouldn’t do. I always loved dancing from a young age and wanted to have an active role in dance society so I decided to take a leap of faith and challenge myself by becoming Dance Society Class Officer. It was certainly something I would never have dreamed of doing but it helped increase my confidence while also getting to ‘go behind the scenes’ aka the society offices where I saw how the day to day workings of the societies were run!

Look after yourself

College is an amazing experience however it has it’s ups and downs so ensuring you take some time out to relax and unwind is important for everyone, especially those experiencing difficult times with their mental health. This could be something as simple as going for a walk or swim, listening to music or settling down for the night and watching your favourite netflix episodes. Just remember that no matter how down or upset you are feeling that you are not alone!

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