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    Four Mental Health Tips for Your First Year of College

    Posted February 8, 2022, 11:00 am by Andrea Poteet-Bell

    Heading off to your first year of college can be an exciting experience. New friends, new freedoms, and what could be your first time living on your own are just a part of the experience. There are also new challenges for mental health when you first arrive at college. Here are a few mental health tips for your first year of college.

    1. Know How to Pull an All-Nighter (And Why You Should Avoid Them)

    Whether you have to study for an important exam or you're behind on deadlines for essays, the all-nighter is one of the classic ways for college students to cram and catch up to deadlines.

    However, all-nighters can have some serious impacts on your mental health. You crash pretty hard the next day after an all-nighter, and it turns out that academic performance is worse in students who report regularly having to pull all-nighters. All-nighters are also associated with increased risks for depression and lower overall sleep quality.

    If you have to do an all-nighter, remember to keep your health first. Here's a few tips for safely pulling an all-nighter:

    • Avoid caffeine to limit the crash the next day
    • Stay hydrated
    • Work with friends for motivation and safety
    • Work in a brightly lit area like the library

    benefit-sitting

    2. Be Ready for Culture Shock

    Even if you're going to a college that's in your own state, you can still experience culture shock in your first year at university. This is a big step up from high school and comes with a lot of independence as well as a lot of new challenges. First-time college students see some unique struggles when heading it to their freshman year.

    One of the best ways to manage this culture shock is to connect with like-minded students on campus. It's a good idea to join some clubs or student organizations early on. You should also try to connect with study groups in your classes. Keeping a planner and staying organized will also help you stay ahead of burnout and other common problems faced by college freshmen.

    The biggest tip for avoiding culture shock is to give yourself the chance to get involved with the new culture at your college. Your first year at college is going to present you with plenty of challenges, but also opportunities to get involved with other students, groups, and activities. Don't forget that there are other first year students who are facing similar challenges and also looking to make connections and overcome culture shock.

    3. Know Where to Find Help

    Even though your first year of college might be challenging, you're not alone. There are plenty of resources that you can rely on. There are free mental health screenings, orientation sessions, and even classes that are started to weave self-care into coursework.

    You should take some time to connect with your fellow students. They can be some of the best support networks you find in your first years of college. Universities also have plenty of resources for supporting mental health, physical health, and other types of support including religious groups.

    These can include on-campus mental health support, fitness and health groups, and other support networks based on activism, culture, and personal interests. Resources like campus mental health support are typically run by the university while cultural groups are run by students themselves. Getting connected with your university's community is a great way to break through the isolation and learn where resources are located at your college.

    The key takeaway here is that you're not alone even if you're traveling far from your home state to go to your freshman year of college.

    4. Risks of Underage Drinking

    College also presents freshmen with new risks that they might not have been exposed to yet. You might be attending your first college parties, living away from your parents and family, and facing new types of peer pressure.

    This makes binge drinking a serious problem for college students. A national survey found that 33% of students ages 18 to 22 engaged in binge-drinking in the last month. Another study found that students who engaged in binge-drinking were six times more likely to perform poorly on college exams. There are typically on-campus resources that can help college students as well as resources that are off-campus. There are also other programs that can help you recover from drinking problems.

    Conclusion

    No matter where you go to school, the first year of university is bound to come with some challenges. That's why it's so important to set yourself up for success. Follow these tips for mental health in the first year of college. If you do, you're sure to see the results you hope for!

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    Andrea

    Andrea Poteet-Bell

    Andrea Poteet-Bell is a journalist and editor for Sunshine Behavioral Health. Her writing has appeared in local daily newspapers, alternative weeklies, and websites across the country. She graduated from the University of Michigan-Dearborn with a degree in print journalism and lives in Michigan with her husband and their dog, Charlie Brown.

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