It’s that time of the year when the holidays are upon us when excitement and joy fill the air as the seasons shift. Holiday decorations adorn buildings and homes around town, festive drinks appear on the menus at your favorite coffee shops, and your calendar fills with gatherings and celebrations galore.
At the same time, many people feel the pressure of the holidays and experience mental health struggles as a result. The jubilation of the season is often coupled with a serious amount of stress. There’s the drastic change to your daily routine, balancing everyone’s shifting schedules, concerns about money, and much more.
However, if you’re a college student, the anxiety brought about by the holidays makes this time of year especially challenging. While most adults have already established some skills for handling these stressors, you’re still learning to navigate and manage your various newfound responsibilities.
Enjoying the holidays while managing your mental health isn’t an impossible task, though. What are some things that can impact your mental health during the holidays as a college student? How can you prepare for the season and make sure you’re ready for any difficulties that may arise?
College Students and Mental Health
Mental health among college students has been a cause for concern for some time. College is the first time many students move away from home, and they begin navigating the world separate from their parents. They have higher demands from their academics, face social pressure from peers, and often have increased access to substances.
Dr. Rebecca Kennedy, Chief Mental Health Officer at the University of West Florida, said in an interview that anxiety is one of the most common difficulties among college students. “A lot of students are struggling to just manage their stress,” she explains. College brings about new and challenging responsibilities that can lead to poor mental health outcomes.
If you already have a hard time managing school outside the holiday season you’re far from alone. Studies on college students’ mental health are already troubling. Depression and anxiety are common among college students. Substance abuse is a widespread problem for many young adults. According to research on college students from recent years:
- 31.5% report symptoms of mental illness
- 16.0% experienced a major depressive episode
- 11.1% had serious thoughts of suicide
So how do the holidays affect these already alarming statistics?
Stressors for College Students During the Holidays
College students who put too much on their plates too quickly have a hard enough time as it is. Then the holiday season tends to add even more stress to the equation. Dr. Kennedy also directs the counseling services at the University of Florida and notes that “Somewhere around October or mid-October we start to get pretty slammed.”
You’re also not alone if you’re starting to feel the pressure of the holiday season, either. There are plenty of things that can leave you feeling anxious and on edge this time of year. Being in college includes its own set of struggles that make this time of year more stressful, such as:
- Final exams, papers, and presentations
- Financial concerns from purchasing gifts
- Heading home for the holidays
- Spending the holidays away from home
- Difficulties with family members
- Pre-existing mental illness or mental health disorders
- Seasonal disorder (i.e. Seasonal Affective Disorder)
Getting through the holiday season as a college student can be a serious challenge. There are some ways you can handle these stressors, though, and keep your mental health in check throughout the next few weeks.
How to Manage Your Mental Health During the Holidays
Managing your mental health during the holidays is important if you want to minimize your symptoms and enjoy the season with friends and family. What are some ways for you to care for your mental health during the holidays as a college student?
1. Write out a daily schedule
Sticking to a schedule can help keep things manageable when you’re feeling stressed out. Sit down either in the morning or at night and write out your schedule for the day. What do you need to do, where do you need to go, and when do you need to be there? When you have your tasks
2. Maintain healthy habits
If you already have healthy habits in place, such as a regular exercise routine or eating a balanced diet, stick with these things. It can be a challenge to keep your healthy habits up during the holidays when you have different activities and gatherings to attend. The more consistent you remain, though, the better you will feel.
3. Focus on one task at a time
When you have a lot to handle at once, writing out a list and tackling tasks one at a time will make it easier to get things done. If looking at everything at once gets overwhelming, take a few tasks from your list and put them on a separate sheet of paper. Once you work through these tasks pull a few more from the list and write them out on another piece of paper. Narrowing your focus can make it less stressful to finish everything that needs to be done.
4. Find ways to unwind
Finding ways to de-stress during the holidays is crucial, especially when you’re struggling with your mental health. If you don’t already have some go-to practices that help you unwind, now’s the time to consider your options. Take up an at-home yoga practice, check out a few good books from the library, incorporate a gratitude journaling practice, or simply spend some time in the sun. Make sure you dedicate some time to unwind every day in the schedule you create.
5. Stay close to friends and family
It can be tempting to isolate yourself from friends and family when you’re having a hard time with your mental health. Sometimes it’s easier to stay home and spend time alone than it is to work up the energy to get outside of your house. But staying close to friends and family is crucial when you struggle with your mental health during the holiday season. You don’t have to spend every day doing something but try to keep in touch with loved ones; they want the best for you, too!
Mental Health Help During the Holidays
There’s nothing wrong with asking for help during the holiday season. It’s a challenging time of year for everyone, no matter what age you are. Seeking support for your mental health can offer relief from your symptoms this holiday season.
Clearview Treatment Programs is a treatment network providing individualized care for adults struggling with their mental health. Whether you live with mental illness or are trying to overcome a substance use disorder, Clearview is here to help.
We understand how hard the holidays can be and are here to provide a program that fits your needs, whatever they may be. We offer a range of services from residential inpatient treatment to intensive outpatient programs so we can offer programs that are right for anyone.
To learn more about Clearview Treatment Programs, please reach out to us. We’re here to answer any questions you may have, contact your insurance to determine your coverage, or get you connected with a program that will help you manage your help this holiday season. Call us or submit an online form to speak with an admissions specialist today!