Chapters 101 / Prevention & Awareness

Mental Health Advice I Would Give My Freshman Self

I am now in my final semester of college. I am so proud of myself for making it this far. Despite living with depression and anxiety, I have had an amazing college experience. 4 years of learning mind-blowing concepts, developing career skills, taking scary risks, and forging new paths. 4 years of fighting for my mental health. Four years of Active Minds and mental health activism.

If I could go back in time to the day I started college I would find that young college girl with wide eyes. I would take her by the hand and tell her to not be so scared.  I would tell her that the future was bright. And I would give her some advice.

  1. Stop sleeping in till noon on the weekends and rising at 6 during the week. Find a consistent bedtime and wake up time and do your best to stick to it. Wildly changing your sleep schedule every few days will catch up to you. I promise
  2. Don’t take your classes so seriously. Especially those gen ed’s. Seriously. Work hard, but don’t worry yourself into frenzy over communications 101. Save that panic for that senior seminar.
  3. Pick one weekend day for homework, errands, and tidying up your place. Spend the other weekend day relaxing and socializing. That balance will keep you sane week to week.
  4. Ask your professors for extensions when you need them. They will surprise you with their compassion. When you are sick or get into a car accident or need to leave campus for a few days, having an extra 24 hours can make all the difference. Use it.
  5. Keep meeting with your therapist on campus. Talking through things helps. Even when it feels like it’s making it worse
  6. Try running. Or Zumba. Or weight lifting. Don’t make gigantic fitness goals that you don’t have time or energy for—this is college after all. But aim to work out two or three times a week.
  7. Find a really good playlist that will soothe you on your anxious days
  8. Confront that issue with your roommate. Don’t let that resentment fester another day. Come on, Elizabeth. Do it.
  9. Call your mom. Even on the days you don’t feel proud of yourself and don’t want to tell her about school. Give her a call.
  10. Delete the Facebook app off your phone. You can do it. Your grades and mental health will thank you.
  11. Learn how to make really awesome smoothies. Maybe salad too. Who knows? You might like it.
  12. Don’t go a week without doing something social. Finals week is not an exception.
  13. Tell your boyfriend that you have depression. He will be so much more kind, understanding, and supportive than you can imagine. Hiding your mental illness doesn’t make it go away. Sharing your struggle with your loved ones will lighten the load and open up new intimacy in the relationship. Trust me.
  14. Join Active Minds. Stick with Active Minds. It will change your life.

Elizabeth is a chapter leader at the University of Alaska Anchorage and a member of the Active Minds Student Advisory Committee