The hope blog

#BeReal, are you taking care of yourself? – College Student Mental Health

Maria Belén Rios Sialer | March 30, 2023 | 5 min read

This article will provide guidance on how to take care of your mental health as a student in college or university. This can include therapy, meditation, mindfulness, and other ways of reducing stress.

Table of Contents:


1 – Student’s mental health


2 – How can you take better care of yourself?


3 – How do you get started with mindfulness?

A messy desk with many papers on it

Student’s mental health

After the high of High School graduation and yellow-mellow summer, comes for many, the first semester in university. What is usually perceived in mainstream culture as the start of the best 5 years of your life, can be hard to navigate. Between classes, meeting new people, living away from family & childhood friends, dealing with roommates, learning how to cook and clean, etc. When and how do students take care of themselves?


While freshman 15 and impostor syndrome are very common for new university students adjusting to their environment, studies show that the mental health of all students, regardless of the year of their studies, is in decline. It is particularly hard for students with disabilities and minorities. In 2019,  69% of students across different post-secondary institutions in Canada reported “overwhelming anxiety”. Chances are if you feel uneasy, you are not alone. 


Physical and mental health might not be seen as urgent as getting the best grade or attending a club meeting. In other words, it is not prioritized and left unattended unless the situation escalates. Not only are students under extreme stress, but they are a population at risk since the age of onset of many mental illnesses overlaps with college formative years. 


What can be done? How can you better take care of yourself? Why is Mental Health important? 

Illustration of a calendar with the word study written across

How can you take better care of yourself?

#LiveLoveLaugh #SelfLove #MentalHealthAwareness

The recent wave of social media hashtags encourages being more open and honest regarding daily struggles, taking a step towards normalizing having an open conversation regarding mental health. Social media influencers and celebrities have come forward, and while their transparency is admirable, What steps are tangible for normal people in terms of well-being? The rising awareness of wellness should not end with green juice recipes.

Therapy is often perceived as the last resource for people. Often when there is no way out or around and you hit a wall, therapy is the potential recommendation. However, therapy is not for the ones that go through complex situations, it is for the happy and sane too. It can be part of your recovery journey, as well as a preventative measure. You do not need to be struggling to seek therapy. Therapy can help you achieve your goals, know more about yourself and improve your quality of life.

While preparing ahead of time following  Final Exam Tips to reduce stress is highly recommended, it may also be beneficial to have an expert in mental health support you through the challenges that come with exam season.

Mental Health sticker cartoon

Therapy can also be extremely helpful while going through tough situations. It may look in different ways, such as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, etc. It may look like a group session or individual, every week, twice a week, or monthly. It may look different for everyone and that is why it is so magical: it is personalized and a time where the main focus is you. Not only do most students find benefits from talking to a therapist, most students already pay for it without even realizing it.  It may be included in tuition or complementary health insurance. For instance, the University of British Columbia provides students with 1,250 dollars to claim per policy year, a resource that students may not realize they have. If your school insurance doesn’t cover counseling, here are some low-cost options


Looking at resources may be overwhelming and confusing. Your first instinct may be to look at your University’s website for wellness. For instance, a student living in Vancouver may look at the University of Columbia’s website for wellness, then the main hospital’s resources, and google different tools to find counselors (For example A, B, and C). General advice is to find someone you feel comfortable talking to. There are many filters (BIPOC, gender, LGBTQ+) that you can use while looking for therapists to find the best fit. 


Additionally, practicing mindfulness has been shown to relieve stress and anxiety. Mindfulness can be defined as “paying attention to present-moment experiences with openness, curiosity, and a willingness to be with what is”

How do you get started with mindfulness? 

You can apply mindfulness from a 30-minute guided meditation to 20 seconds of drinking water. 

UCLA’s MARC Research center offers a variety of free guided meditations in more than 10 languages. Their website offers short videos with detailed instructions on how to get started. There is even an app you can download offering Short meditations (less than 15 minutes) on topics like Body awareness, Loving Kindness, Working with Difficulties, etc, and Longer meditations (30-minute podcast sessions) on a range of topics. 

Regardless of therapy or mindfulness, there are different ways to take care of yourself. This may look like a daily walk to the beach, a 10-minute meditation routine, journaling, meal-prepping, exercising, eating a balanced meal, seeing a friend, sleeping enough hours, and even alone time. Of course, as university students, there will always be many exams to prepare for, (and parties to celebrate), but remember health should also be a priority.

A sticker with an illustration of a brain that talks about mental health