When I started my college career, I was at an all time low.
I was 40 pounds overweight, struggling hard with anxiety and using food to cope. I was mentally at my wits end, and I knew something needed to change.
By implementing the tips below I was able to completely redesign my mental health and consequently, my physical health as well. I am proof that college can be a time of awakening and self development- you don’t need to settle for what is normal in college. You don’t have to settle for poor mental health, a toxic diet or cling to a self deprecating sense of humor to get by.
You can live a life better than okay. This can be your time to do the things that are really going to propel your life in a new, positive direction for the long term- and this is how I did it.
Find Positive Influences
One of the first things I did when I decided to start changing my life and mental health, was to look to some new voices or influences that could show me a new way to think and feel about my life.
When you are stuck in a negative cycle, please recognize that it is a beautiful opportunity to learn and grow. Look to podcasts, books, or people who have reached the goals you are wanting to achieve.
If your goal is to improve your mental health, there are so many free resources available to help you get there- several of my favorites will be listed at the end of this post. Seek out the influences and the information you need to improve your life. Be willing to try a million different things until you find a voice that resonates with you, and once you find it-devour every last drop of value they offer.
By doing this, you get to create your own private inner circle of ideal influences and begin to work on yourself without investing a cent.
So much of our lives are completely unconscious and habitual.
We fall into routines and continue repeating them day after day, even when they aren’t serving us, our mental health or our potential. If you are feeling overwhelmed or unmotivated- look to your routines. They will explain everything. All of your current results- mental health, relationships, fitness level, grades, everything- will be a reflection of your daily habits and routine behaviors.
Schedule your time intentionally and set deadlines that you can follow through on. Set aside time to do the things that matter to you. This can be any form of self care- reading, watching your favorite show, painting, photography- anything that is important to you and makes you feel good. Creating a schedule is a great way to regain some control over your life and has been a tool I’ve used to reduce my anxiety. Again, it is also important to create daily routines for yourself to improve your mental health, and two of the easiest times to start refining are your morning and bedtime routine.
Consider how you start and end each day. If it is on social media or in a cluttered physical space, your mental health will take a hit for it. Waking up early enough to journal and get a workout in before classes has really helped me to start each day off on a productive and positive note. And similarly, I am always in bed in time for me to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. These small adjustments can really set you up for success and boost your self esteem and confidence.
Remember, we see value in the things we take care of so put yourself on a schedule that works for your lifestyle and enjoy the results of your new daily routines.
Setting boundaries is a great way to start finding alignment with yourself.
Set boundaries with people and take full responsibility for the energy you allow in your life. We must recognize that we can’t control others but we can set boundaries by telling people how we will respond to certain behavior. If you don’t like the way someone is treating you, let them know and tell them what you will do if it happens again. It could be as simple as, “next time you put me down I am going to leave the room.”
Establishing your expectations is so important because it puts you back in control of your life and the energy in it. Limiting your exposure to negative people and situations can give your mental health a major boost.
College is also an important time to set boundaries on spending. Finances can be a major strain on mental health and setting a realistic budget for yourself can ease that growing tension.
Create and set whatever boundaries you feel you need to gain a sense of control and alignment.
College is the perfect time to start working on your self talk. You have just transitioned out of childhood and likely, your childhood home, and have entered the real world with all the old stories about you from the past 18 years. These stories will continue to define you and your life if you don’t take a good, objective look at them.
Define for yourself what is true about you + don’t look to your past to find ‘evidence’ as to why you are destined to fail or be unhappy. Make a conscious effort to correct negative thoughts and choose to think new ones.
For example, if you’ve been told your whole life you are fat, start by thinking “I have a body.” and work up your way up to a positive thought. Passing through neutral thoughts is a great hack to shifting your perception of yourself. Your thoughts dictate everything , especially your mental health.
Thought work is the key to improving your internal dialogue and developing a healthy relationship with yourself. Don’t let your old stories run into adulthood and continue to limit your potential and cripple your mental health. Choose to tell a story that serves you and your future.
Focus on Your Future Self
College, or any phase of life you’re in, isn’t permanent. Whether you are struggling or thriving in school, this is not going to last forever. Please recognize that your life is so much more than these 4 years and now is the time to start growing into the best version of yourself for the long run.
Don’t just live for the now and settle for things that are not in alignment with your goals or values. Start showing up for yourself and your big, scary life dreams.
Your future self, in 5, 10 or 50 years, will thank you for doing the mental work now that got them to where they wanted to be. By investing time and energy into your brain and mental health now, you will gift yourself a lifetime of emotional maturity and mental freedom. Don’t waste another second of your life being less than you are- start taking steps to improve now!
If you dream about being a yoga instructor after college, start mediating and taking yoga classes today! Start doing the things that matter to you and that you know you will thank yourself for. Go for a walk, write in your journal, cook yourself a healthy meal.
Establish the habits your future self will thank you for. This is the youngest you’ll ever be and the best time to start changing your life for the happier.
The true secret to improving your mental health in college is to look at the next four years as time for you- to get ahead, to feel better, and to transform into the person you have always dreamed of becoming. Find your positive voices, establish routines and boundaries, correct negative thoughts and continue to focus on your future self. You and your life are worth the investment. This is your time.
My Positive Voices
Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.Eckhart Tolle