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Starting college can be an anxious time

Nurturing

NEW ENVIRONMENT The first few months of college can be an overwhelming time. 

Mental Health
Jannah Walshe

While many students enjoy the first months at college, some do not. Going off to college can be such an exciting time. New independence, new opportunities, life stretching out in front of you. But the flip side of excitement is anxiety. How will I cope? Am I doing the right thing? What if I fail? Many people feel one or even lots of these things.
If you are feeling more anxiety than excitement at the thought of starting college, remember that it is normal to feel this way because with freedom comes responsibility, and new responsibility by its very nature can bring worry.
Similarly, some young college goers can be overwhelmed by time management, the different academic pressures, learning to manage their lives independently, and navigating a whole new social universe.
College is often considered a social time. So many new people to meet and get to know. But it also a time that many report experiencing loneliness despite the huge amount of people around them. If you’re living away from home this will be exaggerated, as you won’t have the support network you’ve been used to. This is especially true of anyone who find themselves in a large university, where it can be difficult to get to know lecturers and harder to find a social circle.
Being away from home, parents and restrictions is supposed to feel great, but it is also normal to feel sadness about been away from those you love. It is extremely common to feel a whole range of emotions.

What you can do
During students’ first year away from home, self-care can often be the first thing to go out the window. Self-care involves taking care of your body in order to promote the best mood you can. Late nights and takeaways can be part and parcel of college life, but remember that little sleep, poor diet and a lack of exercise are proven to exacerbate mental-health issues. Finding ways to improve physical health goes a long way in contributing to better mental health.
Get involved as soon as you can. Colleges offer way more activities, teams and clubs to participate in than secondary schools do. Try a variety to start with before you pick your favourites. Getting out and meeting people who share common interests can help empower you to become more comfortable in your surroundings, combat loneliness and can help you to feel like part of the larger community.
During the first week make sure to locate the counselling office and visit it. Continuing stigmas about mental health can stop someone from reaching out for help. But if you are already familiar with where to go when help is needed, it’s easier to do so at that time of need.
College will throw you into the world and force you to spread your wings and fly – but you can still feel free to ask for help when you need it. For further information and support, check out ‘Tips for college newbies’ on www.spunout.ie, as well as www.walkinmyshoes.ie and www.jigsaw.ie.

Jannah Walshe is a fully accredited psychotherapist, course facilitator and mental-health speaker based in Co Mayo. More information about Jannah can be found at www.jannahwalshe.ie.