Words by Marisa Santillo

Prior to beginning my first semester of college a little over a month ago, I had no concept of how to “college,” and I am still learning every day. One thing I do know, however, is that staying healthy and actually taking care of yourself while at college is pretty difficult to do. It is like really hard. Between classes, exams, a social life, extracurriculars, and other campus events, our health is one thing that tends to always be put on the backburner of our priorities. All of these aspects of college life have the potential to add more stress and anxiety into our everyday lives. 

Most people in general, but especially students, do not really know the best ways to cope with stress or how to take care of their mental well being. It is important to remember that mental health is equal to physical health. Neglecting your mental health can easily lead to damage to your physical health. In honor of the start of the new semester and September is national suicide prevention month, here are a few tips, strategies and reminders to help you take care of your mental health and overall well being for the start of the new semester.  

Eat a healthy and balanced diet

Although eating healthy is something that tends to be more associated with our physical health, the foods we eat to fuel our bodies have just as much to do with our mental health. Eating a well-balanced diet with lots of fruits, veggies and grains can help us feel more energized, alert, motivated and can help our immune system. Luckily for us, the dining halls and food options on campus offer a lot of healthy options every day, but remember, it is okay to treat yourself to some pizza and ice cream as well!   

Self-care is the best care

While we are running around with our busy daily lives it is so easy to forget to actually take care of yourself and do something for you. Self-care should be tailored to each individual and be a source of joy, happiness and escape. 

My favorite forms of self-care include dancing in my dorm to my favorite songs, writing, editing a YouTube video or a much-needed nap. It is important to set aside some time for yourself every day to relax and unwind through some activity. Whether it be reading, painting or even running, remember to make time to give yourself some love and joy. 

Remember to smile

It has been continuously proven that smiling and laughing has a positive effect on our mental health and overall well being. No matter how hard of a day you might be having, a simple laugh with a friend can always brighten up your mood!

The power of positive thinking

Changing your daily thoughts from pessimistic to optimistic SERIOUSLY can have a HUGE effect on your mood and perspective on occurrences in your daily life. Looking at stressful situations with a positive attitude will not only help you deal with stressors easier, but it will also remind you to not let something small ruin an entire day. If you have never made a conscious attempt to see the positives in your life every day, I seriously recommend giving it a try. Also, remember to surround yourself with positive people who want to empower you, help you and build you up. No bad vibes over here. 

A grateful heart is a happy heart and mind

One of my favorite things is to start every day with a grateful heart. Remembering to give thanks, express gratitude for the good things in your life and the ones you love is one of the best things that you can do for yourself. Honestly. Doing this helps to keep your thoughts positive and serves as a reminder of the positives in your life when you are faced with negatives. One of my favorite things to do is to write down in my planner or think of three things that made me smile throughout the day. It is important to appreciate the little things. 

Be active

I personally am not the type of person who spends a lot of time working out, but if you are, working out has some serious benefits to your mental health as well as physical health! The release of endorphins and serotonin in your brain act as a natural antidepressant. Even if you are not a gym person like myself, just being active in some way and physically moving can also have the same effect. My 15 minute walks to class honestly make me feel refreshed and energized every morning. Having an active lifestyle in some way, whether it be working out, dancing, sports or just walking to class will help keep you happy and healthy! 

Talk it out

After a long and stressful day, one of my favorite things to do is vent and let it all out. Talking to a good friend, calling a parent or even talking to a counselor can be one of the best methods for dealing with daily stress and anxiety. Do not keep it bottled up! Someone is always there to listen and remember you are not alone. 

It’s okay not be okay; utilize campus resources!

Luckily here on campus, there are many resources if you are not feeling okay. There is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking help. Whether it be adjustment issues, stress and anxiety from classes or social situations, Kent has someone who is willing to help you! If you feel that yourself or a friend is in danger, do not hesitate to reach out for help. We all have issues, struggles and face adversities; it is okay to ask for help! Keeping up and coping with your mental health in college can be difficult, and you may not even notice if you are mentally unhealthy. This is also okay, and you are not alone. 

Remember to take care of yourself, your friends and keep up with your family back home this semester. Remember you are loved, important, worthy, beautiful and doing your best.  

If you or someone you love needs help, here are some resources on and off-campus: 

Kent State Psychological Services Website: https://www.kent.edu/psych

Phone Number: 330-672-2487 

Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the United States, anytime, about any type of crisis. A live, trained Crisis Counselor receives the text and responds, from their secure online platform. The volunteer Crisis Counselor will help you move from a hot to a cool moment.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They are committed to improving crisis services and advancing suicide prevention by empowering individuals, advancing professional best practices and building awareness.

Call 1-800-273-8255 if you or someone you love is in danger of harming themselves. 

Follow Marisa on social media: Instagram & Twitter: @marisaaa_rosee, YouTube: Marisa Rose