Here’s How to Reduce Your Stress Level and More While Successfully Completing Your Degree
Whether you’re in college, grad school, or a professional program, it’s exciting and motivating to be working towards your degree. It’s a time of intellectual challenge, personal growth, and academic accomplishment. But you may also have periods of feeling confused, discouraged, or anxious. Year after year, the two most common mental health issues reported by U.S. college and graduate students are depression and anxiety. Some people are already dealing with one or both of these problems when they arrive on campus. For others, the problems emerge as the pressures of the academic year build up, especially around midterms or finals.
Everyone feels sad, gloomy, or down occasionally. Sometimes the reason is clear: a disappointing grade; a romantic breakup; family problems; financial problems; etc. Often, we’re back to normal after a few days, or perhaps a week. But sometimes these feelings seem to come from nowhere, they don’t go away, and they keep us from enjoying our usual activities. They can interfere with appetite, with sleep, with relationships, with studying, and with work. When that happens, we may be dealing with clinical depression.
With anxiety, too, there’s a continuum. We all know what it’s like to feel uncomfortably worried about an upcoming exam, for example, and many of us are afraid of various things, such as flying, or cats, or being caught in a crowd. Often, we can (and do) push ahead with our daily lives despite those worries or fears. But when we’re so worried or fearful that we can’t sleep, or we’re unable to concentrate on school or work, or our relationships suffer, or our lives become organized around avoiding certain things or experiences, we may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
If you’re feeling persistently depressed or anxious, what can you do?
- Don’t dismiss these feelings or push them under the rug. Regardless of whether they’re triggered by specific events or seem to come from nowhere, if they’re interfering with your ability to enjoy life and get where you want to go, they should be taken seriously.
- Don’t isolate yourself. Let others know how you feel, so that they can offer you emotional and practical support.
- Consider professional treatment. A therapist’s job is to help you identify the problem and find ways of alleviating it. Sometimes, medication can help, so the therapist may refer you to a psychiatrist for a consultation. You don’t have to be “crazy” to benefit from therapy or medication; you just have to want things to change for the better. And you certainly don’t have to be in treatment forever!
- Take care of your physical health. Try to get plenty of exercise, follow a balanced diet, and get to bed on time (even if you’re not sleeping well). Avoid using alcohol or recreational drugs to boost your mood or suppress your anxiety, as they can have the opposite effect.
Touro-NY schools have counselors or a Wellness Coordinator who can help you find affordable community treatment for personal, emotional, or substance use problems. Check your school’s website, under the “Students” tab, for more information.
Erica Weissman, J.D., Psy.D, is the Director of Student Mental Health Services and Associate Professor at Touro College.