Strategies for Prioritizing Mental Health in College

five young students sitting together outside

College is a wonderful time in your life. You meet new people, grow beyond your existing ideas, and are constantly working towards the goal of self-improvement. 

But, there’s no doubt that college is stressful, too. Socializing, learning, and developing a career is hard, and accumulating debt can feel overwhelming. 

Combine these stressors with the past few years’ events, and you are sure to feel a little frazzled. 

But, in the long run, college is undoubtedly worth it. You make friendships that last a lifetime and add serious value to your career potential. You’ll also learn to appreciate life in new and novel ways, as that elective in literature might just spark a love of reading and critical thinking. 

So, here are a few strategies to help you see the light at the end of the tunnel and prioritize your mental health in college. 

Exercise Frequently

Most people know that exercise is good for their physical health. However, exercise also plays a pivotal role in your mental health. For example, exercise may be the solution if you suffer from mild to moderate depression. Exercise helps improve your mental wellbeing by providing a distraction from negative thoughts and increasing mood-supporting hormones. Exercise can also help you meet new people and create healthier relationships with strong social bonds. 

The best exercise for mental health is usually mild and less intense than what you’re used to. Simple steps like going for a walk or swimming can help boost your mood, and yoga classes or exercise groups can help you meet interesting, healthy people who are likely to support your mental health while in college. 

Boundaries and Relationships

College is a great place to meet new people and learn from differences in experience. However, you may find that old relationships are causing you undue strain during your study. This is particularly true if you come from a household where one of your parents suffered from a mental illness. Conditions like anxiety or depression are surprisingly common in adults and may have impacted your perception of the world. This can knock on your mental health during college when you’re under more stress than usual. 

As a college student, you should consider setting boundaries that support your mental wellbeing. Healthy boundaries can give you the space to flourish as a student and needn’t offend anyone. Be honest and open about your need for boundaries, and try to be consistent about when you are and are not available.  

Sleep Quality

There’s no way to maintain a healthy, happy life while lacking sleep. Sleep is vital for your performance as a student and your overall physical and mental wellbeing. When you skip sleep, you can expect to become irritable, unfocused, and at a heightened risk of catching common infections and viruses. 

But getting quality sleep is tricky if you live in a noisy dorm or are in the habit of using your phone before bed. The best route forward is to create a sleep routine that you will stick to. 

A good sleep schedule looks different for everyone, but, in general, consider the following steps: 

  • Turn off all screens at least an hour before bed and avoid all blue light around your bedtime.
  • If your dorm or home is noisy, play soothing music or invest in a white-noise machine.
  • Fix your sheets as soon as you wake up so your bed feels fresh later.
  • Wash your sheets once a week and choose a detergent that helps you feel calm. 


College isn’t easy, but it shouldn’t be excessively overwhelming. You can prioritize your mental health by maintaining a regular exercise routine to distract yourself from negative thoughts while meeting new people. You can also set clear boundaries that give you room to grow and should practice basic sleep hygiene principles which help support your overall mental health.