It's a given that finals season and all it entails, from exams to projects to papers, is a harbinger for stress. With so many things to do and only so much time in which one can do it all, it can be difficult, if not virtually impossible, to not get stressed out. On the bright side, stress is an entirely normal part of life, especially college life. On the not so bright side, stress is one of the major problems that college-age individuals struggle with on a day-to-day basis. In a study done by Lea Winerman of the American Psychological Association, stress-related problems made up approximately 45% of circumstances necessitating counseling. Similarly, 61% of college students sought out counseling for anxiety and 49% cited depression as their reason for counseling.
The fact of the matter is that while things like stress, anxiety, and depression are all things that a typical person may experience every now and again, they are very real problems for a significant portion of the population. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, approximately 1 in 5 adults experiences mental illness in a given year. That's approximately 43.8 million people aged 18 and up, which includes college students.
Mental illness, whether it be stress, anxiety, depression, or any other illness, has a higher prevalence among college students. Psychology Today reports that America's college students face greater levels of stress than any other group in the nation's history. Furthermore, the onset of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, characterized by symptoms such as hallucinations, overlaps with the peak age of college students in America. These ailments are very real, and while they are real and difficult to overcome, there are a few very important things to keep in mind, both as someone with an illness and as someone without one.
Firstly, it's crucial to know yourself and your limits. Whatever year one might be in college, there is a myriad of things occupying our time. Classes, homework, athletics, jobs, organizations. They're all part of our daily schedules, and while some people may be able to handle more than others, it's vital to figure out your own limits. How you manage stress and business will vary from person to person, and that's okay. The only person who can decide what works for you is you.
Secondly, know what your resources are and where you can access them. The good thing about life in college is that there are multitudinous resources at your disposal, ranging from counseling sessions to therapeutic opportunities. Even if it is something as simple as playing with a therapy dog, talking with someone, or simply taking some time for yourself, it's important to know where you can access the resources and support you need to de-stress and handle your situation in a healthy way that works for you.
Thirdly, remember that you are loved, supported, and your ailment or whatever situation you are going through does not define you. Mental illnesses are prevalent across America, and while they may have a concentration among college students, it is important to know that you are not alienated for what you are going through. While there is no one and done way to overcoming mental illnesses like stress, anxiety, and depression, know that with the right resources and the right care, even the mountains of worry and homework can begin to become manageable.
So as finals week dawns upon us, bringing with it its inevitable obstacles, remember to take time for yourself and that you are not alone. Grades and schoolwork may be important, but there is nothing more important than your well-being. Step by step, day by day, bit by bit, things will get easier—just remember to take a step back and breathe.