Stress Relief: Maintaining Mental Health in College

The Counseling Center is always a resource for Villanova students.

College is stressful. With academics, social life and extracurriculars to balance, all while learning to be independent and grow away from home, it’s no surprise that mental illness plagues staggering numbers of college students across the country. According to the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment, the number of students who have had a previous diagnosis or treatment for depression has increased from about nine percent in 2009 to over 20 percent in 2019. In the last 12 months, 56% of college students reported feeling hopeless, 45% felt so depressed that it was difficult to function and 66% felt overwhelming anxiety (ACHA). These numbers are also pre-pandemic, so when this is factored in, it is a wonder how any of us are still remotely sane. 

With midterms on the horizon and no spring break in sight, Villanovans are feeling the stress more than ever. Amid the pandemic, many students are not able to turn to their typical outlets, like going out with friends and socializing, to relieve stress. It is absolutely imperative, now more than ever, to take care of ourselves and find new ways to maintain mental health. 

One of the most simple and common ways to relieve stress is by getting one’s body moving. Exercise, like making a gym appointment or, even better, getting some fresh air and going for a walk or jog around campus, is an excellent way to blow off steam, get those endorphins flowing and take a breath. Sophomore Gabby Bevil spoke of the value of a simple walk around campus. 

“Going for a walk helps clear my head and help me reset for the week,” Bevil said.

 Yoga, pilates, cycling and more are also fun and different activities to take a break and feel good. Villanova offers certain group classes that one can reserve a spot in.

Another idea is coloring, whether it’s in a book or just grabbing some pens and doodling aimlessly. Sophomore Taylor Devito preaches that “adult coloring books are therapeutic and fun.” Take a calming walk down Lancaster to CVS and pick one up, along with some fun colors, and just relax mindlessly with marker, pen or pencil to paper. 

One of the most underrated stress relief mechanisms is reading for leisure. While she recognizes the uncommonality of it among her peers, sophomore Caroline MacLaren praises the practice and sees it as an essential break. 

“When I feel stressed and overwhelmed, I read because it’s a way to make me feel productive without doing schoolwork, and a nice alternative to watching TV,” MacLaren said. 

Reading, similarly to taking a break with a show or movie, allows for indulging in fantasy as a means to escape reality. Give yourselves these breaks – we all need them. 

Finally, if feeling the weight of it all, talk to someone. Friends are probably feeling the same way, and they likely also want to get everything off their chest. The Counseling Center has also added two new counselors this semester and is offering online teletherapy appointments. Even if one isn’t feeling that bad, talking to a stranger and letting everything out is incredibly helpful. 

No matter how one decides to relieve stress, make sure to do something to take a break and practice self care. Mental health and well-being should come before anything else, no matter how important other commitments may seem in the moment. Always remember that you are never alone, and we’re all in this together.