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Student stress relieved by healthy habits

Published on Tuesday, August 1, 2023

By: Zac Sewall, guest writer

As the back-to-school commercials flood our TV screens, college freshmen are anxiously preparing to take their first steps towards independence. College comes with new expectations and responsibilities.

These new circumstances come with pressure that can produce anxiety. In some instances, this can lead to mental health disorders. Depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders and sleep disorder are just a few of the forms that mental illness can take, but there is a way to overcome these.

Portrait of Chris Loftis

The first major cause of anxiety for any college freshman may be the fear of the unknown. There are many questions that run through a freshman’s mind about college:  Will I make friends; will the classes be difficult; am I even ready for this; and how am I going to market myself, just to name a few. The fourth question resonates with Chris Loftis, a former Mississippi State University student, as he prepared to enter his first semester at Mississippi College.

“I was always afraid of what people thought of me. My timid mindset made it hard for me to determine who I wanted to be, and how I wanted to market myself,” Loftis said.

A student’s major can also impact a student’s mental health. All college majors come with different challenges. However, some majors require a more intense study regimen that can affect a student’s eating, sleeping and exercise habits.

Portrait of Danny Burgess

According to Dr. Danny Burgess, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, managing your eating, sleeping and exercise habits is the best way to gain control over mental health disorders. It is important to focus on these habits as it can help a student manage stress.

“When a student is introduced to stressful situations, they can be more susceptible to past issues or trauma,” he said.

Since stress is not something that can be avoided for college freshmen, it needs to be something that can be managed.  Apart from maintaining healthy habits, it’s also very important to seek counsel from a professional in a time of need. This may not be easy for students who previously were able to handle high school pressures without professional support, Burgess said.

According to recent studies, a student’s major can determine if the student seeks counsel for their mental health disorders. Research found that students in mental health majors are more likely to seek counsel than those majoring in science, math or engineering, for example.

Burgess states there are young adults dealing with mental health disorders. Comparison to others and high expectations can drive young college students into feeling inadequate and alone in their experience.

The key is for everyone to understand that they are not alone. It is always important to university resources if a student feels depressed, anxious or burnt out.

Mental health issues can also have a negative impact on physical health as well. The combination of the physical and mental health issues can stand as a roadblock that keeps you from unlocking your full potential.

The above article appears in CONSULT, UMMC’s monthly e-newsletter sharing news about cutting-edge clinical and health science education advances and innovative biomedical research at the Medical Center and giving you tips and suggestions on how you and the people you love can live a healthier life. Click here and enter your email address to receive CONSULT free of charge. You may cancel at any time.