All college students face physical and mental wellness challenges, especially in their first year or during those stressful stretches leading to midterms or final exams. Online adult college students must manage those same challenges and some unique issues specific to a remote learning environment.
Fortunately, no student needs to manage these challenges on their own. Leaders at quality universities ensure they have programs to support good mental health for college students. Many schools provide mental health resources and counseling services for college students, including working adults juggling school, family, and a career.
Merrimack College provides support to adult college students in various ways, including assigning each student a personal success coach who guides students along every step of their educational journey. That guidance includes helping students identify any challenges they are experiencing early and connecting them with the resources they need.
Mental Health Challenges for College Students
Like any new experience that requires a person to put forward their best effort, attending college involves stress. The level of that stress depends on the student. As the American Psychological Association (APA) points out, stress is a normal reaction to pressure. However, it becomes an issue if it disrupts day-to-day activities.
The APA says more people feel stressed because of the coronavirus pandemic. This pandemic-related stress certainly applies to students living on college campuses. But students online, while isolated from other students, still must deal with health safety issues at home.
Once students start feeling the pressure, they may find it difficult to get out of a loop of responsibilities, stress, and anxiety. It’s essential to take control of this cycle as early as possible. Stress and anxiety impact students’ physical and mental wellness and academic performance.
Healthy Living Tips for College Students
The good news for adult college students is that universities are aware of the issues impacting college students’ physical and mental health. Students benefit from the experience of previous students and the scientific research into these issues. Both have created some practical healthy living tips for college students.
Acknowledge the Issue
The first step in better managing mental and physical health is acknowledging that challenges exist. This is not the time for “shaking it off” or “muscling through.” Sometimes, just a few practical changes can alleviate stress.
Practical Steps for Online Students
Lowering the stress level for adult online learners entails integrating practices proven to help reduce anxiety.
- Don’t overload. Especially in the beginning, refrain from piling on too many classes.
- Dedicate space. Set aside a quiet area at home dedicated to doing schoolwork. Everyone in the household should respect this space.
- Manage time. For online learners, time management is everything. Having a plan to manage schoolwork each day and sticking to it can significantly reduce anxiety and worry.
- Stay connected. Use the tools provided by the school to connect remotely with other students and faculty members. Also, participate in discussions online.
- Understand technology. Explore the online learning system in the first day or two to see everything it offers. Ask questions right away if problems occur using any part of the system.
- Stay social and take breaks. It’s amazing how fast a day can pass while doing things online. While most adult learners have a full schedule managing work and school, it’s also important to schedule time to take a break and do something away from the computer with friends.
Eating well applies to almost every situation, especially during a period that may have more stress than usual. Eating well helps both your body and your brain. “Like an expensive car, your brain functions best when it gets only premium fuel,” writes Harvard Health. They recommend eating high-quality foods that contain plenty of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. That includes vegetables, fruits, fish and seafood, unprocessed grains, and modest amounts of lean meats and dairy.
This often proves the hardest for adult college students who may have “racing thoughts” when they finally get to bed at night. But studies increasingly show the importance of good sleep for physical and mental health and good academic and work performance. The Massachusetts-based American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) reports that after two weeks of sleeping six hours or less, students perform as poorly as someone who has gone 48 hours without sleep. Students should work on developing habits that promote sound sleep at night.
How Merrimack Colleges Supports Students
Merrimack College recognizes the importance of physical and mental health for college students and provides support in various ways. From the start of their collegiate journey, a personal success coach works with each student to help them in whatever way is needed, including getting them comfortable with the online learning system.
The college also offers The Counseling Center that helps students with any problem they may experience. The center offers counseling and wellness programs that address all aspects of emotional health. The Counseling Center’s phones are staffed 24/7. Counseling sessions are available in person or over Zoom calls. Merrimack College offers all services free for enrolled students.
Students can also contact Campus Ministry to set up a Zoom meeting if they face challenges or want to strengthen their spiritual life.
Merrimack College also focuses its core curriculum on holistic wellness. Students take courses on Health and Wellness, the Psychology of Happiness and Life, Work and Meaning. All provide students with the knowledge to improve their mental health and outlook.
For stressed students who may face mental and physical health challenges, these resources and courses can help put them on the path to wellness and help them maintain their highest academic performance.