College Stress and Mental Health

Have you noticed that Mental Health Awareness month coincides with the end of spring semester?  I hope that your finals went well; but, if you’re anything like me, then maybe they didn’t. Back when I was an undergraduate, it was difficult for me to be anything but hard on myself after a disappointing test…class…semester…  In hindsight, I was going through something more serious than I could acknowledge at the time; perhaps you are, too. College is brutal. Mental health suffers in the environment, where the stressors are many. Before diving into your summer plans, be they a new internship or some hardcore R&R, take some time to reflect on your semester.  Better understanding your stressors may help you to feel better about the semester and may even help you overcome these challenges in the coming semesters. Need some help getting started? See the inventory below.

There’s the workload, the reading assignments, the homework, the studying — none of this is new, but the volume and subject matter density seem to be growing exponentially.  This author had to completely relearn healthy study habits (because my old high school techniques were not cutting it).  Speaking of healthy habits, college is a lot of scheduling (hard) and self-discipline (harder).  “This is when I need to eat, and this is when I need to sleep.” Sleep! Dorm living, roommates, lack of personal space.  Friends eating up “free” time. Stressful romances. Diet and exercise? Oh right, and money. Some of us may be thinking, “That’s just life,” but our freshmen may be doing all this — alone — for the first time in their lives.  Overwhelming is an understatement.

stress comic 2

I’m here to say: rough semesters happen, and it’s alright.  Higher education may be the hardest four years of your life thus far, and you are doing your best.  Some days, your best may be better than other days. Sometimes, your best may not compete with your colleagues’ best.  It happens, it’s alright. College is brutal which is why it’s especially important to be forgiving of yourself. Once you forgive yourself for being a growing, learning human, then you can appreciate that what you learn in college is more than fact, theory, and practicum.  College is an immensely complicated experience, and what you are truly learning may not be apparent while you are in it. Yes, it can get messy, but it can be positive for those who learn to manage stressors and mental health (which is one very important lesson).

So what do we do now with this long list of challenges and new found appreciation for the capacity for growth in college?  Be kind to yourself and practice!. For many of us summer break is a low-stakes opportunity to practice self-care: at first it may feel scary, and it may feel silly.  In my experience, those were the two quickest ways that I talked myself out of doing something that I knew would be good for me. However, a little bit of self-care goes a long way, especially if you are (as I was at the end of spring) in a self-care deficit.  Start small and build up to lavishment. A bath, a gas station ice cream, a non-judgmental cry can be enough to be kind to yourself. Taking good care of yourself will not get rid of your stressors during the semester, but it may help you approach them and recover from them differently.  I suppose that’s what I learned about self-care in college: I did my best. It was all I could do, and it was enough.

stress comic 1

A Corvias Scholar in 2018

Dear fellow readers,

It is an important time to be a Corvias Scholar.  There is a certain energy in the atmosphere, across the United States, across the globe — from the globe.  Have things always been so happening, or are they happening more often these days?  While each of us gets along from day-to-day, I’m sure we all know somebody who is afraid, or uncertain, and angry to top it off.  And then there’s all these things that come between us at work, at home, and online.  It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you’re on, we’re all feeling it.

 

Corvias is a different energy; Corvias is a coming together.  It is a community, conceived just ten years ago by John Picerne.  It is a reinvestment in a community, and it has raised up the lives of 131 scholars from student debt.  In a decade it has grown, and it is now a network for personal and professional connections.  Corvias has come to represent opportunity, hard work, and compassion.  All year round, Maria, Melissa, and Erin keep lit a flame, inspiring us to use our hands for local volunteerism, to reinvest into our own communities.

 

I am sometimes embarrassed writing about Corvias, because I so often find myself talking around changing the world — with good reason, that’s not light reading and that’s definitely not rEaLiStIc.  But it is with good reason the subject always comes back to saving the world — Corvias was founded with the very intent to incite passion.  John Picerne was one man with the means and the wherewithal to start something, a scholarship foundation for military brats.  He set an example for me, of the kind of person that makes an impact, of the kinds of actions that make a person great.

 

The world needs example-setters, participants of a healthy community.  Corvias is a coming together, and sometimes that means a setting aside.  We’ve all got something in common, an opportunity we’ve shared.  The community that has since emerged is a testament to the power of giving back.  It should make any scholar proud to reflect upon.  The world is looking for leaders with compassionate hearts and hands ready to work.  It is an important time to be a Corvias Scholar.

 

PS.  Dear readers, you won’t believe how hard I tried to fit this fact into the post, but alas.  I love it too dearly: Corvias is a mash-up of two Latin words: corvia meaning ‘heart’, and vias meaning way.

What Can The Corvias Network Do For You?

There are now 131 Corvias Scholars.  Some of us are currently in school, winding down the spring semester.  The other 70 or so of us are making our way through graduate programs, forging careers, growing families, and living as adults day-to-day.  There are now ten years of experience within the alumni family, ten rings in the tree, spanning all walks of life, all manners of studies and expertise.  All this potential at our fingertips.  But how do we do anything with it?

I estimate that I’ve met and spent time with about 50 alumni, to varying degrees of intimacy.  I have known some of you since elementary school — this is common within the Corvias Foundation, there are only so many schools at each base.  Other alumni know each other through siblings, through babysitting, or grade school soccer programs.  But many of us have yet to meet.

I have gotten to know most of you over the years at Alumni Summits.  At these last two summits, I have felt the connective tissue between scholars solidify.  I have heard such stories from you all: like one scholar who reached out for help with a book drive and received hundreds of books.  I have heard of scholars following job leads that came to them from the Corvias network, of them moving across the country and starting new lives.  I have spoken with business owners, doctors, scientists, and musicians — and while some may scoff that I could have done this anywhere, there’s nothing quite like the caliber of a Corvias scholarship recipient.  Recently, Melissa facilitated a connection between myself and a seasoned mentor in my own field, arts and entertainment.

I am truly excited about all of this because I think that something is happening.  I think that something really cool is starting.  We, the Corvias scholars, have evolved.  The Corvias Foundation celebrated its 10th anniversary.  The first scholars have entered a phase of their lives well beyond what a freshmen undergraduate is living through, and that distance between the first class and the most recent class will always be growing.  For every question you have, every problem you’ve gotten stuck on, there is now a professional to turn to.  After all this time, the Corvias network has matured and can now tend to itself.

Ask yourself:  Where do you want to be going in your life?  How can the Corvias network help you get there?  Even if it’s silly, even if it’s the longest shot of your life, is it worth asking for?  Probably.