5 Ways to Maintain Good Mental Health at College in Hawaii

Whether you’re a freshman brand new to the college experience in Hawaii, or a well-seasoned senior, there’s no doubt about it — college is stressful. There are numerous pressures on you: the social environment, the transition to “adulthood” (whatever that is), living away from home on an island, and of course schoolwork itself. While some stressors may be unavoidable, you can bolster your overall mental health and build better habits with these changes.

1. Create a schedule for yourself with boundaries around work, play, and rest. Many new Hawaii college students feel relief in not having parents and teachers breathing down their necks at all hours, but the lack of structure and accountability in your schedule can backfire if you don’t approach it strategically. College is well-known for being a time of little sleep and erratic study hours, and the boundaries between fun, work, and relaxation are often blurred. It’s perfectly fine if you work best later in the day, but plan designated study hours into your schedule, or have spots where you go to study so you aren’t trying to write papers from your bed (and, almost inevitably, get distracted by Netflix). Partying into the late hours when you don’t have commitments in the morning is fine, but try to make sure you get enough sleep most nights, especially before busy days or tests. Boundaries around different areas of your life can be incredibly beneficial to both your well-being and your productivity! Plus, focusing on these skills will also benefit you after graduation and allow you to maintain a healthy work-life balance throughout your career.

2. Address the root of procrastination and other self-sabotaging habits. Procrastination and avoidance of work are very common woes among Hawaii college students especially when the surf is up and the sun is shining. Almost everyone struggles at times with staying motivated or on task, and this usually stems from something internal which many people aren’t aware of. Common causes of procrastination and self-sabotage are perfectionism, fear of failure or criticism, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating. Some experts even claim most procrastination is grounded in issues of self-worth, which can underlie the causes mentioned previously. However, everyone is unique, and both understanding and overcoming your own barriers to success is something that requires self-reflection and introspection. Again, this is a very normal part of being human and living in Hawaii, but you deserve to move through college without mental health struggles if possible! Talking through these things with a friend or family member, or a counselor, can also be helpful.

3. Maintain a regular sleep schedule. It’s incredibly difficult to turn down late-night dorm activities or a night out in Honolulu with new friends, even on a weeknight Waikiki can be fun! In college, invitations like these are plentiful, and you finally have the freedom to stay out late without a curfew or nagging parents! Of course, these experiences are valuable and may well be worth skimping on sleep once in a while. However, if you dive headfirst into this freedom, it can backfire. Sleep is absolutely critical for overall wellbeing, and both not sleeping enough and having an erratic sleep schedule are risk factors for mental health problems. In your college years, you might feel invincible and like you can handle a little sleep deprivation and be on your phone all night — and it’s true that some people need more sleep than others. But if your sleep and wake times are all over the place, or if you’re consistently getting less than 7-9 hours per night, you just won’t feel your best. This doesn’t mean you can never let loose and need to be in bed by 10 on Friday night, but the more consistent you can be overall, the better you’ll feel.

4. Prioritize your physical health. A lot of students get to college and adopt the YOLO mentality, disregarding proper nutrition, sleep, and exercise. When you’re young and your body is resilient, it’s easy to feel invincible. Sure, you may not need to be as careful to avoid fried food or sleep 8 hours a night as someone twice your age, but neglecting anything for too long can only lead to you feeling crappy — mentally and physically! Poor lifestyle habits can also lead to or exacerbate mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression and can wreak havoc on your grades. You don’t need to be perfect, but treat your physical health as a priority. You can eat ramen every day, but get some veggies or a fruit smoothy in earlier in the day. You can absolutely go out on Friday nights, but hit the gym or go for a run earlier, even if it’s just for a little while. These are habits we all need to learn at some age — why not do so now instead of when you’re exhausted and run down in 10 years?

5. Ask for help when you need it. Despite how social college can be, the culture in Hawaii can feel very individualistic and foreign in that you might feel pressure to figure things out yourself, be an adult, and not rely on anyone else to succeed. It can be hard to swallow your pride and ask for help, but humans are hardwired to need interpersonal support — and real “adulting” means learning to find just that! Every university in Hawaii has resources available such as office hours, tutoring, and counseling, and if you’re afraid to be seen in-person using such services, there are private online options available too nowadays. No matter how alone you may feel, you are certainly not the only one struggling — others may just not talk about it.

As mentioned previously, some stress and uncertainty is a normal part of your college years. However, if you find your mental health in Hawaii is significantly getting in the way of your studies, social life, or overall wellbeing, please don’t hesitate to seek help through your school or an outside counseling center like Family and Addiction Counseling. It can feel incredibly lonely in Hawaii, but no matter what you are going through, you are not alone and help is always available.

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Glen Carner

Glen Carner