How to break bad mental habits in college

By Lauren Thompson

Anybody, particularly parents, can give you the standard list of typically unhealthy college habits. That list includes overeating, not getting enough exercise (or sunlight for that matter), binge drinking and recreational drug use.

While this is a fairly accurate list, it is not as well-rounded as it could be.

When people start listing poor habits that college students partake in, they often leave out the ones that affect us mentally.

It seems like common sense that these should be at the top of the list considering our minds are why we drag ourselves to campus day after day, exam after exam.

If a student cannot think straight, they aren’t going to be able to perform the essential tasks required of a college student.

Taking care of mental health is just as important as taking care of physical health, particularly because if a person is mentally exhausted it will manifest itself in their physical health as well.

Get enough sleep

For example, get the perfect amount of sleep — that “all-nighter” is probably doing more harm than good. Getting through whole cycles of sleep helps commit knowledge to memory, which is important for pretty much everything.

Without the proper amount of sleep it is difficult to stay focused, which can lead to obvious problems.

Being tired affects the ability to take notes and participate in class.

It also affects the ability to perform other tasks required outside of school such as exercise, working or even taking care of  family and friends.

Spend some time going out or even doing absolutely nothing with friends. Those students who are not partaking in those nasty habits their parents warned them about, such as binge drinking, may not be doing those things or even going out and seeing friends for that matter.

After a full week of class, work and homework, staying in and reading a good book or watching a movie seems like the best idea, but sometimes it isn’t.

Everything in moderation

While partying isn’t always the best idea, a fun night out with friends might be. Friends will distract from the unholy amount of stress that partners itself with academia and they also increase morale.

Exercise also helps increase morale. The phrase “endorphins make you happy” has been repeated almost as much as exams and papers. Going for a run or lifting can help clear the mind and focus when it matters.

Squeeze in some R&R

Not getting enough will cause a vicious cycle of mental and physical exhaustion most likely leading to numerous, unnecessary naps and a little bit of crying.

It’s okay to skip that lunch with a friend or that quick workout once in a while to give yourself some down time.

Sleeping, exercise, friendship and relaxing all fit into the beloved category of time management skills. Developing these is key to keeping sane in college and they also translate nicely into the professional world.

Make a plan

Small practices such as making lists and keeping a planner help to visualize what needs to be done and how much time there is to do it.


It is completely normal to experience emotional distress during school with the high levels of stress with schoolwork and getting a job. Whether these feelings are new or existing, the university offers counseling services to their students and it is something to consider.

Taking care of mental health is fundamental in having an enlightening and fun time in college. Getting into successful habits now will help deal with future stress in the professional and personal worlds.

Successful habits also help people feel empowered and self-confident, which are two very important traits for any student.