Be real with your mental health

Claire Voltarel, Campus Carrier Deputy News Editor

It is easy for television shows and film to dramatize depression or anxiety. Like anything on the screen, mental illness is often exaggerated to the most extreme cases. While these cases do exist, many people, especially students, do not recognize the impact average stress can have on our well-being. According to the American Psychological Association, about one in every three U.S. college students have difficulty functioning due to depression and almost half of students have felt overwhelming anxiety in the last year.

That is not to say that every late-night cry session or future career freak out means you have a mental disorder, or that stress can’t be a positive enforcer. But there is a small effort each student can make which I think will bring some healing you may not even realize you need.

Be honest with what you feel. While this task is easier said than done, I think it’s worth a shot. This does not ask you to say aloud your thoughts and emotions if you are not comfortable with that. It asks you to recognize the feelings you are having and truly feel and process them. Too often do we deny, project, or bury these feelings which often leads to an increase in the emotion later on.

Many students may say things like “every college student stresses about something” or “someone else has it worse than me.” Both are important ideas to recognize, but these facts do not imprison your mind from being sad, frustrated or anxious. Just because you may think someone else has it worse off than you does not illegitimatize your feelings and emotions. You do not need permission from a traumatic event or stressor to have negative thoughts. If feelings were predictable and controllable, most of us would choose to feel bliss and satisfaction a majority of the time.

An interesting way I like to look at our emotions is as foods. Our minds are like taste buds; we can choose to eat the foods we like, but not which foods those are. You can choose to be happy, but you cannot choose what makes you happy. The same concept applies to negativity. You can choose to see situations in a positive way, but negative feelings may still persist despite your efforts. You can picture broccoli tasting like a piece of chocolate cake, but eating it may still lead to disgust.

Naming and owning your emotions can help provide clarity (a quality not often found in messy college life). Distinguishing what food to order or not to order off the menu is only possible if you know their names and have experienced their taste.

All dishes aside, your mental health matters. Admitting how you are feeling is a difficult process that may come over time. But you cannot fix a problem if you can’t see it. Recognizing your feelings does not mean you must take action, however it is easier to express yourself to others when you have recognized what you are really trying to express. Family, friends, counselors and mentors all are readily available to listen.

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