Mental health challenges college students face over summer

Posted on 05/16/24 01:47:pm College students and mental health over summer


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By Ana Trujillo, therapist, Rogers in Miami

Ana HS.jpgAs college campuses empty and summer breaks begin, many students look forward to a well-deserved rest from the rigors of academic life. For some, the summer months can present unique challenges to their mental health, while for others, it can be the perfect time to address struggles they faced during the school year. Ana Trujillo, therapist at Rogers in Miami, discusses common mental health challenges and gives tips for students to prioritize their well-being.

What are some common mental health challenges college students face when they return home for the summer?

What I've experienced in working with these young adults is that two things are typically causing them stress — the transition back home, and the change in routine. Since they’ve had pretty good structure in college, once they go home for the summer, they tend to go back to old habits, which means less structure. Sometimes this leads to difficulty adjusting and maintaining a healthy routine.

Additionally, once home, they may have to deal with dynamics surrounding their relationship with their parents or other family members. The conflicts that they had a break from while at college are now front and center, which can increase stress levels and cause anxiety. It can be distressing to return home to an unhealthy family situation.

Students can also experience a sense of frustration once home because they don’t have the autonomy they had while away in college.

How should students manage the mental health challenges they experienced at college while home for the summer?

For students who may be away from their stressors while at home for the summer, I highly recommend trying to get a handle on what was happening during the school year. Don’t push it to the side and avoid it just because they’re at home. I advise students take the time over summer break to really focus on their mental health, build on their coping skills or a toolbox that they might need to use when they eventually return to the stressors at college. Prioritize their mental health when they have more leisure time during summer and they’re not feeling overwhelmed with their studies.

Be proactive and get creative with preventative measures. This can look like setting achievable goals during the summer months to provide a sense of purpose and direction.

How can college students boost their mental health over the summer?

Seek support. It can be challenging for students to be away from the support system they had at school. If they went to therapy at college, continue going to therapy. If they weren’t getting therapy, now may be the best time to start so that they can gain insight into how to deal with some of their stressors.

Maintain a routine. It’s very important to maintain a routine. Obviously, the college and home environments are going to be different, but they should keep up with a healthy routine so that they have structure and stability. It comes down to the basic aspects of self-care, like sleeping, eating, and exercising.

Stay engaged. Participate in meaningful activities and enjoyable hobbies.

Keep up with responsibilities. This provides students a sense of accomplishment in addition to structure during the summer. Meeting responsibilities fosters productivity and can contribute to increased self-esteem and overall well-being.

Self-reflect. Students should take time to reflect on their experiences. What causes them stress and how did they deal with it? What helped ease their stress and what can they apply next time? While it's very helpful to hear from someone else about what you should or shouldn’t be doing, it’s important for everyone to recognize for themselves more skillful ways of behaving.

How Rogers can help

 If you’re struggling with addiction, OCD, anxiety, eating disorders, depression or other mood disorders, or experience other mental health challenges, Roger’s team of experts around the country are here to help. Call 800-767-4411 for a free, confidential screening.



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