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7 Positive Mental Health Habits for College Freshmen: Thriving in Second Semester

For many college freshmen, that first semester's break isn't nearly enough time to truly unplug or process the reality of all of life’s life’nings and transitions that you've gone through over the previous four months.

Perhaps you got a couple of winks of sleep and connected with some friends, including those new friends you met in college. Maybe you were put to work handling random chores and errands by your parents, or actual work, work where you clocked in. Whatever the case, those two weeks or so literally flew by and fast!

Without actual downtime to digest your first semester, your mental habits, and time to think about any fresh approaches you'd want to establish, it becomes super easy to revert back to who you were before the break and those same detrimental mindsets.

Amidst the academic and social demands, with a new semester comes a new year and a great chance to start fresh. And guess what? Curating and maintaining positive mental health becomes your top weapon while fighting the war of the mind, and it will be your secret sauce to freshman year success.

So, are you ready to change your mind, literally? Shall we? Let's! Here are some habits to develop for a satisfying and balanced second semester in your freshman year of college:

1. Look back at it (first semester).

Really sit back and think about your first semester. Consider every part of it: when were you at your best? Your Lowest? Who proved to be solid? Who were true supporters and friends? What did you like most about the first semester? What did you dislike about the first semester? What did you dislike about yourself in the first semester? Only respond to this if you're willing to change what you dislike and if it's changeable.

Were you authentic? Based on some of your replies to these questions, the easiest approach to improving your mental health is to do more of what makes you happy, more of what helps you succeed, and to break ties with people and things that drain you. Now that it’s a new semester and a new start, you can choose to take a new approach. After all, you will have different classes and professors anyway, and you will have the opportunity to start fresh.

2. Create a routine.

Literally, take a moment to evaluate your class schedule as well as any other extracurricular schedules, syllabuses, or responsibilities. Create a daily and weekly timetable for yourself based on these schedules. Make sure to incorporate some time management into your routine.

PLEASE!!!! Learn to manage your time properly, for example, to remain organized, break down your assignments into smaller, achievable chunks, and use tools like calendars or apps to help. Add your routine and schedule to your phone or calendar. A regular routine provides stability, reduces overwhelming feelings and stress, and even improves productivity. Nothing beats knowing what your next task is and knocking it out. Classes, study sessions, socializing, and self-care should all be scheduled in your routine, too. Trust me, a well-structured routine fosters a sense of control and reduces anxiety.

3. Stay positive and practice gratitude.

There is nothing more defeating, unpleasant, or unproductive than pessimism. Sure, there will always be issues, such as roommate drama, annoying and rigorous professors, and even you being tested in an unwarranted and ridiculous manner.

However, emphasizing and focusing on drama just magnifies it and gives it much more power than it deserves. When things aren't going well, it's easy to complain, but it's more difficult to choose to be positive.

Positivity usually generates a spirit of hope, and even the smallest amount of hope can move mountains. So, do your best to build a positive mentality by focusing on the positive aspects of your life. When you magnify the positive, it becomes more of what you notice and attract. Also, keep a gratitude journal to write and reflect on positive experiences; it fosters a feeling of appreciation even during difficult times.

I like to compare gratitude journals to a water bottle or canteen. Think about a hot and dry day when you're thirsty for water. Your journal is just that—a place where you can go back over different entries to sip on gratefulness whenever you’re in the next dessert-dry place.

Reading what's going well in your life and what you're thankful for provides refreshing hydration during dry times until the next good thing meets you.

4. Set some realistic goals.

Goals are your friend, and the beginning of a new semester, new year, or even a birthday is an excellent opportunity to develop achievable short-term and long-term goals. The short-term objectives may be your driving force for the semester, and the long-term goals can be your driving force for the year or the years until graduation. Setting goals can help you stay motivated, feel meaningful, successful, and ready to face the semester. However, these goals must be realistic so you’re not setting yourself up for failure, which may be damaging to healthy mental health. Setting and achieving realistic goals will undoubtedly increase your self-esteem.

5. Limit social media consumption.

Okay, so there are so many studies and data points out there showing how social media can negatively impact your mental health, especially when you’re scrolling all day. Yes, of course, social media has its place and can be valuable for connecting with friends and family, learning how to put your new desk together, or even making dinner recipes. However, excessive use of it can easily put you down the rabbit hole of comparison, making you think you’re not as far along as you should be or that you're not good or attractive enough. High social media use may easily lead to feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. You do not want these social media ghetto problems to impact your mental health. So be smart. Set limits and boundaries, and schedule certain periods for social media to maintain a healthy balance. If certain accounts and posts make you feel away, unfollow them, even if they are people you know. It's simple.

6. Connect with others.

We were not made to be islands or to go through life alone. We were meant to be a part of a community. You'll hear me repeat this again and again. However, there is a catch: your community must be trusted and healthy.

Consider all the terrible mental spirals when it's just you and your dark thoughts (when you're alone or don't have somebody to tap in with); those thoughts may actually kill you since there's no intervention. However, when you're connected with people you trust, you can hang out with them, ask them to pray with you, watch a funny movie together, talk about your thoughts, or do something fun to cheer you up and help you get out of your own mind.

Building a support network is essential for positive mental health. To meet new people, consider attending social events, joining groups, and participating in school activities. Creating deep relationships develops a feeling of belonging and serves as a safety net during difficult times.

7. Seek help when needed.

Don't hesitate to reach out for help when needed. Seriously, it’s just not wise not to. No one sits there, bleeding, and does nothing about it. While bleeding may sound extreme, there are times when we are emotionally, mentally, or academically bleeding; we know it, feel the warm blood, and do nothing about it.

Please don't do this; utilize resources like tutoring services and counseling centers, and go and visit your professors' during their office hours (this is why they have them).

Also, be mindful that your friends are cool to speak with, but they have their own junk going on and are not licensed to help you properly. Getting professional help is far more important and beneficial. Taking steps to get help demonstrates wisdom, strength, and a commitment to your mental health, self-care, and academic success.

Reflecting on the first semester, establishing a routine, practicing gratitude, being positive, setting goals, limiting social media, connecting with others, and seeking help when needed—by incorporating these positive mental health habits into your daily life, you'll be better equipped to navigate the second semester with more clarity and focus.

Remember that caring for your mental health is a continual process, and your needs might change from semester to semester. But with small, consistent efforts and intentionality, you can make a significant difference in your overall well-being. Don't you deserve all of this and more? YES! You do!

Until next time, be the change you want to see in the world.


Coach Rahk


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