College Pressures and Mental Health

Making the transition into college or grad school can be intense. There are many new things (good and bad) that need to be addressed. Whether you have a handle on school or not, there are a variety of pressures that may become such a problem that it can lead to a substance abuse issue. A recent report from UC Berkeley on the mental health of grad students revealed that 45% of them suffer from emotional or stress-related issues. Fortunately, there are some great ways to reduce that pressure.

Santa Barbara College Student Mental Health Guide

Be Good To Yourself

Your body and your mind are important. You have to treat them with love and respect or you won’t get much use out of them – this means you need to take care of yourself. Get rest, read for education and for fun, eat right, and more. The list goes on!

One thing that that is important for both body and mind is exercise. It’s a great stress reliever and helps you manufacture endorphins which can make you feel great. Even a small amount of exercise daily can have benefits.

Alter Your MindsetCollege Student Under Pressure

Stress becomes real when you begin believing your thoughts – so try to come up with ways to counter negative thinking. For example, if you start thinking you’re going to fail a test then instead of studying all you’ll be doing is stressing out about failing it – which means you’ll most likely fail AND build even more pressure. So instead of giving into negative thinking, take the time to write out all the ways things will go well. This will give your mind a rest, calm your negative thoughts, and show you that success is possible.

One Step At A Time

Instead of looking at all the work on your plate as being needed to be finished immediately, break it down into manageable chunks. Once you’ve broken it all down, your schedule becomes instantly more manageable and stress-free.

Lower Goals

It might sound counterintuitive, but setting your sights on a B is going to cause a lot less stress than worrying about an A. You can still achieve the A – but by lowering your goals, you also lower your stress. It’s much easier to overperform when you’re not so stressed than it is when you’re being crushed under the pressure.


When you’re in the thick of things, like studying for an exam, it’s good practice to take a break every now and then. Even 15 minutes here and there will work wonders. It will allow you to return to the work at hand without burning out so quickly.

Learn Time-Management

With tons of classes and homework, students may find it almost impossible to juggle a healthy schedule. Instead of using natural and healthy ways to combat their stressors, they fall into substance abuse just to deal with the pressure. So budget your time wisely; give yourself X amount of time for homework, Y amount of time for socializing, Z amount of time for classes. This also means not biting off more than you can chew in terms of how many classes you take each semester.


To some, meditation can sound old school or boring. However, research shows that sitting quietly for ten minutes a day, and practicing mindfulness exercises, can do wonders for your mind, health, and overall well-being. You can also use meditation to increase your breathing techniques – more oxygen pumping through your bloodstream helps one to remain calm and less stressed.

If you’re not sure how to do it, try this:

Sit in a comfortable position and focus on your breathing.

Count each breath. Breathe in, breathe out.

Continue until you reach ten and then start over.

If you lose count, go back to one.

If you have any thoughts or become aware of outside noises, acknowledge them, then let them go and return to your meditation.

Continue the exercise for 5-15 minutes.

As you become more practiced, you may wish to do it for longer and focus on your breath as it enters and leaves your body.

Stay Off Social Media

The pressures that come with Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter can be pretty strong, especially on a younger mind who places more importance on those networks. Try staying away from them. 

Quit Smoking

If you’re a smoker, you might find yourself saying that nicotine helps you relax. In reality, studies show that nicotine actually suppresses serotonin and serotonin fights stress. 


If laughter is the best medicine – and it’s certainly the cheapest – then spend some time with someone funny. Laughter actually increases both oxygen and blood flow, both of which reduce the amounts of stress you’re feeling.

As you can see, there are many different, easy, and healthy ways to fight the pressures of school and reduce the need for drugs or alcohol to help you.

Santa Barbara College Student Mental Health Guide

This information is provided by Mission Harbor Behavioral Health as an informational resource for college students residing in Santa Barbara. The treatment programs at Mission Harbor are not directly affiliated with any university, however, we offer outpatient mental health services specifically tailored for active college students.