By Jassica Mendez
For many students, college can be a stressful and challenging period. This is no different for LGBTQ+ students. However, aside from the expected struggles every student comes across with studying and exams, LGBTQ+ students often face various forms of discrimination and prejudice from students and professors. These challenges can take a heavy toll on their mental health if these students don’t have sound support systems and healthy coping methods. To help those struggling, we compiled a list of ways LGBTQ+ students can improve their mental health and build healthy coping methods.
Build Healthy Routines
While this isn’t unique to LGBTQ+ students, it’s still vital for us to point out the importance of building healthy routines and habits. For starters, as a student dealing with a lot of stress and deadlines, you might notice yourself pushing back your bedtime further and further. While it’s important to get all your college work done, this can take a huge toll on your mental health. Getting enough sleep is essential if you want your brain to function well, and it will also help you study faster.
Furthermore, physical and mental health are connected. So, if you want to improve your mental health, you shouldn’t skip meals and ditch all exercise attempts. A healthy, balanced diet will not only make you feel better on the inside, but it will also give you more energy and boost your mood. Finally, stats have shown that LGBTQ+ students have the lowest rates of going to the gym. But if you want to improve your mental health, it’s essential you engage in some sort of physical activity at least once a day. Even a walk through your campus is better than staying inside your dorm all day.
Learn Healthy Coping Mechanisms
Let’s say it’s exam season; how are most of your peers dealing with the upcoming stress? Some may drink and party. It’s important to notice when alcohol leads to seriously dangerous and unhealthy ways of coping with stress. If you’re someone who uses alcohol to deal with stressful situations or even just social anxiety, there are better ways to cope that won’t damage your mental health. For example,rounding yourself, meditating, and journaling are just some of the easiest ways you can reduce your stress and anxiety.
Don’t Forget About Hobbies
In college, most people tend to juggle their lectures with a social life and forget to take care of themselves first. If you’re an outgoing person who makes friends quickly, going out with your friends might be the best relaxation. However, if you’re introverted, you may forget to take some time for yourself and enjoy your hobbies every once in a while. If you love painting, singing, dancing, or other ways to express yourself artistically, don’t forget to enjoy those hobbies every once in a while. Moreover, you can try joining a club. Chances are, the more you branch out, the more you’ll find LGBTQ+ students to hang out with.
Set Small Goals
One of the best ways LGBTQ+ students can improve their mental health over time is by not putting too much pressure on themselves. Reports have shown that LGBTQ+ students suffer from high rates of anxiety and depression, which sometimes come from not reaching the high standards they set upon themselves.
So, if you’re struggling with this, the first step is to let go of all expectations others have set for you. Focus on what you want. Most importantly, start small. Don’t attempt to push yourself too hard; mental illness may make even the slightest activities feel insurmountable. Whatever the size of the things on your to-do list, make sure they are manageable and practical. Whether it’s organizing your space or drafting a paragraph for your essay, all of the minor victories add up and move you forward.
Find Your Community
It’s 2022. Many colleges in the country have some form of an LGBTQ+ club where you can meet students with similar identities. You can discuss your experiences and shared interests in these groups. Finding and building a community is something that can have a huge, positive effect on your mental health.
In the end, you may also benefit from attending one of our OutTalk panels, where people from the LGBTQ+ community have an opportunity to share their experiences along with helpful resources.
The Importance of a Strong Support System
As we said, having a community that supports you is crucial, especially in college when you’re dealing with a lot of stress, growth, and challenges. Friends are often very helpful and supportive, but they aren’t always qualified to advise and help you make decisions. By joining a mentorship program, you can gain a mentor who will guide you and give advice on everything from school and relationships to gender identity and sexuality.
Of course, if you’re experiencing more serious mental health issues, you should turn to a healthcare professional. Know that there is no shame in asking for help when needed. Asking for help is better than suffering in silence or isolating yourself from people.
Your mental health should always come first. If you fail a quiz, you can retake it. If you miss a deadline, you can ask for an extension. You don’t have to be perfect; you just have to be you. Most students are struggling with these ideas, but especially LGBTQ+ students who, aside from this, are often dealing with entirely separate sets of challenges. By following our suggestions, creating healthy habits, and avoiding unhealthy coping mechanisms, LGBTQ+ students can improve their mental health. Keep in mind it will take time to notice the gradual changes, but it will pay off in the long run.