While most of us are very excited about the idea of going to college, for many, the prospect is daunting and even downright scary. After all, this may be the first time that you have been away from home and the loving embrace of your family.

If you are feeling stressed upon your arrival at college, then you are not alone because one out of three freshmen also report mental health issues as they adjust to life away from home. While it is natural to have mixed feelings, it is important for your mental well-being that you do what you can to set yourself up for success and happiness. Let’s talk about how to manage your stress while you’re away at college.

Make College Your Happy Place

A lot of the stress during the first year of college comes from the fact that you are away from home and likely taking care of yourself for the first time in your life. It can be daunting at first to be seemingly alone, but you just need to make college your new happy place.

Start by decorating your dorm room to make it as homey and comfortable as possible. Spruce up your bed or couch with some fluffy throw pillows and consider adding a soft but sturdy ottoman where you can put up your feet and store your belongings to keep them out of the way. Then, put some pictures on the wall of your family and friends to put a smile on your face when you need it most.

While your dorm should be warm and welcoming, you should also make it a point to get outside, enjoy yourself, and try to make some friends on campus. You can do that by getting involved at a volunteer event like a soup kitchen or thrift store. That way, you’ll have a place to go to keep your mind occupied, and you will feel good knowing that you are helping others in need.

Although many people experiment at college, you should make it a point to avoid drugs and alcohol. While they may offer short-term effects, overall, you will just feel worse physically and mentally after the euphoria wears off. Plus, alcohol can result in weight gain and other ailments that could lead to depression over time.

Practice Self-Care

In addition to avoiding harmful substances, you should also make it a point to practice self-care, so you feel better overall. Start by making sure that you get enough sleep. Avoid the late-night study sessions that will just make you feel exhausted and instead aim for your seven to nine hours of sleep every night. In addition to strengthening your immune system and helping to beautify your skin, sleep can help you to wake up refreshed and clear-headed so you can avoid anxiety and take your classes head-on.

If you get enough sleep, then you will also have the energy to wake up early and exercise before school starts for the day. Try to fit in 150 minutes of exercise a week that can include running around campus or lifting light weights. To get the maximum effects, consider going for a jog or walking through nature. When we are around the greenery and beauty of nature, our anxieties seem to melt away, and plants also have a way of helping our creativity and focus.

Consider adding a mindful activity like yoga or meditation to your wellness routine. By practicing yoga, you get a chance to breathe while you stretch your muscles and take the time you need to mentally organize your day, so you don’t feel so rushed once your classes begin. You might even consider joining a yoga class at school where you can learn new moves and make friends as you prioritize your mental health.

Talk To People

It is important to have people to talk to when you want to express your thoughts or you are feeling down. While you may always try to be resilient by focusing on the positive and managing your stress as best as you can, sometimes, we just need an extra helping hand. Create a supportive external network of friends that you can turn to in times of need. If you don’t yet have that with the people at school, then consider hosting a video call with one of your close friends from home. Seeing that friend face to face will do wonders to improve your mental mind frame.

You must also remember that if journaling your thoughts or talking to your personal support network is not enough, then you do have the option to talk to a professional therapist. There is likely a therapy service on your campus. If you are uncomfortable talking to someone in person, then consider downloading a therapy app and get assistance that way. Whatever you do, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Finally, through all of these new struggles, remember to put things into perspective. No one is expecting you to be perfect at college. If you don’t get the best grade on a single exam, then it is not the end of the world. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Instead, set reasonable goals and take things one at a time, and you will feel the pressure slip away. In the end, there is no way around the fact that college is a life-changing experience that can seem to get heavy from time to time. The important thing is that you take care of yourself and prioritize your mental health, and you will eventually feel more comfortable at school.