One of the most difficult parts of adulthood is that it can be a little bit lonely sometimes: we strive to leave our parents’ homes, but when we get to college, we may feel more homesick than we ever expected. While we all make new friends at college, and afterwards in our first jobs, being away from the comforting routines of home can be rather difficult. If you find yourself missing your parents and siblings — and pets — it’s okay and it’s just to be expected. If, however, you find yourself missing classes, skipping homework assignments, and just having a tough time getting out of bed in the morning, you may be experiencing more profound anxiety or even some depression.
The first step to relieving depression could be some general mental health counseling. Although it can feel a little odd at first to be confiding in a stranger, mental health counselors are at every college in the United States. Students often report homesickness, and may have an undiagnosed anxiety disorder that could benefit from counseling or even from medication. Anxiety symptoms may include a generalized sense of fear about grades, your future, or your friends. Are they being honest with you? Who can you trust in an unfamiliar environment? It’s okay to miss talking to your parents in the morning: you’re a college student, but you still have a normal range of emotions.
Mental health counseling can help you pinpoint the source of your anxiety: typically, college counselors want to meet for a few sessions before prescribing any anxiety medication. It’s important to realize that medication will not prevent you from feeling sad, angry, or homesick, but it may help you gain a new perspective on your feelings by reducing the physical symptoms of anxiety or depression. Some people with anxiety report that their hearts race uncontrollably or that they perspire more than usual. If your classes have you wanting to hide in your room, contact your university’s mental health counseling department: sometimes, a solution can be found that does not involve medication. Your subconscious mind may just want more time spent alone or a change of major: medication can’t change your underlying thoughts and feelings.
During a mental health counseling session, your counselor may ask you about your plans for the future, your coping mechanisms, and your friends. You do not have to share any details you don’t want, but it’s good to remember that counselors are highly trained and have a lot of compassion for the struggles that students go through. You may be so focused on being independent that you’re letting some friendships from high school fall to the wayside: modern technology can help you video chat with your friends. Who knows? They may be even more homesick than you are. Counselors understand that college can be a stressful time in a person’s life, and can help you come up with a plan for stress reduction and the inclusion of fun activities: even dedicated students need a break sometimes.
If you’re feeling a bit over the edge right now, your college or local mental health clinic should have a crisis line. Sometimes, feelings and experiences can build up so rapidly that we have a difficult time dealing with them. If you feel like you can’t catch your breath, take a minute and find a crisis line. They do not require that you go to a hospital, but they will talk to you about how you are feeling and how you got there. Adult life can be stressful, and if you’re feeling overly pressured to succeed, you may need a little time out. On-campus mental health counseling provides students with a safe place to talk about the issues that are bothering them. Call your parents and keep your spirits up: getting used to being an adult and being on your own is a process that can take several years.