visual wellness wednesday 9/6

Editor’s Note: This article contains references to mental health. 

Have you ever woken up dreading the day ahead because you have an endless to-do list? People repeatedly make the generalization that your college years are supposed to be filled with endless free time; however, this is not often the case.

Life as a college student is extremely busy with a lot of different aspects. This can include completing schoolwork, spending time with friends, taking care of our mental and physical health, sleeping, working, etc. There are some great ways that we can learn to manage everything.

The first thing that I like to do is make a mini priorities list in my head. I always put my mental health at the top of the list. If we do not prioritize our mental health, it will be hard to complete other tasks. Then I think about the day ahead and organize the other tasks in my brain. This gives me an idea about what I need to do that day.

After making a mental note, it can be super helpful to write things down. Write down everything you have to do that day including focusing on your mental and physical health, seeing a friend, completing an assignment and even grabbing a coffee.

Research shows that our brains choose what information to hold on to and which information is not as important, which correlates to writing to-do lists. This is why writing a list helps us better keep track of our tasks than simply making a mental note. Listing these in order of priority helps me as well. 

One of my favorite ways to stay on track with my tasks is to plan fun things to do throughout the week to reward myself as I check items off my to-do list. This gives me something to look forward to which motivates me to complete tasks, especially those I am not too fond of. For example, after I finish a task I will plan to go get coffee with a friend, maybe plan a trip to the mall, or go on a mindful hike mid-week.

Rewarding yourself, even with small rewards, can help increase motivation and even help your mental health. Doing this also helps create a balance between work and fun, which is really important to have. 

When balancing all of these things in our life, it can be hard to ensure we are doing everything we can to boost our mental health. Mental health is one of the top things, if not the top thing, we should be prioritizing. Everything we do is impacted by it, therefore it is essential to check on your personal well-being before doing anything else. If we do find ourselves struggling mentally, there are many great resources on campus including Wellness Coaching and the Counseling Center. 

Another thing that can be beneficial when trying to balance everything we have to do is paying attention to our physical health. When I think of physical health, the first two things that come to mind are movement and nutrition. Eating foods that make you feel good, and moving your body in a way you enjoy will help with mental health and productivity.

This can look different for everyone, so it is important to know what works best for you in terms of nutrition and movement. Any form of physical activity, including a quick mindful walk, a trip to the gym or taking a Group Fitness Class at Carmichael, are all great ways to destress or take a break and reset our minds to continue checking off those tasks. 

The final thing I want to talk about in terms of balancing aspects of our lives is sleep. Getting an adequate amount of sleep is usually put at the bottom of the to-do list and is often overlooked. Not only does getting enough sleep help our body recover, but also our mind. A lack of sleep is often linked to increased anxiety and depression which impacts every part of our life.

An increase in anxiety or depression can make it really difficult for us to focus on everything we need to do. The Learning Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill suggests college students should sleep 7-9 hours on average each night, and getting this optimal amount of sleep is actually linked to a higher GPA.

Ultimately, life as a college student can be overwhelming. We have to balance our school life, social life, mental health, physical health, sleep, work, etc. This is not easy, however, there are tips we can use to guide us through these challenges. Making a list and being sure to write it down is extremely beneficial along with knowing your priorities. It is important to put your mental health at the top, if not first, since everything we do revolves around our mental health. Physical health should certainly be up there as well because we need the energy to accomplish all of our tasks each day. By applying this information, we can make our days a little more smooth. 

If you or someone you know is having a mental health emergency, the Counseling Center can be reached 24 hours a day at 919-515-2423. If you are in a crisis situation and need immediate help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. In the case of a life-threatening emergency, call 911.

The Counseling Center’s website offers free online screenings, a plethora of self-help resources regarding mental health and wellness concerns and a comprehensive list of campus services available for those who need guidance. To view an exhaustive list, visit

If you’re seeking professional counseling or other mental health services on campus, visit the Counseling Center’s Getting Started page at to complete paperwork, set up an appointment and more.

Thrivewell Wellness Assistant