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Surviving to Thriving

Surviving to Thriving

Surviving to Thriving

Zach shares some of his personal tips for stress management while in college.

by Zach Wheeler on November 04, 2019

We are drawing close to the end of another semester! For some of you, this may be your first semester and you’ve finally gotten a routine under your belt. For others, it may be your last and you’re having to prepare for your future. Wherever you fall on that spectrum, there’s a common thread for every student: stress management. It doesn’t matter what your schedule looks like, there’s always going to be some stress in your life. For me personally, this has been one of the most stressful semesters I’ve had during my time at SWU. Between taking 21 credit hours, participating in extracurriculars, and holding down a job, I have firsthand experience in College Stress Management 101. But, I also know what it’s like to mask that stress and make everything look as though it’s totally fine. When people are prone to masking the stress and struggles in their lives, it can often lead to different types of distress. If we let stress, anxiety, and depression wreak havoc on our lives, it can take us down a dangerous road.

I want to discuss a topic very close to my heart, and one I think we need to make ourselves more aware of. Mental health is connected to a person’s psychological and emotional well-being. Here are some of my personal tips to help you deal with stress and maintain that optimal state of mental and emotional wellness: 

Take care of yourself – through exercise and healthy habits

Self-care is one of the most important things impacting sense of well-being. I personally really struggle in this area, but it’s important to learn to take care of yourself. Go for a walk, go for a jog or a run, lift weights, eat healthy foods, and do everything you can to be healthy. This also includes sleep!! Make sure that you are resting enough. You might talk to a medical provider about things you could do if you’re having trouble with sleep– maybe changes to your routine or a natural supplement. When your body doesn’t get enough rest or is in an unhealthy state due to lack of exercise or bad eating habits, your symptoms from stress, anxiety, and depression will worsen. Take care of yourself. You’re more than worth it!

Know that you’re not alone and dive into community

Statistics show that one in four people will suffer from some type of mental health condition at some point in their life. There are likely many around you who understand your struggles and may have been in similar situations themselves. Push yourself to be out with people and actually enjoy it. Get out of bed, go hang out with friends, and make the most of your time. Being with people will naturally pull you out of a funk. Just trust me.

Develop a mentoring relationship

Some of the most helpful conversations and support can come from spending time with a mentor. Someone a little farther along in their life journey may have clearer perspective and wisdom to share. Reach out and find someone you trust to walk through your struggles with you. While this may be tough in the moment, when you shed light on the things that are holding you down, the burden becomes lighter as you have others to help you on the journey.

Go see a counselor/mental health professional

In my personal journey with mental health, I know for a fact I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for going to see a counselor about anxiety and depression. Society has placed such a negative stigma on asking for help but try to see past that. Going to a counselor or opening up to someone close to you does NOT make you weak. In fact, it is one of the most difficult steps someone will take on their road to recovery. Also, going to see a counselor does not mean that you’ve given up! It just means that you’re acknowledging you can’t get through this battle alone. God calls us to be in community with one another. Find comfort in that and talk to someone you trust.

God calls us to be in community with one another. Find comfort in that and talk to someone you trust.

If serious enough, consider taking medication

Another harmful stigma society has caused is the one against medication for mental health conditions. Therefore, it is not wrong to look at it from a scientific point of view. Sometimes there are genuine chemical imbalances inside your brain that can be corrected through medication. I know this is scary, but it may be the answer you’re looking for and you can talk to a medical doctor about your options.

Give yourself time

Mental and emotional battles will most likely not solve themselves in a day. Give yourself time to grow, learn, and blossom into the best you possible. For me, anxiety and depression are still a constant battle. As we go through the pain, we learn through it and inevitably become better people. Allow yourself grace. There might be bad days - days when you struggle to get out of bed, when you have no appetite, when you just want to end it all. However, there will also be good days of laughter, mornings of smiling at yourself in the mirror, and nights of real, good sleep. Make sure you remain thankful for it all and give time for change to happen. Hindsight is 20/20. You may not see the purpose of your struggle now, but you will. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." - James 1:2-4, NIV


One of the benefits of living on a Christian campus is being surrounded by a community of believers. This community fosters a deeper sense of faith and connection with the Lord. This has been one of the biggest influencers for me while being here at SWU. Although it’s hard in times of struggle, anxiety, and depression, there may be a lesson God is trying to teach you underneath it all. So turn to Scripture, pray, and earnestly seek His face to try and discover what He’s wanting you to learn. A verse that has been a huge help to me is 2 Timothy 1:7, which says, “For the Spirit God gave us dos not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.”

These are just some of the things I try to keep in mind when I am tempted toward depression and anxiety. While everyone’s battles are different, we can all relate to being stressed. But if I can remind you of one thing, it is that the community at SWU is here to love on you and to support you. You have countless faculty and staff as well as other students who would love to listen to your story. Just trust in the fact that people truly love you and want you to succeed.

“No one deserves to be forgotten. No one deserves to fade away. No one should flicker out or have any doubt that it matters that they are here. No one deserves to disappear.” - Dear Evan Hansen

Please love everyone around you and know that you are cherished by so many!

Additional Resources

Crisis Textline: Text HOME to 741-741
SWU Counseling & Health Services: 864-644-5131
SWU ULifeline: College Mental Health Resource
13 Healthy Ways to Comfort Yourself
Self-Soothing Technique 

Tags: college, counseling, health, stress, mental health, stress management