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Overwhelmed and Exhausted College Student: The Norm or Another Way?

August 30, 2017

Have you ever felt so overwhelmed and anxious about everything on your plate as a college student, that you’ve felt unsure if you could do it all? Ever felt really drained and tired and not sure how to deal with all of the pressures?

Chances are that you, or a friend has felt that way. More than 80% of college students reported feeling overwhelmed by all they had to do in the past year. Nearly equal numbers of students felt exhausted, and not from exercise or physical activity. While occasionally feeling tired or a little stressed is normal, college students consistently say mental health concerns are among the top reasons they withdraw from or leave school, which means that many of those students (maybe even you!) may be feeling this way more often than not.

Feeling exhausted and stressed can make college life and meeting expectations extremely difficult, but this doesn’t have to be the norm! Having positive mental health is key to success and happiness in your college years and beyond. As a student, you are in a unique position to take control and advocate for your well-being and the well-being of your peers. Learning how to recognize the signs of mental health issues, take care of yourself, manage emotions, access help and how to be a better support for others are all ways that you can have a positive impact on your emotional well-being and even your campus community.

Here are some suggestions to get started:

  • Take care of yourself.
    Yes, the number one reason to go to school is, well, to learn! But if you’re not also engaging in social activities with good friends, having appropriate “me time”, getting enough sleep and physical activity, and seeking help when you need it, learning and retaining information becomes a lot harder.
  • Learn about suicide prevention and mental health.
    Build your knowledge around these issues so you can learn what to look for in yourself or a friend and how to respond to mental health concerns. Visit
  • Ask your friends, roommates, classmates how they’re really doing.
    Notice when their mood or behavior changes (i.e. not coming to class or going out with friends, drinking more, sleeping more or less than usual, acting irritable) and let them know why you’re concerned. Ask them what’s going on, listen and offer to help.
  • Help change the conversation.
    Get involved in organizations on campus, talk to people about mental health and avoid language that might offend or diminish the impact of mental health (i.e. avoid saying things like “you’re so bipolar” in response to someone’s mood or invalidating people’s concerns).
  • Advocate for resources and programming on your campus!
    JED Campuses are leading the way forward by working with JED to develop caring communities that support students holistically, increase capacity for students who need help, and impact the campus-wide culture around mental health. Check out, and if your school is not a JED Campus, write to your president or student government about joining!

If you are or ever find yourself in a place where things feel too overwhelming to handle, get help – don’t wait.

  • Contact your school’s counseling center – you can find info for over 1,600 schools at
  • Text 741741 or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for 24/7, free, confidential support.

Learn more about mental health and what to do if you’re worried about yourself or a friend:

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The World Health Organization defines “mental health” “as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” In using this definition, S2i recognizes that some mental health challenges reflect brain diseases that, like physical diseases, require appropriate stigma-free and patient-centered care and include both mental health and substance use disorders. Other mental health challenges stem from social conditions and marginalization and require different forms of interventions.