If you had asked me in my first week of college how to deal with stress and anxiety while going to Trinity, I wouldn’t have had an answer. I wouldn’t have understood why I would be stressed or anxious about something I had limped through all of my angsty teenage years towards. The idea of going to college, something which got me through many tough periods in secondary school, couldn’t possibly be a source of stress now, could it? For many of us, coming to college is like having a field gate swing wide open, and is one of the most amazing times in our lives. However, now that I’m in my final year, the question feels different. The looming uncertainty of post-college life and all the academic hurdles before it can leave you spaced-out and anxious, making Macbeth’s comment “O full of scorpions is my mind” seem all the more apt. However, Whatever stage of college, or headspace, you’re in, here are some suggestions that may help deal with the pincers of college life.
- Visit art galleries
Considering how small Dublin is in comparison to other European cities, we have such a huge collection of art. From Caravaggio to Yeats and Turner to Fontanna, some of the best Irish and international artists are only minutes away from Campus. With an Andy Warhol exhibition on the way to the Hugh Lane Gallery shortly, as well as the Friday night late hours of the National Art Gallery, these places can offer a mental safe zone and pause in what might otherwise be a stressful week. If you want to clear your head, just give yourself an hour to listen to your favorite music and go look at the new John Lavery exhibition of pretty landscapes, or the newest exhibition in Hugh Lane – although I wouldn’t advise going to look at the Francis Bacon pieces in the Hugh Lane… a quick google of ‘Study for a Head’ will show that he isn’t the most relaxing painter.
2. Go sea swimming
No column on mental health would be complete without some reference to the ungodly act of voluntarily dipping yourself into the icy cold waters of the Irish sea. This beaten horse of a cliché is so polarising whereby if you asked a person what they thought of sea swimming, they’d either compare it to an experience of God, or tell you to go stick your dry robe up your fathers Donnybrook loyalty card. However, even if you hate sea swimming like I do, it’s hard to deny that it does work well as a circuit-breaker. If you find yourself in a bag of knots, then there is something in physically chucking yourself in the sea for a bit to cool down. Oftentimes, it’s not the buildup to, or the actual act of swimming, but rather the rush afterwards you get while drying off. The acknowledgment that you’ve conquered your fears in this seemingly insignificant way can help pave the way for other decisions and obstacles you might have.
3. Take nature walks
Continuing on this wellbeing kick, my next very original suggestion is nature. I apologise if this is coming across like when your mother tells you that if you just “went on a walk” then all your mental health problems would disappear – but the nugget of truth there is worth a thought. For me, it’s going to Phoenix Park. I grew up beside the wall of the park and have countless memories of walking through the Horse-Chestnut leaves of Autumn and picking up conkers. Going on walks now, (although not necessarily including the act of jumping in a pile of leaves every five minutes), can be a great way to ground yourself. You can make it more interesting by focusing on the sensory aspects around you, what you can hear, what you can see and smell. Finding or rediscovering old places like these are nostalgic and can be really helpful in making us feel relaxed and safe. In some sense it appears that our mothers were in fact right.
College is wonderful, but sometimes, it can be the last place on earth you want to be. Not knowing who you are going to go to lectures with, or if there are old friendships that you’re trying to avoid. Maybe you’re worried about academics this year. Worried about what grades you need to average or what professors you’ll have. College can be overwhelming sometimes, which is why it’s so important to come up with your own escapes so that you can enjoy your time there as much as possible.