Career Advice

How to Manage Your Mental Health as a Student with a Stressful Job

Pensive student

Do you work and attend college? Balancing both isn’t easy.

I remember attending College while being a notetaker for students with disabilities. Although it was a satisfying job, studying for exams was the most stressful time of the year. If it weren’t for living close to a beach at the time, it would be difficult to find a place of sanctuary to recalibrate.

According to the American Psychological Association, “78 percent of students with mental health problems first receive counseling or support from friends, family or other non-professionals.”

To help you with valuable ways to balance your mental health with the external stressors, we need to take a closer look at the signs of a mental illness.

Symptoms of Mental Illness

It can be difficult to figure out if you are experiencing a mental illness when the pressure of school plus work is mounting for most students. The first step is to recognize the signs and seek out help:

  • Feelings of depression
  • An inability to concentrate in school or at work
  • Feelings of guilt, fear or worrying
  • Irregular changes in your mood
  • The urge to withdraw from social settings
  • Fatigue and a low energy level
  • Unhealthy diet choices
  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Issues with anger and hostility towards others

Blessie Mathew, a Career Education Manager at the University of Alberta, and her team conducted a survey of 1,300 graduates and “77.6% were employed at some point when they were students.” Only 46.7% felt their job helped them develop work-related skills. A surprising 35.3 percent of postgraduate students that participated in volunteer opportunities believed the experience helped with skills and knowledge.

As a student, you should find a job you love and it will feel as if you are adding value to your academic life.

How to Curb Negative Feelings

1. Practice Mindfulness

Blessie explained that one of the ways students can improve their mental health is to practice mindfulness. It is a helpful way to manage negative self-talk to help manage thoughts.

Most students have “a lack of awareness of what they have to offer” in the workforce, she mentioned. There are unrealistic expectations of finding a dream job despite a lack of work experience and it can be difficult to accept after students are rejected for work.

2. Get help with homework

There is nothing wrong with asking for help. You can get homework help by using online services or walking into an English lab that supports students with questions about coursework.

If you use an online homework help, it is wise to check your sources and review the finished work to ensure it aligns with your professor’s requirements. It is one way for you to rest, focus on another class or connect with friends to allow you to regain your energy for the next day of class.

3. Create a self-help plan

Investigate whether there are support services for you to speak with a professional is available on campus. If not, ask if there is a mental health organization that works with your university in the community.  Another idea is to speak with your friends and family regularly for emotional support.

If you isolate yourself from the outside world, you can potentially create more problems.

4. Groups to speak with other students

There are group networks designed for students wrestling with mental illness or mental health hurdles. Students meet and talk with a group about their feelings, and in most cases, it is facilitated by a health professional.

Group sessions will help to remind you that other young adults find it difficult to cope with life. We recommend that you keep in touch with other attendees in between sessions that you can trust to speak to you when you are feeling off-kilter.

Be creative and write letters to family and old friends if speaking on the phone or meeting in person is daunting.

5.  Take breaks regularly

While it is rewarding to multitask and remain busy, you need to set time for breaks. Instead of pulling all-nighters, cramming for tests or taking on additional work shifts, take a few breaks to get fresh air. Speak to your manager about reducing your work hours on the weekend. It is the time to wind down, go out with friends, and recharge.

We recommend that you take the time to ask yourself if working while attending college or university is necessary. It feels good to know you are earning an income, but your health is more important. If you feel like you have no one to turn to, speak to a counselor for free available resources that will change your life in a positive direction.

College should be some of the best years of your life. You deserve it.


Makeda Waterman is a professional writer with an Education in Journalism, Mass Communications, and Public Relations. She writes for the Huffington Post Canada and Elite Daily on millennial topics with the goal of helping people improve the quality of their lives and career.

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