Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.

When summer break comes to an end, returning to campus and getting back into the swing of schoolwork is always an adjustment. However, there is something that seems to be lingering in the air causing these funks students struggle to pull themselves out of. If you are currently in one of these, you are not alone. In fact, the majority of even my immediate friends have told me that they cannot get out of this uncomfortable emotional state. Midterms also do not make it any easier. However, there are reasons why you are feeling like this and ways to get out, so do not get too down on yourself just yet. 

One beautiful yet harsh reality to first recognize is that we are officially growing into our adult selves and are maturing at a seemingly unfathomable rate. Have you noticed that your interests and priorities are a little different every year? As we grow older, it is important for us to understand that familiar places will not evolve with us, so we must adapt to them. We have no control over our environments, but we can control how we decide to live in them.

When coming back to college, a place that may seem like a second home, we may expect ourselves to fit perfectly back into the puzzle the way we left it. However, we may then find that what once excited us before, might not evoke those same emotions and may even feel a little foreign. Some friends who we have not seen in a while may even feel like distant strangers. This could cause anxiety leading to a helpless funk. If this is you, you may just have to recognize the reality of your situation and figure out how you are going to take the time to adjust to the transition back. Accept that change happens! Do not try to walk around these new and strange feelings because they are just natural reactions to your current state. Instead, tune into these emotions because they might just give you clarity into the next steps you should take. 

I recently learned that our thoughts, feelings, and actions are all connected, which means that if we want to change one, we have the ability to do this by altering another. Therefore, just approaching your emotions differently instead of wallowing in them may just be how you can escape this funk.  

Here are some ways this can be done:

Change your routine. When sticking to the same habits, it is difficult to escape our funks. Changing routines could range from working towards new and fresh goals for yourself to spending time with people who bring a different kind of energy. 

Let it out. Free these thoughts from your head by journaling or talking about them with people you trust. This will not only open up some headspace, but also help you get your thoughts aligned. 

Exercise. Get your body moving to boost some endorphins. In case you did not know, endorphins stimulate pleasure and are released during and after we work out. It is also the body’s natural way of fighting stress and pain. Therefore, pumping these endorphins will help us gain control of our stress while in our funks. 

Read a book or watch a movie. Expand your mind to other stories. Do not keep your thoughts in this box of yours.

Take a breath and be patient. Allow your mind to go where it wants for a few minutes. This can be done through meditation, which could look like sitting in a calm space and simply breathing. In these moments, take a full body scan and tap into all of your senses. Do not be afraid to be vulnerable with yourself. Practicing this will make you more present and help you process your current thoughts and feeling. Meditating opens up the opportunity for you to also discover new insights that could end up helping you immensely. One meditation app that I like to use is Headspace.

Have fun! Give yourself a mental break and focus on your passions as well as anything else you know will fill you up. 

The first step in getting out of our funks begins with acknowledging and accepting our emotions, so we can then figure out what we are going to do about them. This will give us stronger control over the specific thoughts and actions that will potentially guide us out of our current condition.

When we are in these uneasy states, we tend to overthink and become anxious. However, this out-of-body feeling should not be viewed in a negative light. As you work on easing the pressure off of yourself and think about what other external factors could be contributing to this funk, be conscious about evaluating and adjusting to the environment you are currently in. Transitions are meant to make us feel uncomfortable, which are wonderful opportunities to fully embrace our situations, tune into ourselves, and grow. This is how we gain a stronger understanding of how to be resilient the next time we fall into these funks.  

Subscribe here for all the latest news on how you can keep Thriving.

More on Mental Health on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis