The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

Your Super-Honest Insider’s Guide to Mental Wellness During Your First-Year at Bates


Disclaimer: I have no certificate to be delivering official mental health advice. However, I made it through my first year at Bates College, so maybe I should be getting a certificate.

The transition into college is a hefty one. Everyone told me that, and I didn’t believe them. I’ll be fine, I said. I’m literally invincible, I said. Quickly, I realized that an invincibility complex does not bode well if attempting to stay sane and feel happiness at college.

Though I am not an expert in maintaining a healthy mental lifestyle, the rest of this article will be chock-full of my own tips on staying sane and feeling happiness. Everyone’s definition of a “healthy mental lifestyle” is different, so feel free to adjust my advice as you please.

The first piece of wisdom I can offer is to acknowledge that your mental health is a real thing. You must keep track of it and reflect on it. It’s not weak to acknowledge you have feelings and thoughts. In fact, it’s very strong of you to have this continuous acknowledgment. It’s called emotional intelligence. So welcome to 2023: it’s time to destigmatize your emotions.

Speaking of de-stigmatization, therapy is a great choice, regardless of if you feel you “need” it or not. Everyone should have a check-in at least. The great news is that Bates doesn’t charge you a penny for our on-campus therapy services — Counseling and Psychological Services, more commonly referred to as CAPS — or for UWill, an online telehealth service for college students. (It’s free! Utilize it!) 

I’ve found lots of people have different opinions about CAPS. Regardless, they offer valuable resources: 

  • Same-day consultations (25-minute appointments meant to solve a specific problem)
  • Short-term individual counseling (Exactly what it sounds like, for more information follow this link)
  • Group therapy (you’ll see flyers for this around campus)
  • 24/7 hour phone crisis hotline
  • Referrals to off-campus therapists (Bates uses ThrivingCampus referrals and can help you every step of the way with this process)

CAPS does have limited funding, and because of that, the staff that may not be able to help all members of a diverse student body. I loved my CAPS therapist, but I may look for a new one that can understand my positionality more as a mixed-race young adult. 

My mom likes to say finding a good therapist is a lot like dating. You may not get a therapist you vibe with right off the bat, so don’t be afraid to chat with different ones until you find one that you think you are compatible with. Also, in order for therapy to do what it’s supposed to do, you have to be willing to be honest and introspective. It’s hard work, but usually, it’s worth it.

Moving on to support systems… you’re starting anew, building one from scratch. This is perhaps the biggest part of transitioning into college. It’s going to take time to find the people that you want to support and that want to support you, but you will get there. Make lots of friends, and enjoy the spectacularly frustrating journey of finding your people.

Be kind to yourself during this transition. Your daily habits may not be the same as before. (But please don’t cut out showering.) Eat food. Not everything will be a well-balanced, home-cooked meal, but you must fuel your body regardless. Commons has lots of options, so experiment! Find food that you like and that makes you feel good. Be sure to have healthy snacks in your dorm room so you don’t starve. Sometimes it gets cold in Maine (surprise) and you won’t want to walk to Commons. I personally like the chocolate chip Clif bars, but find your own thing; don’t steal mine. 

If you’re having trouble with this major diet adjustment, do not fret! Bates provides free Nutrition Counseling

Next, we’re going to talk about a toughie: exercise of any form is good for mental stability. I’m learning how to lift weights because it makes me feel strong. My roommate likes to run her anger out. Intramural sports puts on fun team activities like dodgeball and kickball. Those count! Find your thing and try to do it a couple times a week. Extra points if you befriend someone to join you on your exercise journey. My gym buddy makes gym-ing much more enjoyable.

Sleep is good for you. My mom will not stop sending me articles about the importance of sleep. At this age, we should be getting 7 to 9 hours per night. It may sound unreasonable, but you can at least try. Put yourself first. Set a bedtime alarm on your phone. Communicate with your roommate(s) about when you will be sleeping so you can be respectful about volume and lights.

To be less stressed, you will need at least the occasional spurt of productivity. We are at college to learn, after all. Invest time in finding a good study spot that makes you feel both comfortable and productive. My favorite buildings with lots of good study spots are Pettigrew, Hathorn and Hedge. If you can get into the Hedge Philosophy lounge, kudos to you. (Great spot, usually busy.)

Keep track of how full your bucket is and how to best refill it. (For those that aren’t familiar with this metaphor, my interpretation is as follows: Everybody has a bucket. How full it is represents your energy level and happiness. We must all be aware of our buckets and their levels.) Say no to things if you don’t have the energy to go. Take a nap instead. Hang out with yourself. Read a book. Everyone’s way to refill their bucket is different, but I find watching a good Cody Ko video, writing an emotional dump, laying on the floor, or complaining about how hard my life is to my mom usually does the trick.

If nothing else works, try screaming your frustrations into nothingness. Do a handstand. Climb a tree. Start a cry counter so you can reflect at the end of the year and make a fun PowerPoint. If all else fails, maybe drop out and join circus school. I’ve done some research on the Maine schools; The Sellam Circus School seems like my best option right now. I plan on pursuing flying trapeze if this whole college thing doesn’t pan out. You’re welcome to join me.

Or maybe you’ll make it through without dropping out to be in the circus, and you’ll be the one writing this article for next year’s first-years. I believe you can do it. Remember to allow yourself to lean on those around you. If you ever need someone to talk to, I can offer my listening services. Email me 🙂 I wish you the best of luck as you embark on this school year. Remember, you are invincible – whether or not you feel like it 100% of the time. 

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About the Contributor
Catalina Passino, Managing Features Editor
Catalina is a sophomore from Leesburg, Virginia. She plans to major in Psychology and minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies. Outside of her studies, Catalina dabbles in baking, basketball, and frolicking. During her freshman year, Catalina began as a contributing writer and later became a staff writer for the Bates Student. Though she is now in features, she also enjoys the news and forum sections.

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