Heading to university or college? Canadian Mental Health Association Peel Dufferin offers tips for handling stress, anxiety and homesickness

Tips for handling stress, anxiety and homesickness as you head to university or college


Thousands of students across Ontario are moving into dorms for university and college. The Canadian Mental Health Association Peel Dufferin has some advice on how to cope with the changes. – Graham Paine/Metroland

You’re all packed and ready to head off to university or college. This an exciting time, but it can also be a time of increased anxiety for some. Here are a few helpful tips for students settling in to life away from home.

Over the last few years you’ve been taking more responsibility for yourself, making decisions and facing life’s challenges, and you’ve had the benefit of advice from your parents, mentors and peers to help guide you. As you head off on this journey you will start to use all you know to find new solutions to problems and challenges. You will make mistakes — this is normal. Remember, learning from our mistakes is how we grow, and your family, friends and mentors are still there to support you — continue to reach out to them for support and advice.

Stress is a normal part of school life — deadlines, exams, new social situations can all be feel overwhelming. Here are some tips to address stress.

  • Identify the problem — once you know the real problem you can begin to deal with it.
  • Solve problems as they arise — do the best you can and ask for help when needed. Decide on a solution then think through the steps to make it manageable.
  • Talk about your problems — friends and loved ones may not realize that you are having a hard time, but often they may have ideas to help and support you.
  • Simplify your life — if you are overwhelmed and feel like there are too many demands on you, take stock and simplify. While joining that team or club was great, simplifying your schedule and focusing your energy in a few key areas can help you feel more in control.
  • Keep active, exercise is a great way to destress and support good mental health. Even a short walk can help you clear your head and relax.
  • Make your space your own — your environment can impact your mental health so go ahead and personalize your dorm room posters, colourful bedding, inspiring quotes and photos of family and friends.
  • Try meditation — there are loads of apps and YouTube videos out there that can help you relax. A pair of headphones means you can listen to a guided meditation anywhere and any time you need to relax — except during class of course!

New roommates, classmates and finding new friends can also be daunting, especially if you are a naturally shy person. Not every person you meet will automatically be a friend but the good news is you get to choose who you will be friends with. As you meet new people keep an open mind and remember that friendships can take a while to develop.

If you are struggling and need support your on-campus student wellness resources are there to help — call them and use them.

Good2Talk.ca is a free, confidential helpline with professional counselling, information and referrals for mental health, addictions and well-being for post-secondary students in Ontario, 24-7-365.

BigWhiteWall.ca is a 24-7 online service offering self-help and support from the peer community, on an anonymous platform.

You can also contact the Canadian Mental Health Association Peel Dufferin at 1-877-451-2123 — cmhapeeldufferin.ca, or a community crisis line like 24-7 Crisis Support Peel Dufferin 1-888-811-2222 or the Distress Centre 416-408-HELP (416-408-4357).

Lisa Ali, MSW, RSW is the senior director, Clinical Services and Strategy with Canadian Mental Health Association Peel Dufferin. Reach her at info@cmhapeel.ca.



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