I am in the Class of 2019, but I first came to Trinity in 2011. I was out of school for several years due to mental and physical health issues. I wish that I could say I left as soon as I noticed something going on with me, but that is not the case. I knew that things weren’t right, but I was always so confident that I was going to get myself under control. It eventually took me flunking out of an entire semester — classes I have blessedly, retroactively, medically withdrawn from — before I left Trinity.

When I left Trinity I started seeing a nutritionist and took a blood test that proved I was allergic to wheat and cinnamon. I had never noticed the connection between these food items and the inflammation in my body before. The inflammation slowly started to fade, my digestion started improving and I began to sleep better. I was able to exercise more and even became a certified yoga instructor.

I paid far more attention to the connections between my mental and physical health and was able to get off of the anti-depressants I had been taking for years. I also stopped taking all of the medications my rheumatologist had prescribed me, because the autoimmune issues that had been plaguing me were brought back into balance through diet, exercise, adequate sleep and stress management. I finally felt alive again and enrolled at Trinity for a second time.

Since I have been back, I am seeing a lot of people suffering the way that I suffered. I see strung-out college students drinking coffee, pulling all-nighters, eating candy from vending machines in class and talking about how stressed they are. I talk to so many other students who have been put on medications for depression and anxiety but aren’t feeling any better. Worse yet, I talk to students who are so stressed and unhealthy that they truly want to take a break from school but feel ashamed at the thought of slowing down their education.

College is hard. Workloads are heavy, schedules are erratic and responsibility is high. Sharing a room is difficult. Not having a kitchen is definitely difficult. But there is so much that you can still control!

An all-nighter will not prepare you for your exams more than a few hours of study with a night of sleep. And extra coffee in the morning will not keep you going all day. In fact, it will deplete you further over time. And that extra dose of sugar in the afternoon will definitely not be doing you any favors.

Serotonin and dopamine — the chemicals we need to keep in balance to stabilize our moods — are made in the gut. So proper digestion and nutrition are critical for both your mental and physical health. Instead of pounding the coffee and sugar, make sure than you are sleeping and eating properly. Add more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Subtract processed and fried foods, as well as caffeine and refined sugars.

Exercise and sunshine are also critical. We have a beautiful campus on the edge of a beautiful neighborhood. Pause that next episode on Netflix and take a walk! The Meditation Garden in the Chapel is a great getaway. TU Fit also hosts some amazing (and free!) yoga and meditation classes on campus. Check out their schedule next semester!

And remember that what’s best for you is what is tailored to you. Don’t be afraid to take a break from school if that is what your body and your mind are calling for. I am 25 years old and finishing my bachelor’s degree with a better major and far better grades than I would have if I had graduated in 2015. I was reluctant to make this decision for myself, but there are some truly wonderful faculty members and admins at Trinity. It is their purpose to be helpful to you, so take advantage! Your professors, Dean Tuttle, the Registrar staff and Reverend Nickle are all great resources outside of Counseling Services. Regular meetings with Stacy Davidson also did wonders for me. But the important thing is that you talk to people. It is better to reach out soon rather than too late!

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