Steps for Thriving at St. Olaf

In times of great uncertainty, we must learn to navigate a parallel path that enables us to have wings in the air and feet on the ground. This means having the vision that enables us to see the beauty and compassion that’s unfolding around us so we don’t lose hope, while also staying grounded so we’re ready to take the actions necessary to manage whatever comes our way. Here are some steps for thriving during difficult times:

1. Start with a foundation of self-care

In the midst of everything, caring for yourself is so important to maintaining and building on your natural resilience. Create a Daily Self-Care Plan (another example of a Self-Care Plan) and Emergency Self-Care Plan. Consider adding healing strategies to your self-care plan as well. Not sure where to start, take a Self-Care Assessment.

2. Prioritize sleep

When we’re busy, it can be tempting to skimp on sleep. But a lack of sleep can increase anxiety, irritability, inability to concentrate, and depression. Getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night is one of the most important things you can do to protect your mental health and improve your academic performance. Begin with reviewing your own Sleep Hygiene,  Seven Ways to Get a Healthier Night’s Sleep, and Relaxation Techniques to Fall Asleep. 

3. Connect with others

Cultivating social connections – and avoiding social isolation – is one of the best ways to build resilience. Connection with other people who support you is healing. Positive peer relationships and supportive interaction with family, faculty, and staff are known to be important factors in students’ academic performance and emotional well-being. Motivational Interviewing can be a useful tool in helping yourself or others through change. The skills from Motivational Interviewing can also be beneficial to improving social connectedness and relationships.

4. Get some exercise

Exercise directly affects the brain and is a great way to relieve stress and improve mental health. In the short-term, exercise can improve our mood by stimulating the body’s feel-good hormones. Research shows that regular exercise can be highly effective at reducing depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.  Campus Recreation offers comprehensive options for all students.

5. Establish a time management strategy

If you need help figuring out what works best for you, meet with an Academic Coach at the Center for Advising and Academic Success (CAAS) or stop by the Wellness Center for a peer one-to-one.  These are excellent resource can help you become more organized and efficient.

6. Refuse to play the stress game

Sometimes we wear our busyness like a badge of honor and compete with each other about who’s more stressed. Remember that stress diminishes your performance level and ability to cope with the regular ups and downs of life.

7. Learn to meditate

Meditation has numerous proven mental health benefits, including relaxation, stress management, and an improved sense of well-being. You can learn to meditate through the Koru Mindfulness program, by watching Youtube Videos or downloading meditation applications.

8. Get out in nature

Research shows that spending time in nature can have real, tangible benefits for your health and well-being. Get started by exploring nature right here on campus: visit St. Olaf Natural Lands.

9. Find meaning

Recent studies show that cultivating a sense of meaning in your life can contribute more to positive mental health than pursuing happiness. Finding one’s own definition of “meaning” is very personal, but two great places to start are 1) to notice what you appreciate and express gratitude; and 2) share a talent or strength. College Ministry is one resource that can help you explore and find what is most meaningful to you.

10. Learn when to ask for help

If you’re struggling, help is available. St. Olaf is a caring community with numerous people whose job – and passion – it is to help support students mental health and well-being.

  • Stop by the Wellness Center and speak with a trained Peer Educator.
  • “Let’s Talk” is a program that provides easy access to informal confidential consultations with counselors from the St. Olaf Counseling Center – Boe House.  Counselors hold walk-in hours from 1:30 to 2:30 PM, Monday thru Friday, in Boe Chapel–Lower Level, Room 11
  • To schedule a counseling appointment, please call the Counseling Center at (507) 786-3062,  stop by our office, or email us at 
  • For urgent concerns, call public safety, 507-786-3666