College—for most of us—is not exactly what we envisioned, for better or worse. You surely benefit from exposure to new people, new ideas and, for some, a new city. You get to see yourself make changes while you advance toward earning your degree and moving on to the next step in whatever life plan you’ve created.
Despite all of these advantages, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. You have a constant schedule of classes, you spend hours holed up in the library or the nearest coffee shop studying, and given the nightmarish price of tuition in the United States, you’ve likely also got a job (or two) thrown into the mix.
With all of those stressors, responsibilities and obligations going on in your life, it should come as no surprise that some of us are left in a position where we need a good release. I’m not one to slight the mentally rejuvenative properties of a good old fashioned keg stand or bong rip, but there’s only so much that our good friends Sam Adams and Mary Jane can do to help us when we’re reaching our mental wit’s end (despite them trying their damndest).
It’s important to remember if you are feeling like cracking under the collegiate pressure, you’re not alone: A 2016 study by the American College Health Association found that just under 50 percent of college students report feeling hopeless at some point during their school year. My own personal study found that I tend to get that feeling about twice a year while sobbing uncontrollably into a Domino’s pizza and blasting early Fall Out Boy records.
Student Gym at Academic and Student Recreation Center
How do we take action? Well, according to Sarah Gingell, PhD, with Psychology Today, there is “increasingly robust evidence suggest[ing] that exercise is not only necessary for the maintenance of good mental health, but it can be used to treat even chronic mental illness.” She even claims it can prevent depression, maintain mental health into your old age and can often produce results that rival certain pharmacological treatments.
Many Portland State students who perform such physical (and mental) upkeep go to PSU’s Student Recreation Center, which offers state-of-the-art exercise equipment, a pool and sauna, basketball, volleyball and badminton courts, a one-eighth mile indoor track, personal training programs and weekly exercise classes. A membership to this gym comes included with your tuition and student fees, so you could argue that you’re wasting money if you don’t go.
However, not all of us are are fond of going to the gym. If you’re like me, the primary issue is that you’re absolutely clueless about how to properly use the equipment. My best attempts at working out in a gym setting have involved me planting my ass on a stationary bike and feverishly pedaling to nowhere while I have titillating lust-visions of baked goods. (Bread just gets me, you know?)
If hitting the gym isn’t going to cut it for you, there is another option offered through the university: organized sports via the intramural program or a Rec Club.
Intramurals are a hallmark of most universities, and they involve getting a group of your friends together to form a team and participate in a variety of different sports. This fall term, for instance, provides you an opportunity to play flag football, soccer or volleyball. Don’t worry if you don’t have a volleyball team’s worth of friends (or a doubles tennis team’s worth, for that matter); you can visit IMLeagues and join a sport as a free agent, which allows you to participate in a pre-established team. The intramural seasons last for about 2–3 weeks each term, and some may have a $5 registration fee. Information regarding the intramural program at PSU can be found on the Campus Recreation site.
Perhaps you like the idea of participating in a team sport, but only playing for a few weeks at a time doesn’t seem particularly worth it. If you’re looking for more of a long-term involvement, joining a Rec Club at PSU might be the way to go. The diversity of sports offered by PSU’s Rec Clubs is pretty astounding, including sports such as cricket, rowing, disc golf, fencing, kickboxing, lacrosse and sailing. Not only do Rec Clubs tend to involve a more long-term commitment, but many of the clubs also offer the appeal of competing against Rec Clubs from other universities.
All of the Rec Clubs have different requirements to join relating to experience, time requirements, necessary equipment, etc., so keep that in mind. The best way to find out if one of these Rec Clubs is right for you is to simply email the team leaders.
PSU offers a myriad of options for physical activity; it may be time to consider finding a way to get physically active. Not only will it be a great way to meet new people, form new experiences and reap physical benefits, but it is an excellent way to shake up your college experience and keep yourself mentally healthy. So what are you waiting for?