I hope you are all surviving your midterms. The “Feel Good” week we had early this February (along with my own battle with the sudden flood of midterms and labs and assignments) has inspired me to do a little segment here on mental health. Hopefully my experiences and advice I have received will give you some ideas on how to keep a positive mental health and de-stress a bit with the university lifestyle.
So here are my tips on how to keep feeling good and managing the stress of your hectic life:
1) Think positive!
For me this is definitely the most important advice I can give myself in regard to maintaining great mental health. It is so easy to get swept up in all the negatives. If you are anything like me, you are constantly thinking about what you have to do when you get home and how you have all these deadlines piling up and you realize one day that the only conversations you have had this week were competitions with your friends about who is the busiest. And once you’re in this dark hole, it can be hard to get out. But try to focus on the little things, like how pretty icicles are when the sun shines through them, or the fact that your prof wears colourful patterned socks every day. If you can’t think of any, try looking at Neil Pasricha’s blog of 100 awesome things to get the mental ball rolling. Try to frame your thoughts in a positive light and remember that all of your hard work here at Carleton is getting you an amazing education that you will one day use to change the world!
2) Do something you enjoy doing.
For me, it’s ballet. I definitely feel better after every ballet class. Pick something that you really enjoy doing, no matter what it is (even if it is weird, like yodeling). Do something that makes you feel absolutely alive every time you do it. And I know, you’re busy, but try to take an hour or two a week. You will be doing what you love and helping your mental health at the same time! Hint: if you find a club or society that does what you love, you can be doing something you enjoy for you and your mental health AND beefing up your co-curricular record or meeting your semesterly quota for school involvement.
3) Get moving!
We all know we need to exercise and that exercise helps us maintain our physical health. But there has been a tone of research done recently that shows that physical activity is crucial for good mental health as well! Exercise helps relieve your body of all the stress hormones it’s been building up. And who doesn’t want the totally amazing endorphin high you get after a good workout? (It’s like drugs but legal! And free!) If you didn’t get a change to go to our CUWISE Commit to Me super fun fitness classes, you can ask our very own Alicia Gal for some cool exercises you can do at home any time. On top of keeping you fit, regular exercise helps you sleep better, focus more, and gives you an outlet for all of your stress and energy.
4) Stay social
Being around others always helps me feel better after a long night of studying. And spending time with my best friend or my boyfriend gives me a chance to have a laugh, unwind, and forget about school for a little bit. You could be surprised at how much good a monthly girls’ night out can do. What fun is university if you don’t go to the occasional party and dance it up?
5) Go outside
I know its winter. And some days its so cold I lose feeling in my face within two minutes of being outside, but leaving the tunnels for a few hours at a time could be really great for you. Tip: study somewhere with lots of windows and LOTS of sun. It is finally starting to get sunny again, so grab your books and head over to somewhere on campus with a great view of the river (like the Timmies in River. Haha). It has been shown that spending even a couple of minutes in nature increases people’s positivity and decreased their stress levels. So go take a minute out of your day and look at trees. It’s also really cool to see how the water flows through the half-frozen –over river next to campus.
I know some of these points have been obvious, but it is always good to remind ourselves of what we can do to keep ourselves happy, healthy, and stress-free.
Hint: to get the most mental wellness bang for your buck (and by buck I mean time), combine a few of the tips above into one great activity! For example, I use ballet to work my body, and do something for myself that I love doing. Or you can do yoga and meditation to get moving and to bring yourself to a more positive mental state. Whatever it is that you do, remember that it is just important to maintain our mental health as it is to keep ourselves in good physical health. ANY effort towards a less stressed you is great.
And don’t forget to HAVE FUN!
Sarah is a second year student in Carleton's Neuroscience program. When she's not cramming all of science into her brain she likes to watch cartoons and YouTube videos of people playing weird video games.