3 Things To Do This Summer For Your Mental Health

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month to highlight the prevalence of mental health conditions with 1 in 5 Americans experiencing some form of it each year. With the overall weight of finals, as well as a multitude of other stressors that can be associated with college life, it is vital to recognize what that amount of stress can do to our mental health and what we can do about it. The fear of finals alone can cause severe anxiety for some, and aggravate existing mental health issues for others. Recognizing and managing this stress is essential, during finals and especially in the aftermath of grades coming out when some may feel disappointed with their performance. Which after the pressure of the end of the semester, may cause some serious negative feelings triggering depression or a whole host of other things. So for this Mental Health Awareness Month, we've got three ways to help your mental health so that we can enjoy our summer and go into the fall with better strategies to maintain good mental health.

  1. 1. Establishing Healthy Habits and Routines

    Healthy habits and routines can be different for each person depending on lifestyle, socioeconomic class, culture, and general personal preferences. One healthy habit that applies to all individuals is getting enough sleep, but not too much sleep. Individuals 18 to 25 are recommended to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep and no more than 10 nor less than 6 hours. Also, an inconsistent sleep schedule can contribute to poor mental health, meaning you need to wake up at the same time every day regardless of having something to do.

     

    Other healthy habits can include things like exercise, whether it’s taking a bike ride, a walk or hiking with friends. Also, diet: avoid ramen and eat some vegetables. Routines are part of our daily lives from how we wake up in the morning to get ready to how we prepared for bed. Recognizing that routines make our lives easier and can help us live less frantically. An excellent addition to morning routines that saves time (and some money) in the morning is to brew coffee ahead of time and refrigerate it. Although we all love an iced espresso drink to start off our morning, it requires that we may sacrifice some sleep to make the trek to the nearest coffee shop. Instead, brew coffee while you're studying the day before (or prep it for the week and keep it in bottles if you have the fridge space) and pour it into a to-go cup with your dairy (or non-dairy) cream before you walk out the door. Reduce your stress of worrying about having time for a coffee, and with that time you could sleep in a little more, finish up an assignment for class, or do some yoga and stretches to start your day. Healthy habits and routines can help reduce stress and manage mental health, so forming these during summer can make for a smoother transition into your academic year.

  2. 2. Summer and Fear of Missing Out

    After the relief of finals, or increased stress and anxiety from them, many are faced with FOMO and trying to make the most of summer by piling as much as they can in. It is essential to recognize that overdoing it, whether planning all of your summer fun or taking classes and internships, can cause burnout, which can cause or aggravate existing mental health issues. Don't overdo it. Keeping yourself busy rather than spending the summer binging Netflix is ok, but doing too much can significantly impact mental health negatively.

     

    It's also important to try and maintain realistic expectations of what you can fit into three months, it seems like a lot of time, but it flies by. Allow yourself time to recover, especially if the semester was particularly trying. Unplug from social media to avoid the FOMO and be present with your friends and family to enjoy your summer rather than comparing it to other individuals. Make the most of your summer academically if you want, but also take some time to enjoy the warm weather and sunshine, it's not a race to the finish line if it means sacrificing your mental health. You will exhaust yourself mentally and physically, leading to a poor start for fall and the academic year.

  3. 3. Know Your Resources

    Don't be afraid to ask for help. Universities provide some mental health support services, but it’s difficult if you are an out of state student to access those services during summer. With a multitude of online resources, help can be a few clicks or a call away. Also, if you can - turn to family for help, whether it is a conversation, help cleaning your apartment, or assistance getting access to services, do so. Family can be a great support system. However, some families may not be supportive or understanding of mental health issues, which can be discouraging, so finding support through friends and mentors in these situations is essential. Try to find your support network, because even when you aren’t actively facing mental health issues, it’s crucial to be able to turn to them when things bubble up. Finally, for individuals diagnosed or feel that they need to be diagnosed with mental health issues, contact a professional because it is vital to learn how to manage your mental health. Depending on the severity of mental illness, you may qualify for aid and accommodations from the Disability Resource Center on your campus as well.

Communicating in regards to mental health can be difficult, but it is key to managing and developing a healthy support system that can be of assistance during and after university. Building this support system and knowing your resources is critical in having a successful college career and navigating the stressors of classes (or just life) and other mental health issues.