Dos and Don’ts: Mental Health Edition

Disclaimer: This article contains discussion about mental health, mental illness, and suicide.

September is Suicide Awareness Month. In honor of this month, I would like to talk a bit about college students’ mental health. According to the American Psychology Association, “Anxiety is the top presenting concern among college students at 41.6 percent, followed by Depression at 36.4 percent.” Both of these mental illnesses are common among college students, yet this fact is not  well known.. However, even though mental illness affects college students, it is also important to acknowledge the stress that students go through in their time at educational institutions. Both mental illness and stress can cause negative effects on mental health and every aspect of a student’s life. This is why it is important to look after your mental health, and although I am not a certified therapist, I have compiled a list of strategies that have helped decrease my anxiety  long term. So let’s get started:

  1. 1. Do: Schedule Time in Your Day to Slow Down

    Morning Routine

    We live in a very fast-paced world. We need to learn to make time for ourselves. Prioritizing time to slow down—be that a walk, a 15 minute meditation break, or journaling your thoughts. Any of these can help you to organize your thoughts and give yourself time to process what is going on around you. It is important to remember that life is a marathon and not a sprint, so it’s best to enjoy the ride. 

  2. 2. Don’t: Excessively use Social Media

    Laptop and Phone

    Social media can positively impact your mental health, as it can give you motivation and help you connect with friends that aren’t physically near you. However, social media is a highlight reel of people’s lives and it often causes us to unnecessarily compare ourselves to others. It seems like everyone is constantly on adventures and you’re just struggling alone. This is why if you feel yourself struggling, then maybe you should take a break from social media to remind yourself that you are on your own unique path, and can’t compare yourself to the supposed reality of others. 

  3. 3. Do: Make Time for Doing Something that Brings you Joy

    watercolor painting

    Self care is crucial to  keeping yourself mentally healthy. Although self care can be  something as simple as washing your face everyday and making sure to eat three meals a day, you should also prioritize yourself by taking part in activities you love. This could range from cooking your favorite meal to signing up for that dance class you’ve really wanted to take. Self care  looks different for everyone, but you need to allow yourself time to enjoy yourself without pressures or deadlines. 

  4. 4. Don’t: Over Schedule

    I, just like many students, have had hectic weeks where I thought that ten minutes was enough time to schedule  a lunch break. It is important when wanting to maintain your sanity and mental health to schedule constant breaks and time in between study sessions. These breaks will allow your brain to process the information you’ve just learned more efficiently and will help decrease feeling  overwhelmed. It is also important that this way of life is more sustainable than constantly working without giving yourself time to understand what is going on. 

I understand that topics such as mental illness, suicide, or just mental health in general are not talked about nearly enough. As someone that suffers with Generalized Anxiety, I know that it is very easy to ignore your mental health because it doesn’t seem as urgent as your physical health. However,f when you scrape your knee, you put a bandaid on it, and you should act with the same urgency when you feel your mental health deteriorating. It is important to talk to those close to you about what you are struggling with and remember that you are not alone. We need to work together, as a society, to be okay with not being okay, and understand that your mental health and well being should be your first priority.