The month of February is here, which means we can get pretty sad pretty quickly. We are getting the least amount of sunlight in the entire year, which causes a chemical imbalance in the brain that disorients our internal clock to carry out daily routines. Those who suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) need to be more attentive to their emotions now that the academic semester has begun.
On the other hand, as the weather gets warmer, mother nature teases us with a taste of summer. All I want to do is cross things off my summer bucket list: see my friends, travel, go to festivals and explore Boston. Yet we forget that we aren’t on vacation just yet, and have to remind ourselves that the spring semester is just as hard (if not more hectic) than the fall. It can be easy to lose our sanity by not prioritizing a work-life balance – speaking for myself.
This spring semester, I am working a part-time internship with a full academic course load while having leadership positions in two clubs, having work-study as a lifeguard at the pool, and being a student-athlete on the swim team. With all of my responsibilities, it is imperative to check in with myself daily by dedicating an hour or so of downtime to hobbies that I love. Whether that is spending time with friends, writing, working out, hobbies help me reset to realign my focus on responsibilities for the incoming days. Doing what I love boosts my mood and prevents me from thinking negatively, boosting my morale for other assignments. Hobbies promote my mental health.
It is crucial to upkeep our mental health right off the bat, starting on the first day of class this semester so we can find the motivation to finish the year strong (and achieve some personal goals, like hopefully making the president’s list)! There is no avoiding SAD, but I take proactive measures in my daily routine to strengthen my mental health. Here are three ways to improve my mental health throughout the academic year and may help you this semester.
Write for hercampus
Writing is an escape from my reality; it helps me reduce stress in all other aspects of my life while reinforcing my creativity. The second my pencil hits the paper, everything in my mind goes quiet, except the narratives that flow through my mind in a river stream of thoughts and feelings. When the final product is done and published to Her Campus, I sit back in awe and hope that my experiences help inspire the audiences that read my articles.
If writing stories are not your forte, other forms of writing can still improve your mental health, like journaling and creating vision boards.
Journaling every morning and night before bed is a healthy way to reset your brain and reinforce positive habits throughout the day. Instead of waking up and reverting to my phone where I would aimlessly scroll on social media, I made it a habit to journal rather. I found that my productivity in the morning has improved significantly as well as my mental health. Here is a template that I use when I journal that may help you if you consider journaling this semester:
Morning Journal Prompts:
- What did I dream?
- I am Looking Forward To…
- What Under My Control Would Make Today Even More Great?
- If I lived even more consciously, freely, and courageously I would:
- I am…
- Most Important Thing to Focus On:
Night Journal Prompts:
- Three Wins:
- One Thing I Learned:
- One Thing I could Have Done to Make Today Better and How Can I Apply It Tomorrow?
- Am I resisting Something?
- Favorite Thing of my day?
- Short Story/Moment of my Day?
- What Could I do tomorrow that is High Leverage?
- Request for Subconscious mind to sleep on:
Create a Vision Board
Vision boards are excellent as they encompass all of your aspirations for the year, whether that be career, social or personal goals. Your aspirations are represented in an illustration of various images and quotes. I have many plans for 2022 to improve my physique, nutrition, spontaneity, fashion, relationships, my own accountability, and organization for a busy spring and summer. I have my vision board saved on my desktop, so every time I open my laptop to do work, I see it, and it motivates me to pursue these goals. You can also hang up your vision board in your dorm. Another option is to decorate your room with inspirational quotes for the year. The more times you read them, the more you will manifest them and become what you read every day.
Spend time with Friends
Yes, productivity is a critical ingredient to mental health, but so is having a dash of some social life in the mix of your weekly (if not daily) downtime recipe. You can’t be sitting at your desk all day by yourself because, at that point, you are isolating yourself from people, and we know from COVID that too many spoonfuls of isolation do not make mental health taste very good.
It’s hard enough to maintain friendships in college, especially with a busy schedule, which is why I try to make plans with at least two friends each week. Whether that be over the weekend in Boston or a quick hour coffee date during the week at Bentley University’s Einsteins to catch up, another way to spend time with your friends is to do homework with them (if you can handle that and be productive together).
Spend time with You
It’s okay to be alone. Downtime does not always have to be fulfilled with friends, and we need to remind ourselves that just because we see people out all the time getting food together or at some gathering on Snapchat does not make our worth any less. Social media makes FOMO high at stakes these days, I understand. It’s tough feeling the pressure to make plans with people, and when we do, we want to show it off to the world because we want to be accepted in society. Hoping so that the next time we get invited to a gathering from the group we saw on Snapchat that we weren’t invited to before. You are your own best friend because you come first before anyone else. It is crucial to building a healthy relationship with yourself. By spending time alone, you learn to find comfort in silence and your decision-making. You are essentially practicing independence by not letting yourself depend on your friends for happiness since you are already doing that with yourself first. You can prevent those social media blues and boost your mental health by watching a movie with yourself and baking some cookies instead, which are all acts of self-care.
Practice Self-Care at least 1x a Day
Self-care can be expressed in several different ways. Here is a list of some self-care practices that take at least ten minutes and, at most, no longer than an hour. If you practice continuously each day, you can build your mental habits to persevere in your classes.
- Dress Up/Put Makeup On
- Put a Face Mask on
- Hydrate/ Drink a Cup of Water
- Cook or bake
- Eat Nutritious Meals
- Organize your Room
- Get a mani/Pedi or body groom: hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, etc., styled