This past year, I took a gap year to work through mental health issues that have plagued me for several years. The time off was everything I needed and more, but coming back into school after a full year off is terrifying, to say the least. I'm suddenly coming back to a full schedule of classes, homework, meetings, and dinners, all with the added twist of a global pandemic. Here’s what I’m doing to stay mentally healthy during these crazy times of school, COVID, and seasonal depression (which is going to, unfortunately, hit me soon).
- Keep a clean room
I go to school at Fordham in the Bronx, so naturally, my room isn’t the largest. I love my little corner, but it can also accumulate clutter pretty easily. For the past month that I’ve been living here, I’ve made it a point to quickly pick up every night before I go to bed. This 5-minute task ultimately keeps my room pretty neat and nothing beats the motivation I get when I wake up to a bright and clean room.
- Decluttered room = decluttered mind!
Decorating a college room can be a lot, whether it’s a dorm, an apartment, or your childhood room where you’re taking virtual classes. I made a point to make my room extremely bright and colorful, while also eliminating any extra stressors. My desk is completely empty except for a lamp and a calendar so that when I'm sprawled out at the end of the night with five textbooks, three notebooks, and a laptop, I can avoid the added stress of unnecessary decorations. Everything on my walls is deliberately chosen to make me smile when I look at it and I even added a wall of removable wallpaper to add a fun print to my room while keeping it organized and decluttered.
- "Marie Condo" that closet!
We need to normalize our bodies changing, especially during different seasons, especially during a global pandemic. We also need to normalize getting rid of (donating, selling) clothing that no longer fits. As someone that’s struggled with an eating disorder, one of the best things I’ve done for myself is getting rid of any clothing that doesn’t make me feel my best, whether that’s the fit, the style, a bad memory associated with the item of clothing. Instead of avoiding that one shirt every time you go into your closet, make some more room for yourself and just get rid of it!
- "Marie Condo" your social media!
I'll be the first to admit that I'm slightly addicted to social media. Try as I might, regardless of how many timers I set for myself, I always manage to gravitate towards Instagram while I should be doing homework. And at this point, I've accepted that. Truthfully, I've had a complicated relationship with social media in my past. It can be an extremely toxic environment that provides many opportunities to compare and contrast my life to others. However, I've recently started using Instagram as a creative outlet full of accounts that inspire and motivate me to pursue my creative passions. Any account that doesn't provide me inspiration or joy? Unfollowed!
I’m absolutely one of those people that just “forgets to drink water,” but hydrating is so important and will keep you feeling alert while sitting at a desk all day. As for strategies, I’ve found that keeping a full water bottle at my desk and refilling it as soon as it gets low is the perfect way to keep myself accountable during class, not to mention that drinking water gives me something to do when I'm bored during a lecture.
- Self-care box
For the past few semesters, I've kept a drawer under my bed that holds everything I might want to use as self-care/distraction. This drawer is stuffed with letters from family, coloring books, nail polish, painting supplies, and books. As someone that gets overwhelmed easily, this is one of my favorite strategies to keep self-care options easily accessible even during high-anxiety moments. It also just serves as a perfect reminder to take that time to do something for me.
This semester is going to be high-stress regardless of where you're taking classes and suddenly nail salons and retail therapy aren't as accessible and safe as they were pre-pandemic. True self-care, mindfulness, and joy are necessary components of a healthy mental health state for all of us, so take some time to figure out what works best for you! Take care of yourselves, lean on your support system, wear a mask, and have a great semester!