Mental Health: Ways to Put Yourself First

I’m never going to finish this. I’m going to fail this test and then I’ll drop out of school and be a failure for the rest of my life. There’s too many people here, oh God, they’re all looking at me. I probably look so weird. What if I forgot something important today? I probably said something offensive and that’s why they haven’t talked to me in days. I have too much going on!

The list of thoughts that often run unbidden through our minds can go on and on. And the smallest doubts find a way to overtake our perspective and leave us angry, upset, or anxious. Yet we usually brush aside these emotions for any one reason, whether it is to not seem too sensitive or because we simply don’t wish to deal with them. Unfortunately, mental health is often trivialized or completely overlooked. As students who are busy with our school work, social lives, worries about the future, and what we can do to accomplish our goals, mental health more often than not isn’t our number one priority. Raise your hand if you’ve done this, and know you’re definitely not the only one.

Mental health is just as important as physical health, even if the effects are not often visible to us or others. Ahead are some tips that hopefully you’ll be able to incorporate into your everyday life in some way, whatever the situation. Take care of yourself, and your mind will thank you.

Find a Space

It might be hard to find a quiet place on campus, but I assure you the search is definitely worth it once you find the perfect spot. The space you find might be the library, a small nook you found while looking for your classes the first week of school, or even just your dorm room if that's what you wish. Spend a few minutes there a few times a week, or even everyday, to gather your thoughts, plan ahead your day, or simply enjoy the moment.

One of my favorite places to be is Leo's in the mornings. I buy myself a coffee and bagel, and take my time enjoying breakfast while thinking about the day ahead of me. You definitely don't have to wake up at 6 in the morning to reflect; I took this picture at 10 am on Monday.

 Learn a Few Yoga Poses and Breathe

Cliché perhaps, but from my experience, yoga has had a positive effect on my life. The practice teaches some pretty great things, such as staying in the moment or doing what you can to the best of your abilities without pushing yourself too far. One of the best parts about yoga is its accessibility. You can choose to be as intense as the people on Instagram who lift their legs up and over their heads, or you can take a more casual approach. You can choose to attend group classes, or do it solo in your room with a mat and an app. Whatever you end up choosing, the sense of accomplishment and relaxation afterwards is a great feeling.

 

Another life skill (or at least a useful skill to have when stressed) yoga teaches is how to properly breathe. We all have felt that sudden loss of breath when we’re nervous, the feeling of not getting enough air in is sure enough to make us even more anxious. Learning a few breathing exercises to calm down once more is quick, painless, and a great skill to call upon when the butterflies in our stomachs kick in before an interview or test.

Make and Keep Lists

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as checking off something on a to-do list. Taking the time to write out the tasks that need to be completed ensures you won’t be panicked later on when you feel as though there’s definitely something you’re forgetting about. Anything goes when you’re writing out your list, no task is too small if it helps you ease into the day and feel more productive.

Establish a Morning Routine

To start the day off right, I recommend starting a morning routine that helps you feel ready for anything the day has in store. It quickly becomes a comforting process, something familiar to fall back on when you wake up feeling not yourself. And even though making your bed every morning seems more like a chore, your tired self will thank you after a busy day. Also, picking out your outfit every night for the following day lets you catch a few extra winks in the morning and not spending time going over what clothes to wear. One of the best parts of morning routines is the opportunity it gives to incorporate new habits you’ve been meaning to form, such as drinking a glass of water before heading out or starting a morning exercise regimen.

Have an Outlet

Start a journal. Create a playlist for your mood. Exercise. Dress up as a tree and stand on the sidewalk watching people. Whatever method you choose, it’s crucial to have some responsible form of release for the emotions you feel, whether they be negative or positive. Keeping everything bottled up may seem like the easier option, but in the long run, your mind will be happier and healthier if it has a way of dealing with feelings.

 

 

I also highly encourage finding somebody you can trust in to talk to about what you’re feeling, worrying about, excited about and so on. Anxiety and depression are still somewhat hard to talk about today, but more and more people are willing to go to therapists to receive help for what ails them. I’m not a healthcare professional, but I definitely think this is an option that should always be open to anybody. Most universities have services in place for students to seek psychiatric help, and you should never feel ashamed to admit you need help.

Dedicate a Day of the Week to Yourself

I'm sure we’re all familiar with the saying, “Treat yo’ self.” And although I don’t think you should spend everyday buying unnecessary things on Amazon and binge watching Parks & Rec on Netflix, I definitely think we all deserve a day of the week to take a break from all the stress that piles up. One of my favorite things to do is washing the bedsheets and dirty laundry (the actual process isn’t fun, but necessary for the ensuing relaxing), taking an indulgent bath, then getting into bed with fresh sheets and pajamas. Then, I curl up with my laptop and some chocolates to catch up on TV shows I’ve been meaning to watch. Whatever you end up choosing to do on your “Treat yo’ self” day, the end results should be bliss and relaxation after a long week of classes and events.

Apps to Consider

Headspace: Guided Meditation: This app offers different approaches to guided meditation to help you start being present in the moment and calming down in stressful situations. FREE

Down Dog: Great Yoga Anywhere: Confession, I have the app downloaded but have yet to use it due to a recent injury. However, the app has lessons ranging from beginner to more advanced, and it coaches you through the poses. FREE but you can spend money to upgrade and earn access to more options.

Wunderlist: To-Do List & Tasks: For those who prefer to have their to-do lists in a digital format. FREE

Remember, never overlook the importance of mental health!