Simple Ways to Take Care of your Mental Health this Semester: Part 1

Starting a new semester can be exciting, stressful, busy and all around a little overwhelming. Assignment deadlines creep closer, friends want to catch up, courses are speeding up and you just seem to need to be everywhere. During this time, it is very easy to forget to take care of yourself, and it is even easier to forget about taking care of your mental health. With mental illness affecting every Canadian's life (whether directly or indirectly), its time we start talking about it! Mental health is a complex part of our lives and it can affect you in many ways, such as the way one handles their feelings, everyday activates, relationships and so much more. But luckily, there are some little things you can do to take care of your mental health!

1. Eat properly

Being a student, it can be hard to eat balanced and regular meals. But what you choose to nourish your body with will always affect your health. Try to avoid going out for fast food - it's convenient, but has little nutritional value, is full of grease, and it will make you feel sluggish and gross. Try to only eat fast food occasionally, and avoid eating out for dinner constantly. Homecooked meals tend to be healthier and make you feel good! Try some new recipes and have some fun while cooking. Remember that balance and moderation is key!

2. Get moving

As students, we tend to spend a lot of time sitting! We sit in class, then sit to study, and then we sit down to watch some Netflix. It's important to try to be active for at least an hour each day. There are many ways you can get active. You have your typical way of going to the gym or playing a sport, but there are other ways to get active too! You can go for a walk with a friend, start dog walking, try rock climbing (a personal favourite), go swimming, have a pillow fight with your roommates, or try a 70's work out tape! Do what ever it would take to get moving. Exercise releases endorphins which interact with the brain to trigger positive feelings and mood!

3. Find a hobby

I know that this one doesn’t sound like something that would seem to benefit your mental health, but doing something that of interests you can really improve your mood. Doing something that you enjoy for yourself that isn’t school related can be a large stress relief! Hobbies have been shown to reduce stress, prevent you from wasting your time, aid in building self-confidence, allow you to explore who you are, and so much more. A hobby allows you to give yourself some time to yourself.

4. Get a good night’s sleep

We have all be told you need 8 hours of sleep a night for the majority of our lives, but recent research has found that young adults require closer to 10 hours of sleep a night. As a student, it is almost impossible to achieve this, but you should always try! Attempt to get into bed earlier; this will help your body and mind wind down and prepare for rest. This is a hard one, but try and avoid technology at night, as screens and blue light will keep you awake! So put down your cellphone, put away your computer, turn off Netflix, and try to read a book (NOT A TEXTBOOK!), drawing, or meditation. The University of Guelph offers one-on-one sleep therapy appointments as well as group sessions!

5. Get organized

This is a good tip for any student, but this can also really help your mental health. By being able to see what is due and when you have events or assignments, you will be able to plan around what you have to do. This can be a really big stress reliever and help ease one’s anxiety. Less clutter will help clear your mind and allow you to focus on what is important now. Here are some tips to help you get organized: write everything down somewhere, plan the night before (not the morning of!), get a few calendars, and colour code everything!