5 Ways to Protect Your Mental Wellness this Semester

Mental illness is no joke - no matter what taboo or stigma may surround it. Everyone needs to acknowledge the fact that once it hits you, it can hit you hard, and you’ll suddenly find yourself suffering with no foreseeable light at the end of the tunnel. In order to prevent your mental health from deteriorating, especially at the start of a new semester, it takes being proactive and planning preventative steps to protect your mental wellness. Of course, some people’s situations are more severe than others and professional help will most likely be the best option, but simply having a plan in mind will serve as a comforting reminder that you really are trying to be in the best mental state you can be this semester.

  1. 1. Designate time for self-care in your weekly schedule

    As the semester goes on and the assignments get denser, it can become too easy to ignore having a self-care regimen built into your weekly routine. The only way to avoid a complete mental burnout is to literally pencil in time when you can commit to pampering yourself and watching that movie you’ve been wanting to for months. Don’t make plans, just focus on yourself and whatever your mind and body needs. By taking the time to do a facemask, write in your journal, meditate, or attend a yoga class, you are putting yourself first and tending to stress that’s been building up all week. It is imperative that you make the time in advance to take care of yourself or you will feel that pent up stress completely consume you. Self-care can be done alone or even with friends, but whatever you decide to do make sure to see it as a priority when planning your week.

  2. 2. Plan accordingly to hit the gym

    Another preventative step to maintain your mental wellness is planning time to spend at the gym. It’s definitely not easy to get out of bed and head to the gym especially when you’re feeling depressed or anxious, but by planning gym time in advance you will be more likely to actually get yourself there. Just envision those feelings of stress relief and rejuvenation after a long, successful workout and use that as motivation to make it happen. Hitting the gym is an underrated form of self-care that can be done alone when you need some time by yourself or with friends if you need to socialize. It ultimately provides an escape that you can look forward to during the day while making you physically and mentally healthier.

  3. 3. Immerse yourself in nature

    What’s the best form of free therapy? Nature! A lot of people don’t realize how spending just five minutes outside and breathing in the fresh air can instantly make you feel better. Something about immersing yourself in nature and paying attention to the world outside of your own bubble can be very calming and thought-provoking in a positive way. It may not be possible to spend an entire day outside if you have a jam packed day of classes, so figure out ways to incorporate nature into daily activities. This can be as simple as walking or riding your bike to class, doing homework outside if the weather permits, or even taking five minutes just to sit outside and practice some mindfulness. One of the best places on campus to take in Earth’s beautiful scenery would include the passion puddle on Cook/Douglass. Invest in a portable hammock, find two trees to set up on, and enjoy some time outside in peaceful bliss.  Another way to incorporate nature into your daily routine is to buy some plants and keep them in your room. Sure, it’s not the same as actually being outside, but having a piece of the earth in your room can be the next best thing especially in the colder months.

  4. 4. Prepare yourself to ask for help

    Many college students take pride in being independent thinkers so much that they often refrain from seeking help. In this society especially, it’s the norm to think we can do everything ourselves and never ask for help even when it comes down to protecting your mental wellness. In order to avoid the appeal of doing everything on your own, literally envision yourself asking for the help you both need and deserve. Whatever steps you need to take, whether it be writing it down in a journal or telling a friend, do it so that when the time comes and receiving that help is crucial for your well-being, you are not left without a voice. Even if you are happy now and can never see yourself feeling depressed or anxious in the future, come to terms with the fact that feelings are temporary and you may need to feel sad sometimes in order to know the true value of happiness. Just trust your mind, know yourself and be confident in asking for the help you deserve.

  5. 5. Schedule a time to meet with a therapist

    While therapy can literally be the best thing you may ever do for yourself, some people are still hesitant and afraid to take that first step and schedule an appointment. Whether it be the mental illness stigma coming into play or again or not being able to ask for help in the moment you need it the most, scheduling a time way in advance to see a therapist could be your saving grace. For instance, if you have noticed that every year towards the middle of the semester your anxiety is at an all time high, it wouldn’t hurt to have a therapy session scheduled for around that time even if you feel fine in the present moment. Odds are, you will not have the energy nor the willpower to reach out during your time of utmost stress, which is why pre-scheduling an appointment could be a life saver. Make sure to also seek out whatever on campus resources are offered before you get to that low point so you don’t feel completely out of options.

It may not be easy to make your mental wellness a priority, but it is crucial to having not only a successful semester but a better quality of life at school. The only way you can start taking your mental health seriously is literally to just start making active changes in your life to protect it. Our society trains us to always focus on the task at hand and ignore what we are feeling inside, even if those feelings are screaming for help. It’s your job to give your mind, body and soul the tender care it deserves by having a mental wellness game plan for the semester.