How to Take Care of Yourself

Bell “Let’s Talk” Day, a national day to acknowledge and help support those suffering from mental illnesses, brought mental health issues back to the forefront of our minds. However, for anyone who deals with mental health issues, one day out of the year doesn’t do much to ease the weight of these illnesses and it's important to keep the conversation going all year round!

As university students, studies show that we're at an increased risk for mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. A recent study called the National College Health Assessment shows that one fifth of Canadian post-secondary students are suffering from some form of mental illness. When you’re spending your days dealing with a mix of personal issues, financial issues, professional issues and balancing school on top of that, self-care can slowly drop down on your list of priorities. However, if you’re dealing with mental illness, taking some time to yourself can make a difference in the way you see yourself and how you tackle your every day hurdles. 

Here are some things you can try:

Get Active
The National College Health Assessment results showed that increased numbers in students suffering from mental health issues accompanied a decreased number of students living actively lifestyles. While there can be a lot of anxiety involved in going to the gym (it's definitely intimidating the first time), even just getting in 20 minutes of physical activity three times a week can help de-stress and has been shown to improve overall your overall mood! You can try hitting the gym, taking a walk, going for a run or queuing up some workout videos and sweating it out in the comfort of your home! 

The idea of relaxing is pretty much a foreign concept to university students, especially once the semester gets into full swing. If you can't find something that relaxes you (my go-to is sitting on my bed and listening to music), making relaxing a go-to mechanism of coping can help you feel less overwhelmed by everything going on in your life. It can be anything: music, painting, adult colouring books, knitting, etc. Try to find something you enjoy and allows you to take a step back from your hectic life. 

Talk It Out
Have face-to-face conversations, or over-the-phone if there's a distance between you and your BFF, because conversations with people can instantly brighten your day. Having someone to talk to when you need it is also a really comforting feeling! Whether it’s your best friend, sibling, parent or partner, having a conversation (even if it isn’t about mental illness) can improve your mental wellbeing. 

This is one of the hardest things to do in university; we’ve taken on the challenge of higher learning and more often than not, the measure of success gets wrapped up into a single, all-encompassing letter grade and those letters can be incredibly devastating. Exams, midterms, papers and assignments stamp you with a grade and present a seemingly definitive depiction of your skill. Always remember that your grades never tell the story of who you are; they don’t show what you’ve overcome, how hard you’ve worked, or your true abilities. It can be hard to separate yourself from your grades, but try to remind yourself that they do not define you, they do not define your future and they certainly do not define your self-worth. 

Seek Help 
Never be afraid to ask for help; from a friend, a family member or a professional. Even if you’re not feeling severely weighed down by mental health issues, it can be beneficial to talk to a professional and to learn more about what you can do to better handle issues if they get worse. The University of Ottawa's Wellness and Mental Health support services have an incredible team of counsellors and staff to help you if ever you need it. 

Mental Health Services: 

  • SASS (Student Academic Success Services): Offers programs and services such as counselling, coaching and mentoring to help you succeed and cope at the university of Ottawa. 
  • SFUO (Student Federation of the University of Ottawa): Offers support and hold events to help improve the experience of uOttawa students and give them the tools to successfully achieve their post-secondary goals. 
  • UOHS (University of Ottawa Health Services): UOHS has a specific department for mental health consultations and counselling. Trained medical professionals are available on-campus to talk to you and help you with your mental health issues. 

If you feel like you need immediate assistance: 

  • Protection Services: 613-562-5411
  • Good2talk, the Post-Secondary Student Helpline - 24/7 (Bilingual): 1-866-925-5454
  • Distress Centre Ottawa and Region - 24/7 (English): 613-238-3311
  • Crisis Line - 24/7 (Bilingual): 1-866-996-0991 (Age: 16+)
  • Ontario: Community services and information - 24/7 (Bilingual): 211
  • Québec: InfoSanté helpline - 24/7 (Bilingual): 811
  • eMentalHealth directory (Bilingual)


Sources: Cover, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5