12 tips to look after your mental health
Mental Health Week is taking place NUI Galway this week (29 February to 4 March), coordinated by the Psychological Society and has seen several events promoting good mental health practices and positivity for students. In recognition of this week, here are some helpful tips for managing your mental health during the academic year.
- Review your perspective
When anxiety hits, everything can seem daunting and difficult. Reality becomes distorted, and suddenly that assignment that you’ve been putting off becomes more of a big deal than the Leaving Cert to you. Reviewing your perspective allows you to see your challenges for what they are, and makes you think practically and rationally instead of setting off a stress-filled downward spiral. You could probably finish that assignment if you skip the upcoming silent disco at the Roisín, there’ll always be another.
Whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert, we can’t deny that humans are social animals at our core. We like to seek attention and approval from others, and without it, we may go off the edge. Isolating yourself is a common symptom of depression. To solve this, try and arrange a night out (or a night in) with your friends at least once every two weeks. Being alone can be nice, but no one wants to be lonely.
- Focus on self care
We all have those days where we get two hours of sleep, no time for a shower and end up eating spicy wedges for breakfast. What’s important is that it doesn’t become a habit – bad sleeping patterns, regular hygiene practices and balanced meals can all affect our mood and indeed, intensify mental health issues. Be sure to check that your patterns are healthy and if not, make small changes one step at a time. Fruit instead of wedges, showering the night before instead of the morning and getting your eight hours can make a world of difference.
- Allow yourself to feel how you’re feeling
It’s especially common amongst Irish people to hide our true feelings, and occassionally be backhanded about it. It can be distressing to hide difficult emotions like upset or anger, and it takes its toll on us mentally. It’s a good idea to let your emotions out in a safe way, such as crying when you need to or punching a pillow to release stress. Embrace how you feel and don’t try and bottle things up.
The ability to relax is a sought-after one, as it can change your mood for the day. For a nice wind down, lying on your bed and listening to music works out pretty universally. You can also try out little luxuries like scented candles and hot baths or saunas in the gym. Relaxation is a good way to making sure you don’t become spread out too thin in the future.
- Don’t put off until tomorrow what can be done today
Everyone is guilty of procrastinating. How many assignments have we promised that we’ll start the minute we get home, only to be rushing to beat the deadline? Procrastination only causes more stress for your future self, and should be avoided when possible. Instead, try spreading your work out over a few days instead of leaving it all to the last minute. Future you can’t solve everything your past self does, so make sure your present self does instead.
- Be active
This doesn’t mean you should hit the gym and start lifting twenty pound weights immediately. Being active can be as simple as walking to class instead of taking the bus, or jogging around Salthill in the evening. Activity releases endorphins into our bloodstream, which results in more positive emotions overall. You can also join university clubs if you’re interested in trying a specific sport out, or grab a membership to Kingfisher gym on campus.
- 8. Reward yourself
Did you just complete a difficult task? Why not treat yourself? A new shirt or a chocolate bar would suffice. Rewarding yourself can be a great practice if you find your work challenging. It also gives you motivation to finish your work on time. However it’s important to regulate yourself too, don’t treat for every small task!
- Don’t be overly critical
You are your own worst critic in many ways. A symptom of anxiety and depression is harsh self-criticism and comparing yourself to others. This is not a healthy behaviour, as you are not comparable to other people and vice versa. Instead of putting yourself down, focus on the features you like about yourself and how you can improve in other ways.
- Take an ‘off’ day
Sometimes it all becomes too much, and you need to take an ‘off’ day as a reward. ‘Off’ days are days just dedicated to rest, lounging around watching whatever will load fastest on Netflix and clearing out the fridge. These are best done at weekends after all your week’s work is finished. Try not to make a habit out of them, as excessive ‘off’ days can be a sign of depression.
- Meet new people
New people in your life can be a breath of fresh air, and aren’t difficult to find in university. Societies are great places to find people with similar interests as they hold events every week like screenings. New people of course, have the potential to become friends and making friends is such an enjoyable experience. Find out when your favourite societies hold their events during the week!
- Remember that you’re not alone
Everyone experiences mental health issues at some point in their life, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. It helps to talk to people about your problems, no matter how small they are.
If you experience any issues mentioned in this article and want help, there is a free counselling service available at NUI Galway. If you’d like to avail of this, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Kitty Ryan