Keeping your mind in shape: Ways to take care of your mental health!

Last week, The Point addressed what mental health is, drawing on examples from the Canadian Mental Health Association. But amidst the stresses of academics, involvement, friends and family (and balancing all these things at once), how can one ensure that they are keeping their mental health in check?
One major aspect of developing a healthy mind, especially as a university student, is the ability to develop a good system of managing your time. In any given day, a student may have classes, meetings, part-time work and homework to get through and often it can feel as if there are not enough hours in a day to get through your (seemingly endless) to-do list. Students who have a lot on their plate are at risk of becoming overwhelmed and experiencing high stress levels, which can leave them drained emotionally and physically. To avoid burning yourself out, it is important to be able to prioritize and schedule your life in a way that will provide you with time to complete all of your tasks, while still having time to relax and enjoy your social life.
Each week, separate your weekly tasks into your “big rocks” (the most important things you need to do) and your “little rocks” (those activities which you still need to do, but may be less important/urgent). Writing these out in your agenda will allow you to visualize your priorities. Blocking out periods of time in your week for specific activities will also allow you to effectively focus on one activity at once, in comparison to multi-tasking, which can often be unproductive in the long run. These blocks of time will allow you to focus your time and energy in one area (whether it be homework or prepping for a meeting) and finish your tasks more efficiently one at a time.
Another key idea of mental health is making sure that you are effectively giving yourself time to relax and renew every day. To use an example: you wouldn’t run all day, all night and never give yourself a break. As such, just as your body needs a break after activity, so does your mind. Try to live by this golden rule: for every 25 minutes you work, take a 5 minute break, either by stretching or going for a short walk, or anything else you can do in 5 minutes. This little break will give you just the mental renewal and allow you to re-focus for another 25 minutes.
In addition to those tiny breaks, remember to schedule an hour of “me-time” in your day where you can do something relaxing or fun, to make sure you are your mind time away from thinking about homework, involvement or other stresses. Watch a show, read a book, talk to a friend on the phone: anything that will give you that stress release you need. Giving yourself this hour of “me-time”, whether it be right before you go to bed, or early in the morning is crucially important to maintaing your mental health and keeping your anxiety in check.
Being a university student can come with a lot of pressures. Whether they be academic, career-related or social, students often can succumb to feelings of anxiety and failure accompanied with their university lives. These feelings can often have a negative effect on one’s mental health. While it can be easy to focus on our mistakes or our flaws, it can be just as easy to take into consideration of our strengths. Write out a list of 25 things that you do well or like about yourself and review it each night. Doing so will give your mental state a positive boost, especially in those times where you are feeling down after not-so-great grade or a rejection. Take your mistakes in stride and try and learn from them, rather than dwelling on them. Focus on improving your areas of weakness, rather than condemning them. While optimism can be easier said than done, making a continuous effort to look on the bright side will allow to make great strides in boosting your mental health.
While I’ve outlined what you can do personally to shape up your mental health, you should never be afraid to ask for help from someone else. Talk to a friend or loved one when you are feeling stressed. If you are in need of a counselor, check out the AMS Speakeasy, which offers peer-on-peer support, or book an appointment through UBC Student Health with a mental health professional.
Follow these tips to keep your mental health a top priority during mid-term and finals season and you’ll be sure to avoid burn out!

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