Why you should be nice to your brain
I'm sure we've all heard it a hundred times: "Look after your mental health like you look after your physical health".
We've heard it so often in fact, that maybe it's starting to feel meaningless. For me, it certainly is, which is why I'm writing this blog post as a reminder that it really is important to care for your mind. I'm not just saying that because I'm a Psychology student, although that's part of it. I'm writing this as someone who frequently struggles with her own mental health and who knows how hard it can be when things go wrong in your head.
Despite knowing from experience how vital it is to practice self-care, I often neglect doing it in everyday life. I'm sure you feel the same, like you don't have the time or energy to look after yourself, because there are so many other things you should be doing. In the treadmill of seminary and studying, we often forget to take a moment for ourselves. But it's so important that we do. It doesn't always have to be a big gesture or take up a lot of time. Just a few minutes a day can make a real difference.
So here are a few bits of advice that have helped me when I've had problems with my mental health:
- Stress is the number one trigger for mental health issues. I know that we all have a lot of it in our daily lives, especially during exam periods. Yet it's exactly when things feel the most hectic that we need to take a breather.
- One good way to make sure you don't get overwhelmed by all your tasks is to make a list of everything you need to do, starting with whatever needs to be finished first. That way, you can keep track of things (and it feels very satisfying to cross items off the list).
- Remember to reserve time off from studying in your schedule. Even when you're not quite done with something, take a break - it can be as little as 5-10 minutes. Afterwards, you'll be refreshed and ready to keep working.
- Just generally try to balance your studies with "life". Wanting to get a First is all well and good, but it's equally important to spend time with friends and family or a hobby.
- I'm frequently guilty of putting my work before everything else and it's really not a healthy mindset, trust me.
- Try to look after your physical health. That means getting enough sleep, exercising (although in my opinion, Netflix totally counts as sport) and not only eating Domino's.
- That said, there's nothing wrong with treating yourself. Allow yourself one of your guilty pleasures occasionally, whatever that may be for you!
- Give yoga or meditation a go. I know it sounds like weird hippie stuff at first, but yoga has helped me a lot when I'm feeling low. Or you can sign up for the Mental Health Society or the 8 week Mindful Based Living Course here at the uni (email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details).
- Art in any form can be very therapeutic (that's the Creative Writing student in me).
- This next one will sound cheesy, but you could try keeping a diary of good things that happen to you. It can be the smallest moments, but remembering these can help during tough times.
- If you're already struggling with your mental health, there's help available from Student Wellbeing Services. You can book a mental health consultation and they can offer you further support. Outside of their hours, there is also Big White Wall, which is a 24/7 online chat forum for anyone who needs somebody to talk to.
- I really can't stress this enough: there is no shame in asking for help! You don't have to deal with everything on your own. It might seem awkward or strange to talk to someone about your mental health at first, but doing so can be an amazing relief.
- Don't leave it until things are already getting out of hand.
- Lastly, learn to identify your own personal triggers and stressors. Everyone is different, so yours may be completely different from mine. Also, build up your own "toolkit"of coping strategies, so you have resources in a crisis.
I honestly believe that by looking after our minds through these tiny moments of self-care, we can be healthier, more productive and, of course, happier. Three excellent reasons to be nice to your brain, right?
Disclaimer: The Bath Spa blog is a platform for individual voices and views from the University's community. Any views or opinions represented in individual posts are personal, belonging solely to the author of that post, and do not represent the views of other Bath Spa staff, or Bath Spa University as an institution.
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