Getting Back Into the Swing of Things

Welcome back, everyone! It’s time once again to drag our belongings back to school and try to remember how to be productive human beings. Unfortunately, this can be an extremely overwhelming time for people. So, in between purchasing books, checking syllabi, and trying to keep new schedules straight, it’s important to remember your mental health. 

Just like brushing your teeth and washing your face, taking care of your mental health should become a part of your daily routine. It is maintenance just like any other. And, just like with those other types of self-care, when you become overwhelmed with stress and anxiety those little routines we have can start to fall through the cracks. 

It’s hard to justify the time to take care of your mental health when you’re busy and starting a new semester or job. However, neglecting your mental health only makes it that much more difficult to do a good job — which is typically what we tell ourselves in order to justify cutting that self-care out: that you’ll do a better job at whatever your task may be if you skip those steps to focus on work. This could not be further from the truth. Your mental health affects your relationships, coping abilities, and, yes, your work ethic. If your mental health is not kept up, you simply cannot expect to produce work to the best of your ability. 

Luckily, there are some easy steps you can take that will help during this stressful adjustment period of getting back into the swing of things. First of all, try to get your sleep schedule back on track. It’s extremely easy to fall into odd patterns of sleep behavior over breaks for various reasons, and while it may not seem like that big of a deal, the amount of sleep you get each night can seriously affect your mental health. A good trick to get your schedule straightened out is to avoid any work or seriously stimulating behavior about an hour before you would like to go to sleep. This can apply to electronics as well, which is especially difficult, but give it a try if your sleeping habits are in dire need. 

Another way to take time for your mental health during this adjustment period is to take small breaks for yourself. Reward a completed task with five minutes on Twitter or listening to that new song you can’t get enough of. Take a short break that won’t ruin your productivity but will still let your brain come up for air. You have to let your brain relax in between tasks or it can get overworked and make it even harder to accomplish anything of substance. 

Finally, the best way to stay on top of your mental health is to talk about it! Find someone you trust and open up about being stressed; chances are, they’re in the same boat as you and have been hoping to let off some steam about it too. Venting is natural, and being able to process your emotions with someone else is extremely cathartic. Whether these discussions are five minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour — with your best friend, your mom, or a therapist — I promise you will feel relief once you’ve talked through it. 

This is a stressful, confusing time for everyone. It’s easy to fall into the overwhelming nature of it all and forget to take the time to handle your mental health, but it’s necessary in order to be as successful as you hope to be. Remember that importance and try to get the sleep you require, take breaks when you need to, and talk through your feelings! I wish everyone luck and tranquility over the coming months. See everyone next week!

The Best Medicine

Welcome back, everyone! As stresses come to a head during finals week, it can be difficult to keep our mental health in check. It’s completely natural to have bad days, but making ourselves miserable over the last week of the semester doesn’t help anyone! I’m here to remind you all to take some time for yourselves and smile this week, as hard as it can be.

It can be really easy to say that you don’t have time to prioritize yourself, especially during finals week. I completely understand being busy and feeling so overwhelmed that the idea of carving out time for yourself can sound even more stressful than just plowing through work. However, you need to make time for yourself. When you’re working for hours on end, especially in a stressed state of mind, pushing through and continuing is only going to result in poor work anyway. Your brain can get worn out, so you need to give it breaks to breathe in order to come back refreshed and ready to start again. This will help your overall work and mental health. 

When — not if — you’re taking this time for yourself, try to do something silly! Let off some steam, dance around your room to that new song you like, sing into your hairbrush, or jump on your bed. Go crazy, even if it’s only for five minutes. This is such a serious time of the year and it’s all too easy to forget to have any fun. Throw a wrench in that mindset and just act goofy for a couple of minutes; let out that pent up energy! 

Try to laugh this week. It really is the best medicine. You can release some endorphins and lower your stress levels with a simple YouTube video, comedy, or stand-up routine. Even if all you can justify is scrolling through Twitter for a few moments, give yourself the time to laugh. It’s incredibly important to carve out time for yourself; otherwise, you’re just contributing to the problem. 

This time can be miserable for students, but we can all make tiny decisions to lessen the pressure. Make sure to give yourself time, do something silly, and laugh. Only you can get yourself through this hectic time, but you can do it! Try to stay relaxed, everyone, and I’ll see you all next week!

Breaking Through the Roadblocks

Welcome back, everyone! The semester is coming to an end, and we know all too well the stresses that come with it. With projects, papers, and presentations looming over our heads, it’s easy to hit roadblocks. Here are some of my tricks to finding a detour through those pesky problems. 

When you find yourself staring at a blinking cursor and your eyes keep darting to your phone, there are a number of things that you can try. The one tip you’ve probably heard a million times is to reward yourself as you go. It’s common advice, but it isn’t without its merit. Try rewarding yourself in small increments to start; eventually, you will be able to go for longer and longer. Whether that means after every 10 minutes of work or after every paragraph written, reward yourself for your progress! It may feel silly, but when you’re in this headspace, recognizing any work you accomplish is important. If your reward is two minutes of scrolling through Twitter, eating a cookie, or listening to a song that you love, let yourself breathe in between your successes. 

Another way you can push through your homework blockage is to switch assignments. Sometimes, you find yourself stuck with one particular assignment and it makes you want to quit altogether, but you might just need to think about something else. Try switching to another subject and see if that topic is easily tackled. Once you make some progress elsewhere, you’ll feel more confident about returning to the original roadblock. 

If all else fails, when you can’t seem to get your mind to focus on the task at hand, walk away. Literally, get up and walk around. Get your blood flowing. Maybe go for a walk outside if it’s not too cold, or pace around your room. Sometimes you just need to clear your head and not think about the assignment for a minute. Do some jumping jacks, bounce around on your toes, or dance like a maniac with your headphones in! Try to clear your mind completely so when you return to the work, you’re ready to focus. You’ll have a fresh start and just might be able to steer around that roadblock. 

As the semester nears its end, try not to get hung up on each assignment. It can be really hard to stay focused and not get distracted after a long semester of working hard, but if you try these tips, the next two weeks might be a little smoother. Remember to breathe, reward your progress, switch it up, and walk away when you need to. You can get through this! See everyone next week! 

Soothe Your Mind: Music Remedies

Welcome back, everyone! As the semester is winding down — and picking up speed in other ways — we could all use a bit of help staying focused and relaxed! One of my favorite ways to calm down after a stressful day or help my mind stay on task is to listen to music. Depending on your current needs, there are lots of different types of music that make this time of year a little less painful. 

When I’m studying, I like to listen to something soothing. You don’t want anything too distracting or upbeat; otherwise, you’re just worsening the problem! Some people recommend listening to your favorite artists while you study or work on your schooling, but I respectfully disagree. This often leads to focusing more on the music than your work, even if it’s songs you’ve heard a million times before. For this reason, I appreciate classical music while I’m studying. It fills the silence while simultaneously relaxing the mind. There are no words to distract yourself, and it sounds beautiful! 

This playlist holds all the essentials if you have never listened to classical music before. If you start with this one, it will be much easier to figure out what specific kinds you find the most relaxing for working! My personal favorite classical music to listen to during this time of year is the soundtrack from “The Nutcracker.” It has a slight holiday feel while still capturing that soothing quality of classical music:

There are a number of really amazing playlists on Spotify that are designed for studying purposes. Most of them include classical music differing on tempo and the types of instruments the music highlights. The more you listen to classical music, the easier it will be to discern what types work the best for you and your studying needs.

However, if classical music isn’t your favorite, don’t panic! There is another popular route when it comes to relaxing sounds to work to: nature sounds. A lot of people enjoy sitting down to work with the sounds of rushing water from a river, birds in a forest, or heavy rains. These can help put the mind at ease and more in touch with nature while you’re inside working hard! Here is another great playlist to get started with this genre of sounds to help narrow down what works best for you: 

As the semester comes to a close and we all feel like there is too much going on inside our heads to focus, give some calming music a try! It can help you relax and stay on task, which is something we could all use a little help with during this time of year. Try not to get too stressed over the next few weeks; see everyone next Monday! 

Uncorking the Bottle: Letting Your Emotions Out

Welcome back, everyone! In times of stress, it’s easy to want to push all of your emotions to the side. We have all tried to bottle up our feelings throughout our lives, and even though we all know that this is not healthy or effective, we do it anyway. When everything is piling up around us and we don’t let our emotions out, we only become more miserable. Everyone needs to find catharsis in their day-to-day lives. 

Catharsis is a purging of emotions. The goal in catharsis is to reach a relief from stress, anxiety, or other emotions we tend to push to the side. This idea is extremely old; back in Ancient Greece, they built many of their plays around this idea. The word itself means “cleansing” in Greek. Essentially, this is why so many plays, books, television shows, movies, and other various forms of art make us cry at the end. We seek out art to find catharsis

So, when you strip away the aspect of art forms giving us a much-needed catharsis, what is it that is making us feel better? Crying. Crying has the amazing ability to improve our emotions! While we probably associate crying with being sad or weak — and therefore avoid it at all costs — there are actually many benefits to crying.

Crying has the ability to soothe you. Some studies have found that crying activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps your body to rest and digest. These effects are not immediate, however. It usually takes several minutes of crying before you begin to feel the soothing benefits, but it will feel worth it!

Additionally, crying can actually directly improve your mood. When you cry particularly hard, you quickly breathe in cool air. The colder air can help regulate and even lower the temperature of your brain, which your brain appreciates! So, after a harder cry, your mood could dramatically improve. 

Crying can also help to restore your emotional equilibrium. We tend to cry at extreme emotions whether that be sadness, happiness, stress, fear, or any wide range of feelings. Many believe that when you cry in these states it is your body’s way of recovering from extreme emotion. Crying is one way to set your emotional equilibrium back on track! 

The important thing to remember is that crying is not only natural, but it can also be very helpful! When we bottle up our emotions, we need a release through catharsis. One of the easiest ways to reach that relief is through crying. So, if you can make the time to watch a sad movie, listen to a sad song, or just try to get in touch with your emotions, give yourself that purging your body needs! Let your body release the feelings you try to push away because it just might turn your whole mood around. See everyone next week!

Seasonal Struggles

Welcome back, everyone! The holiday season is upon us, and while this can be a wonderful time for reconnections and smiles, it can also be a time for a dip in our mental health. Even if you are incredibly excited to return home and see your family and friends, this time is a major adjustment. 

Unfortunately, when you go away to college, coming back home is hard. How hard is very much dependent on your personal living situations at home, but the fact remains that this period of time is, frankly, weird. This is especially true if you are a freshman and Thanksgiving will be the first time you are going home since starting college. At school, we are all much more independent. For the most part, we make our own rules and live by our own standards for months at a time. Being thrown back into your parents’ or caregivers’ system can be disorienting. It’s easy to bump heads; you aren’t used to being told what to do this often. However, remembering that you will only be home for a short amount of time helps to get through the rough patches. Try to push past those little irritations and enjoy spending those moments with your family if you can. 

Beyond the typical adjustment of coming back to a set of house rules, a lot of people don’t have a great relationship with their family. If you’re like me, you may not be looking forward to going home at all. If you have the means— and the will power — to stay at school over break, do it! It’s okay to define your boundaries, even with your family. If going home will not make you happy and you are able to stay, do what is right for you. Your mental health is important and sometimes you have to fight for it a little harder. 

When it comes to the actual holidays themselves, we all know it can be a little tense in regard to politics. Maybe there are other hot-button topics that your family tip-toes around, but in today’s climate, politics is one that most of us share a dread for. It’s important to remember to pick your battles. You want to stand up for what you believe in, and that’s amazing, but don’t engage with the little stuff. Shield yourself from the petty arguments and keep your high ground, even if it’s in your head. But if you’re anything like me, that is probably the hardest thing you can imagine. Biting your tongue can be incredibly frustrating when people are attacking your core beliefs. So to those of you who deal with this, I suggest researching as much as possible before you go home to arm yourself. If a discussion must come, make sure you’re the one with the facts and figures. 

The holiday season can be a joy and a terror all at once. Remember to enjoy the moments when you can, prioritize your mental health, pick your battles, and arm yourself with knowledge. I wish you all luck in your family battles over the coming weeks. See everyone next week! 

Letting in the Light

Welcome back, everyone! As the days get a little shorter and the nights grow a little colder, it can be really hard to see the warmth in our lives. This can be a dark time for a lot of people, literally and emotionally. Seasonal affective disorder is extremely common and affects a wide range of different people. Luckily, there are some great ways to combat this. 

For those of us that fall prey to seasonal depression—and for those of us that experience a worsening in our already subpar mental health during this time of year—one of the most important tools at our disposal is communication. This is common (extremely common), and sitting down and being honest with someone you are close with is one of the best ways to feel better. You don’t have to be looking for a solution to need to talk something out. Sometimes, you just need to expel all of the feelings you’ve been bottling up, and having someone be there, just to listen and maybe relate, can help you feel heard and valued when you’re struggling. 

Another great way to pull yourself out of a seasonal slump is through light. This seems relatively simple, but seasonal affective disorder is widely attributed to the decrease in sunlight and warmth during the fall and winter seasons. Light therapy is an innovative way to mimic the natural light you might be craving. Something many of us take for granted can actually alter our brain chemistry.

However, you might not need to go to the extent of a fancy lightbox for help this winter. It’s so easy to want to curl up in a dark room and forget the world when you’re in this headspace, but instead, push open your curtains. Rather than turning on a light to see your homework, open the blinds to reveal some natural light. I also like to create my light by lighting candles in the evenings. They have a softer, more natural glow that can warm up a room and a mood. 

So, whether the light you need this winter is a candle, some extra sun, or a really great listener, remember that you’re not alone in this battle. Reach out to open those curtains and to check on a friend that might be in the same situation as you. Try to stay warm and positive as the semester progresses. See everyone next week!

Mid-Semester Mental Health

Whether it’s midterms, essays, mountains of homework, or just general stress, this time of year is one of the worst for college students’ mental health. While we all try our best to take care of ourselves, it’s hard to find a balance between being successful and being content. We all know we should make our mental health a priority, especially this time of year, but that can be a tall order for us all.

There are those days that everyone shuts down. Maybe you have a big exam looming, or maybe you’re just having a really hard time getting out of bed. The most important thing to remember is that it’s perfectly okay to have those days. It happens to the best of us, and if you don’t allow yourself little breaks, you’re holding yourself to an impossible standard. Understanding your limits is crucial to surviving this period of time as a college student. You have to let yourself have a mental health day now and then because, like it or not, we’re all human.

That being said, there are little tips and tricks that I use to perk up my sour moods when I need it. One of my favorite ways to end a particularly stressful day is with a long shower. I’ll put on some of my favorite music—making playlists for this is also a fun, easy way to distract your mind from whatever you are preoccupied with—and let the water and songs wash over me. Then I’ll go into my room with my favorite candle lit and reflect on the day. This is a calming experience and, depending on your music choice, it can be pretty fun!

Another easy way to relax your mind during these stress-filled weeks is to spend some time outside. I know we’ve all heard this, but before you roll your eyes, hear me out. This time of year has some of the best sit-on-your-porch weather. If you’re worried that taking time for your mental health will somehow set you back in your studies, take your work outside! There really is something to be said for feeling the breeze through your hair and smelling that beautiful fall air. I know I am not an outdoorsy person, but I still need that fresh air to remind myself that there is a world outside of my eight-page paper sometimes.

I hope this helps anyone feeling a little stressed with this time in the semester. Remember that you deserve to take time for yourself and that it’s okay to need breaks! See everyone next week!