This is a guest post written by Jenna Lee.
COVID-19 is taking its toll on students everywhere. The Office for National Statistics reports that 57% of students experienced poor mental health in the past year. However, only 42% felt that existing systems and at-home support provided enough help. Fortunately, there are many things students can do to supplement existing treatments. Simply taking on these 4 habits can go a long way in improving your mental health.
Believe it or not, reading for fun not only strengthens your brain but is also a form of temporary escape from your troubles. Different genres can even alleviate different mental health issues. Studies on Psychology Today inform us that fiction can relieve stress by up to 68%. You can read stories that inspire you, like the long-time friendship of Kate and Tully in the Kristin Hannah novel Firefly Lane. In the book Hannah explores how both characters overcame their differences with the power of empathy and complete acceptance between friends. Such books can even broaden your perspective on life and help you tackle it with a more positive mindset. You might even pick up some nifty tidbits that can help you ace your classes.
Make it a point to constantly stay in touch with your friends, even if it's just through the Internet. To hit two birds with one stone, you can even set up a study group with them. Medical News Today notes that this can relieve stress and anxiety, motivate you to learn more, and even protect you against neurodegenerative diseases as you get older. You'll also avoid accumulating pent-up feelings of stress or frustration. Most importantly, surrounding yourself with the people you love can make you feel happier and more grounded.
Regularly eating, moving, and sleeping better can strengthen your body and make you feel great. Try substituting your comfort foods with healthier alternatives, like crisps for kale chips or ice cream for yogurt. You can also take the time to find an exercise you’re interested in and gradually build up the length of your workouts. This can release endorphins that relieve stress and even improve the quality of your sleep. According to the book Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, sleep is what helps your body recover for the next school day, so try to get your full 8 each night. Over time, you'll find that you'll have more energy to face each day head-on.
Disconnect and take time to recuperate when you feel overwhelmed. If studying is taking over your rest time, set definite breaks. For example, you can take a break every two hours to take a walk, read a book, or simply relax. However, don't bring a screen with you. Our post on Social Media and How it Impacts Mental Health notes that many students use social media to receive validation, and negative responses may cause anxiety, depression, or eating disorders. Regularly putting down your phone can help you focus on yourself and ultimately boost your mood.In the end, the best habits for improving your mental health involve striking the right balance in all aspects of your student life. By learning to interpret the signals your mind and body are sending you, you can tackle sources of stress before they take effect.