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How to Improve Your Mental Health During a Tough Study

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The modern college programmes often make people perform on the brink of their physical and mental capabilities. Sometimes, especially if students also need to work or have some tough issues in their personal life, it becomes simply unbearable. The statistics of student mental breakdowns is a sad, sad sight. But there are some simple principles of self-care that may help us greatly improve our mental health, even if it seems that all the world wants to break us.

Define your problem

The first step of any recovery is diagnosis. What’s wrong exactly? At first, you may want to scream that damn everything is wrong. But you really need to understand how it is. Maybe you feel uncontrolled rage just because it’s unfair? Or, on the contrary, you can’t make yourself open your email because there might be a new task or a bad mark there? Or you just don’t care about anything anymore?

All these states may be caused by the same stress. But the reaction may show both the severity of that stress and your personal traits that make you respond in this or that way. Of course, the main ‘treatment’ is dealing with the stressful situation itself, but if you can’t do it right now, you may at least use psychological techniques to ease the particular symptoms.

Choose your first aid techniques

The soldiers are taught to cure their own wounds on the battlefield. But in the most progressive armies, they are also taught to cope with severe stress and anxiety right here and now. These first aid techniques deal with our primal fight-flight-freeze responses. Despite the soldiers having a physical representation of their stress – the enemy troops – and you not having anything except your study schedule, this psychological first aid may come in handy in civilian life too.

There are plenty of mental exercises that deal with these responses. We can’t advise them, because the choice is very individual. But you may try and google breathing exercises, ‘happy place’ mental exercises and cognitive behavioural therapy. Some physical soothing interventions as warm baths, showers, favourite tastes or smells may also help you to get back to your normal state.

A healthy body means a healthy mind

Talking about physical interventions we should say about general physical health. Our stress is (at least partly) a biological issue. We have stress hormones pumped into our blood and our body responding accordingly. But when we have no one to fight, to flight or hide from, these hormones just stay idle, wandering through our body and stressing us out until our liver and kidneys process them away for good.

We can fight biology with biology either putting these hormones to work or overriding them with some others. You may run around your block, do some fighting exercises or cover yourself with a blanket and hug a pillow there.

Anything goes if it helps you to perform the reaction that your body demands from you. The primal brain doesn’t usually need an actual threat, it is completely fine with simulating it.

Or you may do something that calms you down – pet a dog, hug the loved one, eat your favourite food, watch a sweet movie. Even speaking to other people may help you, read https://studymoose.com/socialization to find more about the importance of communication. At first, your body will resist: it will still want to run away or hit that imaginary sabertooth with the imaginary stone club. But soon the hormones of soothing and satisfaction will prevail and you’ll feel better.

Work-life balance with stress on life

After stabilizing yourself for good you should think about the actual problem – the stress. We know that it’s hard to find at least some time for yourself if you have to study harder than you ever tried. But you don’t need much at the beginning. Give yourself a five minutes break after each hour – but a good one. Don’t respond to the phone calls, don’t do anything except calming and pleasing activities such as self-massage, meditation, a short nap, just lying flat and relaxing. Five minutes seemed like almost nothing, but at the end of your work and study day, you’ll have more than a full hour of rest. An extra hour of self-care is great, isn’t it?

Have a look at your daily schedule. Is there something you can delegate to the other people? Or throw away completely? The world won’t fall apart if you rest a bit instead of doing dishes or dealing with the laundry this week. You don’t need that everyday jogging now if it takes more energy than it gives you back. You will get back into physical shape, clean your house and do anything else when it’s over, we bet. But now your main task is to care of yourself and nurture yourself as much as you can.

Sometimes we all need help

We do. Really. Even the most successful superheroes need help sometimes and it’s okay to ask for it. Think about having some counselling or talking to the teachers about an individual learning plan. Ask your closest people to help you, delegate the tasks. We are sure that they do love you and care for you. They don’t want you to suffer alone. Please, if you feel that you need help – go and get it. We all were there and we know that you’ll be fine.


Image credit: Freepik

Peter Wallace has been an advocate for mental health awareness for years. He holds a master’s degree in counselling from the University of Edinburgh.

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