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Most schools provide health and physical education classes to teach learners how to nurture their bodies. Few institutions do as much to promote mental health, but it’s every bit as important.
Nevertheless, there are things you can do while you study to keep the pressure from affecting your emotional well-being. Here are eight good mental health tips for students of all ages to embrace to nurture that most important learning tool — your brain.
1. Explore Your Resources
Fortunately, most students have access to a range of campus mental health resources. However, many learners might not know what their university offers. Many K-12 schools also offer similar services, but sadly, too many students only learn about them after they get in trouble.
Guidance counselors and individual teachers can play valuable roles in connecting families with community resources. Often, families don’t know that they can call 211 to connect with help paying essential bills and securing housing, both of which affect student mental health. Schools can incorporate help links into their handbooks.
College students do well to connect with their campus resources. It can be easier finding help while enrolled than later if they accept a job that doesn’t provide health benefits.
2. Join a Club
Your school years provide you with plenty of opportunities to make friends. However, it’s challenging to connect if you’re the “new kid.” or an incoming freshman. One of the best ways to meet up with others who share similar interests is to join a club.
Your activities may or may not align with your major — either way is okay. Aspiring journalists often work for the student newspaper or yearbook, for example. However, joining the environmental science club shows that you care about preserving the planet and highlights your values, even if you study English.
Exercise boosts your self-confidence and esteem in several ways. Physical movement spurs your body to produce endorphins, opioid-like chemicals that ease pain and produce mild euphoria.
Working out also helps you control your weight and improve your physical appearance. While you can be beautiful and fit at any size, you’ll move with more confidence after honing your coordination in a kickboxing or HIIT class.
4. Eat Whole Foods
Processed foods, particularly those high in sugar and white flour, can adversely affect your mental health. The all-purpose flour used in just about every baked good and breaded treat causes a quick blood sugar spike, followed by a crash.
The manufacturing of this product also results in a chemical byproduct called alloxan, used to induce diabetes in laboratory animals. Too much can leave you with insulin resistance, a condition that upsets your overall hormonal balance. A poor diet can result in frequent mood swings and depression.
Try to eat a plant-based diet rich in whole foods close to their natural forms. For example, replace chips or pretzels with nuts or trail mix as a snack. Many nuts and seeds contain high levels of minerals like magnesium that are vital for improving mood and neurological health.
Strive to eat a rainbow by selecting fruits and vegetables in every color. Doing so ensures an adequate intake of various antioxidants. Treat your plate as a clock, filling a half-hour with the vibrant plant-based stuff.
5. Get Organized
Chronic stress can also upset your hormonal balance, and it too often stems from scrambling like mad at the last minute to complete assignments you procrastinated on — or forgot. Student life is busy. You need an organizational system to keep track of upcoming projects and tests.
Choose from online planner apps or an old-fashioned paper method, whichever you find most convenient. Some folks enjoy having plenty of space to write notes, while others don’t mind a restricted character count. Go through your syllabi and enter important dates.
Either way, spend 15 to 30 minutes each Sunday evening reviewing your to-dos for the week. You’ll reach the end of the semester nearly stress-free.
6. Establish Healthy Boundaries
School introduces you to multiple new people. Most of them have your best interests at heart, but not all of them do.
Establishing healthy boundaries with friends and people you date safeguards you from dangerous and abusive situations. It’s easier to turn down that alcoholic drink at a party if you rehearse what you’re going to say. Learn to recognize the red flags of toxic behavior and put distance between yourself and those who make you feel uncomfortable or threaten your well-being.
7. Avoid Substance Use
High school and college often entail plenty of opportunities to experiment with substance use. However, giving in to temptation is unwise for many reasons. For one, it could jeopardize your enrollment or even your future career prospects if you get caught and convicted of an offense such as an underage DUI.
Furthermore, your brain is still developing. Various substances that adults might tolerate can cause permanent damage. For example, while some Dutch studies show that cannabis is neuroprotective in older adults, it can impact brain development and neurocognitive performance in people younger than 25. Don’t risk ongoing mental health problems for a temporary high.
8. Prioritize Sleep
Sleep is one of the most important things to maintain positive mental health. While you don’t want to overdo it, most teens need anywhere from eight to ten hours a night, while young adults need seven to nine.
If you’re in a dorm situation with a roommate who regularly pulls all-nighters, a few simple tricks can help you get your Zzz’s. If possible, invest in a bed tent so that you can enclose yourself in cozy darkness, increasing your privacy quotient, too. If not, an eye mask can dim the glow from their desktop lamp.
Noise-canceling headphones are another must if you can afford them. Earbuds also do a good job of blocking outside noise to let you rest. You can find plenty of white noise recordings or soothing sleep music videos on YouTube for free to drown out any remaining din.
Good Mental Health Tips for Students
Your brain is your most important academic asset. It pays for you to keep it sharp by taking measures to preserve your emotional well-being the same way you take care of your physical body. Follow the eight good mental health tips for students above, and enjoy a happier school year.