The pandemic is challenging not only because, well, it’s a pandemic, but also because the state of stress we’re all experiencing has been lasting for more than a year. If you’re a student in another lockdown, here are some strategies to look after your mental well-being without leaving your home.
1. Ask for help
I’m going to start with this one up front. Mental health is vital to survival. If you’re experiencing distress, don’t wait to talk to someone about it. This could be a close friend or family member, but please consider a professional stranger. I sought help from a Psychologist to help manage my stress and reduce the risk of developing a mental health issue. I think of it as an investment in my overall well-being. There are also many free phone-in services that provide help 24/7. Here are two reliable ones in Canada: https://kidshelpphone.ca/, https://wellnesstogether.ca/en-CA.
Let’s continue to take the stigma out of mental health issues so that people who need help (aka everyone) can feel safe asking for it.
2. Set up a routine
Humans thrive with a routine. There’s something about well-placed boundaries that helps our brains deal with life in general. Setting up a daily routine is especially helpful if you don’t have any external routine set upon you. For instance, I have an external routine because I’m going into the hospital every day as a clinical clerk. My schedule is set for me. However, last summer I had no external cues for what to do when. I remember feeling lost because of this. So, I set up my own routine. Here’s what it looked like:
7am: wake up and do a home workout
8am: get ready for the day, have breakfast
9am: study time
11am: walk my dog
12pm: lunch time
1pm: research and more study time
4pm: start making something nice for dinner (yes, super early I know)
9pm: nighttime routine to get ready for bed
This is my own personal routine that worked for me, and of course won’t work for everyone. You’ll notice that I was doing a good 5 hours of studying and research time daily even though it was summer break. I found that in order to be happy, I need to feel productive. Studying and doing research made me feel like I was working towards something bigger, while keeping myself and others safe by staying home.
3. Do any amount of exercise
I was a physiotherapist before I was a medical student. So I’m a little biased with this one. But it’s well-known that exercise makes us happier and healthier. What’s the right amount of exercise? Literally any amount you can do. A 45-minute run, a 30-minute weightlifting session, a twenty-minute walk, a 10-minute yoga flow, 5 minutes of marching on the spot, 1 minute of mini squats… the options are almost unlimited. Pick a starting point that you can do regularly, and then work towards improving over time. I’m a big weightlifting nerd (meaning not only do I train, but I also read the latest science about weightlifting). Working towards getting stronger is incredibly rewarding for me. Find something that makes you crow like Pan. I’m dating myself with a Hook reference there.
Stay safe and well everyone. More tips for student wellness to follow next week.