Self Care 101: Protecting Your Mental Health

While the15884166831_5787d26901_z previous two blog posts in this series spotlighting mental health in the classroom focused on the issues facing students with mental health issues, and administrative solutions for some of these problems, the last segment in this series will widen the scope and focus on preventative care for everyone. It’s not just students that are feeling overwhelmed with university today – faculty members are also suffering from anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. It’s important to remember that no matter who you are, you can benefit from a little preventative mental health care.

 

In a high-paced academic environment, it’s easy to feel that any time not spent on academic pursuits is wasted. This mentality is common not only in uWaterloo but across many university campuses, and while it may lead to bursts of productivity and output, it also leads to a great deal of stress, exhaustion and misery. In order to avoid these outcomes, it’s important that students and faculty alike take time away from their work to practice self-care. Self-care can include almost anything that you enjoy. All that it truly means is setting aside some time from your day to treat yourself well.

 

Clichés, but….

  • Get some sleep
    • Allowing your body to reset during a full 8-9 hours of sleep per night will ensure that you go through each day with as much energy as possible. When you’re well rested, you don’t have to be constantly fighting against the urge to take a nap…and you’d be surprised at how much nicer the world seems!
  • Eat something
    • Along with getting enough sleep comes giving your body fuel. While it’s important to eat healthy, it’s more important to simply eat enough of food that you enjoy. If self-care for you is relaxing with a brownie, don’t feel guilty! Eating guiltless allows you to get rid of the expectations that you’ll always eat perfect and focus entirely on eating what makes you feel good. Sometimes that might be carrots, and other times cookies.
  • Drink some water
    • Just like your body needs food, it also needs hydration. If you feel tired, anxious or irritated, often getting a cold drink of water will rehydrate you, and you’ll find that you feel a little bit better.
  • Get off the couch
    • Even for a little while. Exercise gives us endorphins, or the ‘feel good’ chemical. Being active also gives you a chance to change your setting a little bit – so next time you feel stressed out and cooped up in your office, take a walk outside.

Don’t forget about the rest of your life!

  • Make time to see friends
    • It may seem like there’s no time to do anything but academia, but filling your life with only work can create a lot of stress. Making time in your week to see friends and just enjoy life can really take a load off of your shoulders and make going back to work a little easier.
  • Take a break!
    • Sometimes, all we really need to reduce stress and take care of our mental health is a real break from the things that are causing us stress. If you can’t face another second working on your research paper/thesis/marking, maybe it’s time to take half an hour and do something you really enjoy. The work will always be there when you get back.

 

All of these self-care tips are easy to implement into your daily life. They all boil down to one simple thing – there’s always time to take care of your mental health, and no matter what you’re doing, you deserve to be happy and enjoy your life.

 

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Sarah Forbes

Sarah Forbes is an undergraduate in the Psychology department at the University of Waterloo and a co-op student at the Centre for Teaching Excellence.

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