The Importance of Taking Care of Your Mental Health
posted by Erika Massey
These past few months have been a struggle for many of us. First with the emergence of the coronavirus, which still is floating around, and now the protests and unrest around injustice that are occurring. We all have been focused on staying physically healthy due to the virus. Though for many, the toll is not just physical, but mental too. Currently, there are triggers for stress wherever you turn. I know personally, I have been extremely anxious lately. I also know some of my friends have been feeling stressed, anxious, and even depressed. Personally, I have found it increasingly important to remember that I must take care of myself and take time to relieve stress. This blog is a reminder for all of the LIM community to take care of their mental health. It’s just as important as physical health, and we should treat it as such.
Your mental and emotional state impacts your thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. When you have a large amount of stress, it reduces the amount and the quality of sleep that you’re getting. This can lead to fatigue during the day. It can cause physical issues in the long term, like high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. One can lose or have increased appetite which may lead to weight gain or loss in an unhealthy manner. Your esteem and self-perception will decrease. Lack of motivation is also common; you may not even want to get out of bed. One may start to disconnect and isolate themselves from loved ones. There are many other negative effects of not taking care of your mental health and of course, it is different for every individual. Taking care of your mental health looks different for every person.
The good news is that your mental health can be improved, but the reality is that it is something you must work to manage. Feelings can’t just be pushed aside or willed away. I’m sure that works for some people, but it is okay to need support and ask for help if you are in a bad place. I personally go to therapy, and one reason that I chose LIM was that it has a built in support system.
We are lucky to have the Office of Counseling and Accessibility, which provides free services. This is a great resource if you need someone to talk to. I know many of you may not be comfortable with going to therapy, and that has to be your choice, though I do believe that everyone should have a good support system. This can start with confiding your feelings in someone you are close with. If you do not feel like talking to someone in your personal life, LIM’s counseling and accessibility department is holding a regular support group. I also am starting a Mental Health Awareness Club, where my goal is to provide a group on campus that supports each other and educates about mental health. To join fill out this form https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdRhCVauImX-zl9D3EtO9y6ZTFa1EI_lUQGyVlLnZbL3diK8Q/viewform?usp=sf_link
Lastly, here are some stress-relieving strategies and exercises you can do during the day. They should only take a few minutes.
Tense your muscles, one area at a time, and enjoy the relaxation upon release. Take a deep breath and hold it as you curl your toes for about five seconds, then let your breath go all at once. Next, tense all your body parts one by one going up. Tense your calves, thighs, buttocks, arms, shoulders, jaws, and finally squeeze your eyelids.
When stressed, we often breathe from the upper chest. A full, deep breath helps relieve that. Take a deep breath, and feel your abdomen expand. Hold this for three seconds. Next, release your breath out all at once. As you do so, clear your mind and let your body relax.
Now, close your eyes and focus on the tip of your nose. Next, as you breathe in, focus on the air as it enters your body. When you breathe out, focus on the feeling of the air expelling from your body. Repeat this several times.
Exhale with sound through your mouth to the count of eight. Inhale quietly through your nose to the count of four. Hold your breath to the count of seven. Repeat for four breath cycles, and ideally twice a day.
Setting an intention or purpose for the day:
This starts when you wake up. First, sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight. Then, close your eyes and focus on your physical body. Take three long, deep breaths. Make sure you breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Focus on those breaths. Ask yourself what you want to accomplish that day. Question what you can do to improve your well-being. Set your intention for the day. This can be as simple as being kind to yourself and others. During the day, check on your intention. Breathe in and out and think calmly of your intention and if you are achieving it.
About the Author
Erika Massey is a rising junior in the Visual Studies program at LIM College. She is a student mentor and works as a student ambassador for the admissions office. She also is one of the co-leaders of the philanthropy club, president of the resident’s hall council, and a member of the global students’ club.