As the calendar flips to fall and exam season fast approaches, students are understandably feeling the heat.
The Spectrum staff has some suggestions for avoiding burnout and taking care of your mental health. Here are some tips for maintaining emotional well-being:
Going to the gym
I struggled with managing my stress for a very long time, and my life felt out of control. My emotions and thoughts were at the whim of the day’s events with no stability. I was going through the motions, and I wasn’t an active participant in my own life; it was steamrolling over me. When I started working out, it was because I wanted to be in control of something. What I had not expected from working out were ways to manage my stress and stabilize my emotions. I was doing something that made me feel good — mind, body and soul. I felt strong. I could lift a good amount of weight and walk and run further than before without getting tired. My body felt physically stronger, and from that, it made me feel like I was also stronger mentally.
- Julie Frey
Going for a run
Running — like life — has its ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys. The grueling start. The persistent self-doubt. The physical and mental pain. The constant struggle. But, in a year that has challenged me more than any other, running has been a rare solace. There’s a saying that all runners are running from something. This year, I’m not just running to escape my bad days or constant stress; I’m running to find myself. Running isn’t foolproof. It doesn’t always make me happy. But, whether I push myself to run for ten minutes or an hour, I feel like I am in control. Here’s to finding the things in life that make us feel alive.
- Justin Weiss
When I have too many things going on and my mind is racing a million miles a minute, sometimes it helps just to stop. I sit with my eyes closed and turn on a Lo-Fi playlist. I stare at the blank space behind my eyelids. Thoughts slowly but surely enter the void, but I do not interact with my thoughts. Instead, I watch them float by like a jellyfish in the abyss. Through simply acknowledging my emotions and thoughts without continuing to develop them, I can observe my emotions from a third-person-esque perspective, relaxing my overthinking mind and reminding myself to relax.
- Alex Falter
Listening to music
We don’t always need a hand or a distraction. Sometimes it helps to feel out your emotions as they are, and no medium creates a better environment for self reflection than music. In times when I feel stressed or can’t stop worrying, nothing grounds me like a calm song with lyrics that match perfectly with my mood. The music embraces me and lulls me into accepting my feelings; I’ll find myself feeling better as the tension melts away. As these feelings progress I eventually add happier songs to the queue, giving a feeling of closure and refreshment at the end of these sessions.
- Alex Falter
There’s something to be said about the shield my blanket becomes, fending off my anxiety during a day-long depression-induced movie marathon. When you can’t muster up the words to vent and you just need some time to yourself to unpack your feelings, step into the Twilight Zone and go on a journey with all your favorite characters — my go-to’s are “Bones” and “Rizzoli and Isles.” I find a lot of comfort in watching the shows my parents watched when I was a kid. It’s important to take time for yourself to process your emotions but when you’re feeling up to it, reach out to a trusted friend, family member or professional.
- Reilly Mullen
Spending time with friends
If I hadn’t spent time with my friends between writing articles and doing homework, I probably would’ve dropped out and gone insane my first semester. Being around friends is my favorite stress-relieving strategy because there are so many different things you can do with them. My friends and I have blown off steam by going for 1 a.m. bike rides (flashlight highly recommended), spontaneously going to a bizarre music festival at Canalside and cooking brunch for half our dorm hall — and that’s all just stuff I did in the past two weeks. Not to mention that your friends can meet you where you’re at emotionally. Need to vent about your problems? Go for it (with permission). Need to think about anything but your problems? They can help you do that too. Unless you need some time alone, you can’t go wrong with a little kiki.
- Grant Ashley
Watching and playing sports
Every person has an activity that brings them joy, whether it’s shooting a basketball for an hour or two, or spending a Sunday on the couch clicking through football games. Being active and playing sports can relieve stress immediately not only because you’re outside in the sun, but because it’s what you love to do. It’s what you grew up doing. For me, playing sports takes me back to when things in life were simple and I wasn’t stressed. It’s like I’m back in eighth grade again with no worries in the world. There’s something special about playing catch or shooting a basketball until it feels like my arms are going to fall off. No worries, no stress, just doing something I love.
- Hunter Skoczylas
Spending time with family
Our strongest support systems can be our families, whether by blood or simply by bond. Our family members are the ones who we feel safest with because they care for us the deepest, understand us the best and, in most cases, know us the longest. That’s why when I’m feeling overwhelmed by my emotions, I turn to my family. Whether it’s my mom, sister, cousin or one of my close college friends, I find the most peace in talking it out with someone. I pride myself on my independence, so in those moments I feel irrational for needing help. But these people remind me that it’s okay to feel like you’re drowning, because ultimately the water will drain and the feeling will pass. I know talking to someone can be daunting; maybe you feel like the issue doesn’t exist if you don’t verbalize it, or that telling someone would only burden them. But things only get better when you face your problems and since those people in your life truly care about you, they will want to hear how you’re doing — I promise! That’s why we forge these amazing bonds with people, because one day they may need to save us from ourselves.
- Natalie Doller
Going to therapy
I struggled silently for years before deciding to seek professional mental help. A negative experience with a past therapist made me weary of opening up to a stranger. I tried to manage on my own for a long time but inevitably fell into destructive coping mechanisms. The stigma behind mental health often deters people from seeking the professional help they deserve for fear of being labeled “weak” or “crazy,” and unhealthy emotional practices have been ingrained into society after years of stigma and oppression. But there is something so relieving about having your struggles and emotions validated by a mental health specialist. Being able to unpack your feelings with an outsider whose only priority is your best interest is freeing. Seek out the mental health services available to you, either through Counseling Services or a private provider.
- Reilly Mullen
Getting some sleep
Sleep plays an integral role in your health. It empowers the body to recover and allows you to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on whatever life throws at you. Feeling sleepy during the day not only prevents you from thinking clearly and being the best version of yourself, but it affects your mental health as well. You know those days where it feels like everything went wrong and you just want to go home and sleep and wake up the next day? I’ve been there one too many times and it’s seriously affected the way I approach my daily life, and sometimes, it’s okay to do that. Just sleep it off, wake up and try again. Sleep resets your brain and pulls you out of that funk. I don’t know where I’d be without prioritizing sleep and understanding its importance.
- Hunter Skoczylas
Going for a walk
With everything in lockdown due to the pandemic, there wasn’t a lot to do on campus last year, so late-night walks with my fellow bored freshmen were a staple. They’re perfect if you need to tackle a bout of anxiety. There’s something so relaxing about taking in the evening ambience, watching the stars and not having to worry about anything other than putting one foot in front of the other (and who’s going to DJ). The pillars, the Ellicott Creek Bike Path and Insomnia Cookies are my favorite destinations, but get creative! North Campus is a big place, so there’s a lot to explore. Just watch out for skunks! (And if you go alone, bring your phone and stick to lighted areas!)
- Grant Ashley
It’s no secret that mental and physical health are closely intertwined. Taking care of the body is as much a mental challenge as a physical one, requiring dedication, consistency and setting good habits. Our diet is one of the primary ways in which we demonstrate control over our body as we choose when and what goes into it. I try to cook for myself whenever I have the time and I generally try to be mindful about what’s on the plate in front of me. I think that it’s helped me feel happier and become more disciplined in how I treat myself. I’m not some culinary guru either; I can often be found scarfing down three servings of off-brand macaroni and cheese at midnight. It’s more about finding pockets of time that I can control and treating myself to a tasty, healthy meal because everyone deserves it. Cooking can be daunting at first, but with a smidge of effort and experience, it becomes a lot more fun. Sure, making a perfectly creamy French omelette is hard, but scrambling some eggs and chopping in my favorite vegetables isn’t. And it tastes a lot better because I made it.
- Paolo Blanchi