It’s that time again to set your one — or ten — alarms and get ready. This year I will prioritize my mental wellbeing, and you can too.
It can be very easy to forget we are human for the sake of excellence, but we must value our mental health in order to get things done … efficiently.
According to a study done at the University of Washington, “nearly 4 out of 5 college students report that emotional distress impacts their academic performance.”
“Stress plays a huge role for college students wanting to juggle everything all at once, and the speed of the semester can pick up quickly,” Jaisy Girija Kumar said.
Kumar has been a mental health specialist and therapist at the CAPS center here at UNO since April 2017.
Also, for some students this will be their first semester and they will have to navigate this new reality we live in. It’s good to find a balance between social life, personal life, work life and school life.
Kumar suggests we learn about stress management and how to prioritize our responsibilities.
“It is important to get to know oneself and what fits well for you,” Kumar said. “Find what gives you joy and how you like to spend your free time.”
Time management is also important — our mental health can deteriorate if we put things off. Kumar says to not wait till the last minute to get help.
“Have a safety plan to maintain wellness,” Kumar said.
UNO has amazing resources so students can sustain their focus on their studies. Kumar encourages students to take that step and reach out for assistance. Kumar notes the Maverick Food Pantry as a great place to alleviate food and meal insecurity, as that can be a source of stress.
College can be rigorous, so it can be hard to find efficient ways to maintain mental wellbeing. I am one who practices meditation and tries to do it once a day. I either listen to the Headspace podcast to reflect or practice my breathing for five to ten minutes. If that doesn’t sound functional, just start small.
“When you wake up in the morning, take the first couple of minutes to meditate on how you want your day to proceed and meditate on that,” says Kumar. “Come up with a positive affirmation that resonates with you and meditate on that positive phrase.”
Meditation is beneficial to staying in tune with the present moment. Mindfulness is another way to stay in tune. Kumar says to explore how to be in any given moment by engaging your five basic senses: touch, sight, smell, sound, hearing and taste.
“Mindfulness helps us to stay in that moment and to be in that moment,” says Kumar. “If you practice mindfulness daily, it becomes a way of life and it helps the stress levels to stay low.”
Remember that we are all on our paths, so each of our mental health journeys will look different. There is not a one size fits all strategy to mental health. Don’t get frustrated if your way to cope with mental instability is different from another person. I too have been caught up on that, and it can distract me from the goal of mental wellbeing.
We also come from different perspectives — some of us might be coming from spaces that didn’t value mental well-being, so this may all be new to learn.
“We are all different, and that difference is our learning curve,” says Kumar. “It’s what enriches us and helps us to learn.”
Kumar wants those to first acknowledge that mental health is not a taboo.
“Be your best advocate, as your mental wellbeing is important to you,” Kumar says. “Keep in mind that your perspective is changing, that doesn’t mean your culture’s perspective has to change.”
Kumar apprises that it can be tough to navigate mental wellbeing because you may not get the support that you need, but you need to advocate for yourself at the end of the day.
UNO is privileged to have CAPS, Counseling and Psychological Services, where therapy and mental health care is free of charge. If you need to talk, eliminate unwanted stress from heavy lifting emotions or just need a space to vent, there are different specialists at CAPS that will fit your specific needs.
The longer you wait to seek help, the more detrimental it may become for your well-being. Kumar says you need your brain, mind and body to function properly in order to accomplish the many things you have to do.
This semester, start the fall right by putting yourself first.