As college students, responsibilities pile up and the balance between school, work and personal life may become overwhelming. You want to study and make an A in your biology class, but that means missing out on hanging with your friends. You have to work in order to pay for necessities, but that means sacrificing time used for fitness. Trying to fit everything into a day that doesn’t have enough time seems almost impossible.
It’s just as imperative to take care of your mental health as it is your physical health. Both components affect one another, making it necessary to not neglect one or the other.
TJC Psychology Professor, Jeanna Ivy said, “We really need to be sure to understand that your mental health is connected to your physical health. So if you’re taking care of yourself physically, but you’re not taking care of yourself mentally, then there’s going to be a disconnect, and you’re not going to be as healthy as you can be.”
Here are some ways to take care of yourself physically and mentally as a college student.
Take a walk
Taking a walk in the park, between classes or in your neighborhood can allow you to get some fresh air. Going outside can help change scenery and your environment. Just taking some time to enjoy nature can help clear your mind.
Walking can help increase your heart rate, improve blood circulation and increase energy levels. Something as simple as walking could improve your mood and ease stress.
“If you do that [walking] a little bit each day, then we know research tells us that it lowers your anxiety, it lowers your blood pressure, it makes you feel better, it releases those feel good hormones in your brain that help you to manage the stress that you’re under,” Ivy said.
Our bodies cannot function without water. Drinking water is imperative, but how much is enough?
About 15 cups per day is recommended for men and 11 cups per day for women, according to mayoclinic.org.
“There’s pretty good data that many Americans are actually closer to being dehydrated than adequately hydrated. And I joke about it with my classes and stuff like that, it’s like every time you walk by a water fountain, just bend over and get a drink. We ought to hydrate,” Roland Schick, TJC department chair of kinesiology and human performance, said.
Get ample sleep
Sleeping is an essential part of our survival. Sleep helps our bodies relax after a long day, allowing our body to reset itself for the day to come.
“If you don’t get good quality sleep, you can’t think. And if you go long enough, without good quality sleep, you will be overwhelmed,” Ivy said. “Your body will be worn down. But your mind will be worn down, as well. And you can’t even think enough to, you know, to make the decisions that you need to make or do the work you need to do.”
Reduce screen time
In this time in history, technology is used more than ever. Social media, entertainment and communication is all within the touch of a screen. Although technology is beneficial to society, too much screen time can take a toll on your mental and physical health.
According to uq.edu.au, too much screen time can cause things such as, “depression, obesity, poor quality of life, unhealthy diet and decreased physical and cognitive abilities.”
“What we are now finding is that too much screen time causes people to have great anxiety,” Ivy said. “And the studies are clear. So what we want to do is moderate our screen time. And that means being intentional about it. Because if you don’t be intentional about moderating screen time, you will find yourself on a screen all the time.”
Bust a move
Dancing may not be “your thing” but it is a way of expressing yourself in a freeing way. Dancing is good for your mind and helps alleviate tension and distress. It’s also known to help with memory retention and improves brain function.
According to harvard.edu, “…dance helps reduce stress, increases levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin and helps develop new neural connections, especially in regions involved in executive function, long-term memory and spatial recognition.”
Whether it’s a Zumba class with a friend or dance improvisation in your living room to your favorite song, don’t be afraid to bust out a few moves. Your brain will thank you.
Counseling is a method used to help with mental and emotional well-being. For many, counseling or therapy is beneficial in some way.
TJC offers the TimelyCare app that provides virtual access to counseling services along with other systems for all students. No insurance is required. Six scheduled counseling visits with licensed professionals per year are offered free of charge. On-demand access for emotional support is also free and unlimited. Psychiatric help is available through in-person counseling on campus. There, students will be provided with a referral code to access this feature.
Talk to a loved one
Your friends, family and the ones who you love the most are often here to support you and want you to succeed. Talking to someone who desires the best for you is someone who is there to hear from you. If you feel comfortable, open up to those people. Vulnerability is healthy and can take a weight off of your shoulder.
According to the New York Times, “Research from U.C.L.A. suggests that putting your feelings into words — a process called ‘affect labeling’ — can diminish the response of the amygdala when you encounter things that are upsetting. This is how, over time, you can become less stressed over something that bothers you.”
The amygdala is the part of your brain that processes emotions such as anger and fear. When you verbally express your emotions consistently, your amygdala becomes less triggered when you encounter things that usually have much effect over how you feel.
Do something you love
According to headtohealth.gov.au, “Spending time on an activity that you enjoy can improve your mental health and wellbeing. Research shows that people with hobbies are less likely to suffer from stress, low mood, and depression. Activities that get you out and about can make you feel happier and more relaxed.”
Pursuing a hobby or interest can ease your mind from other demanding tasks that are stressful. Taking out the time to read a book, listen to music, crochet a blanket or whatever appeals to you the most can help you take a step away from reality for a moment so you can relax.
A lot of times we find ourselves wrapped up in the responsibilities of life, making it easier to forget to reflect on the things we’re grateful for. With reflection, we can reveal that there are things we don’t have to stress about. You could be thankful for family and friends, or simply for being alive. You could be thankful for the sun in the sky or the ability to even be grateful for things. Not all of life is full of stress and worry as there are many good moments and things to indulge in.
Attend the Apache Rec Center
TJC has recently opened the Apache Recreation Center, a workout facility for students on 1914 East Devine St. The center features dumbbells, cardio machines, heavy racks, massage chairs and other fitness equipment. The location of this facility may be convenient for students who live on campus or close to it. All that is required to enter is a TJC ID.
The center is open 7 a.m.- 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Friday.
Every day may not be easy and stress free, but incorporating these methods into your life may help alleviate the neglection of self-care and health. Choosing to make your health a priority and not an option makes all the difference in whether or not you follow through with putting yourself first.
Wanting to prioritize your health is the first step in putting that desire into action, but you shouldn’t stop there. You have to hold yourself accountable in order to be successful in order to take care of yourself.
Although life may seem hectic and there’s no time in the day to implement these tips, just taking five minutes of your day toward self-care and making it a habit will make all the difference.
So find motivation for why you take care of yourself and less reasons for why you don’t.
“Successful people find reasons that they’re successful. Failing people find excuses for why they failed,” Schick said. “So let’s have reasons for why we’re successful and not the excuses why we fail. And that’s an individual’s choice.”