Advice: Self-care and mental wellness
With the start of each new semester, students must readjust to university life after a lengthy break. For most, that means transitioning back into the routine of studying and recreation. For others, this may be their first semester of college.
College puts students in a unique situation where they are left on their own to take care of themselves. Many might struggle due to a variety of things – financial instability, food insecurity, stress or mental illness, just to name a few. With this new responsibility, self-care is instrumental in maintaining a healthy mind.
Self-care is defined as "a multidimensional, multifaceted process of purposeful engagement in strategies that promote healthy functioning and enhance well-being," according to the American Psychological Association.
In short, self-care helps a person better oneself.
The five types of self-care include physical, social, mental, spiritual and emotional, according to Elizabeth Scott.
Physical self-care is taking care of your body. Examples of physical self-care might be making sure to eat good meals, getting enough sleep, exercising, showering, etc.
Social self-care encompasses interpersonal relations and social interactions while mental self-care is more introspective, including brain teasers, cognitive exercises and tasks to benefit mental health.
"The way you think and the things that you're filling your mind with greatly influence your psychological well-being," Scott said.
Spiritual self-care does not always relate to religion – it involves feeling a deeper connection with the universe and understanding of oneself. Practices like yoga and meditation relax the body and aid stress relief and mindfulness by turning thoughts inward.
Emotional self-care means expressing emotions in a healthy and natural manner. Scott says to find ways to "acknowledge and express your feelings regularly and safely." This can be done by talking something out with a trusted friend or family member.
So, where can someone start their self-care journey? The National Institute of Mental Health lists the following means of self-care on its "Caring for Your Mental Health" page:
Exercise: Spend at least 30 minutes a day doing some sort of physical activity. Start out small – just a lap or two around campus could be a good starting point.
Eat: NIMH recommends regularly eating a well-balanced diet and stay hydrated throughout the day. Not eating for a day or eating unhealthy foods at every meal can turn into a negative cycle.
Sleep: Following a regular sleep schedule and sleeping enough each night helps the body feel rejuvenated every day. NIMH recommends reducing blue light before bed, meaning time to wind down without screens. Blue light glasses can help, but "unplugging" entirely is suggested.
Relaxing activities: Try a relaxing activity like meditation, stretching or breathing exercises. Daily journaling is a great way to comprehend and reflect on feelings, according to NIMH.
Set goals: Short-term and long-term goals help ensure a balanced workload. Prioritize what you need to get done each day, but make sure that you don't put too much on your plate.
Practice gratitude: NIMH says constructing a gratitude list reminds one of enjoyable and important things in life.
Positivity: Thinking optimistically can be difficult at first, but focusing on the positive aspects of each day is a way to leave behind past negativity.
Staying connected: Keeping up with others can be daunting when one is unwell. However difficult, reaching out maintains connections to resources and relationships with friends and family.
Salisbury University's Counseling Center offers a variety of resources for students including counseling by appointment or walk-in, on-site or virtually through TimelyCare. Students are allotted 12 free counseling sessions each year.
In the case of a crisis, call the Suicide and Life Crisis Hotline at 988.
The State of Maryland's mental health program MD Mind Health sends support and resources via text twice weekly.
To join, text "MDMINDHEALTH" to 898-211.
By OLIVIA KUNTZ
Gull Life Editor
Featured graphic courtesy of Brooke Birckhead.