The winter months have arrived.
Your coursework is becoming more demanding, extracurriculars are getting to be more intense, and New Jersey’s winter weather typically perpetrates even more stress. Amidst this chaos, it can often be difficult to find time for yourself.
Student life alone can bring about much stress, nevermind the issues that we all have outside of the classroom. However, it is essential to keep up with your mental health in the best way that you can, even if you think it wholly insignificant. Mental health in many ways is the driving force of your life- taking care of yourself both mentally and physically is mandatory and it doesn’t have to be too involved or time consuming.
Here are three (actually helpful) ways to check in with yourself and be more aware of your health during this busy time.
Take 3-5 minute breaks.
No matter what you’re doing, be it studying, practicing, or working, taking breaks can be incredibly beneficial. Giving your brain and body time to recharge is crucial to avoid burnout. In fact, a study conducted by Princeton University suggests that taking breaks to exercise at least four days a week can dramatically reduce stress and anxiety levels.
What does this mean for students? Instead of scrolling through Instagram or other social media outlets when taking a break, try doing something active. If you’re already active, try doing something that you love: listening to your favorite song, playing with your dog, etc. How often you take breaks and how long you take them are up to you- experiment with what makes you feel the most recharged and productive!
Try implementing meditation in your everyday life.
There are many misconceptions about meditation. While it began as a spiritual exercise, its benefits are now backed up by science. Meditation has been scientifically proven to lower one’s stress levels.
How do you do it correctly? The main thing to know is that there truly is no “correct” way to meditate, as every person’s experience meditating will be different. To start, try sitting down, closing your eyes, and focusing on your breath. Your mind will wander; that is to be expected. Meditation does not require an “empty” mind, but rather a present mind. When your mind does start to wander, notice what you were thinking about, then slowly lead your attention back to your breath.
Finding time to meditate can be difficult, but even meditating for two minutes a day can increase your overall well-being (try taking advantage of your free time; car rides, time in waiting rooms, etc.).
When first starting out, guided meditations are a must. The New York Times has an online page of guided meditations that are perfect for beginners.
Ok, hear me out. I know not everyone has the time or energy to start a Lizzie McGuire-style journal, but simply jotting down several things that you’re grateful for on a specific day can dramatically change your attitude and awareness. If you truly have no time at all, try to internally run through five things you’re grateful for; if you can’t think of five things, that’s okay. Take time to be present and aware of your surroundings.
Note: This is not a substitute for professional medical help. Many students find themselves more stressed than normal during the winter months, but please seek help if your symptoms persist/grow to be overwhelming. If you are struggling with your mental health, seeking help could be a viable option for you. Thank you to Mrs. Lattarulo for helping with this article!