By International Trustees River Pease and Jordan Reichhardt
We’re living in incredibly uncertain times. Since March, our world has been submerged in a variety of troubles, and no one has been immune to these obstacles. No matter how this year has contributed to your stress levels, everyone could use a little mental health check–in. Make some time in your week to try a few exercises to give your brain a break.
- Practice mindfulness. Staying in the here and now is tough for everyone, but incredibly crucial. Breathe in and out with an animated GIF for a few minutes or participate in a guided meditation.
- Human beings are social by nature. Don’t let distance stop you! Plan a virtual movie night with friends via video chat or simply call and check up. Continuing to nourish your relationships now will only make things sweeter when we’re all in person again.
- Get enough sleep. It’s all too easy to get lost in the rabbit hole of the internet, but your productivity is dependent on your energy levels, and your energy levels are determined by how much true and meaningful rest you get. Consider creating a sleeping schedule and committing to setting down devices 30 minutes before you plan on going to sleep.
- If you can, try getting some light exercise a few times a week (ideally every day). Getting your blood pumping releases endorphins to brighten your mood, even if you don’t particularly enjoy the exercise in the moment. For an added bonus, get some fresh air while you work your muscles!
- Do one thing every day that is solely for enjoyment. Don’t do it because you have to, or because it helps your future, but because it’s fun. Try coloring or dancing around your room. We recommend trying to steer away from technology-related ideas to give your brain a rest from screens.
- Make eating well a priority. High school is difficult, and without a healthy–food–fueled brain, your teacher’s lessons might go in one ear and out the other. Both eating correctly and eating enough contribute to your energy levels, physical health and mental wellbeing.
- Do you have a pet? Spend some time with them as much as you can! Whether it’s a dog or a turtle, pets have the unique capability to help us think and care about something else while also providing companionship when we feel most alone.
- Try journaling, whether it’s simply writing down the events of your day and reflecting or making a list of the things you’re grateful for, contemplative writing forces you to slow down and appreciate what you have and have experienced recently.
- Step outside! You don’t need to climb a mountain or traverse through the wilderness to enjoy the relaxing elements of nature. Even just stepping out of your house for a few minutes can significantly reduce your levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.
- Get enough to drink. Staying hydrated is good for your brain as well as your body, and drinking lots of water every day will dramatically increase your overall energy.
- Lastly, take a moment to acknowledge that your feelings are valid. The stresses put on you are not meant to be compared to anyone else’s anxieties. Your struggles are real and don’t have to be swept under the rug because “everyone else is going through this too.” That might be true, but we all experience things differently, and events can affect some more or less than others.
Remember: Focusing on your mental health is about doing things that make you happy and give you a break from the stressors in your life. Ultimately, beneficial mental health practices might not be what other people coin as “self-care,” but try the above tips to de-stress. We can get through this together!