How to handle your mental health this school year
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ARTWORK BY MARIANE CADIZ
A new school year means new lessons, new classmates and more. But it’s also a time to take care of one’s mental health.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, United States, “50 percent of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and 75 percent by age 24.”
Meanwhile, an ABS-CBN News article, “Mental health of Filipinos” (based on studies by the World Health Organization and the Department of Health) reported that 3.3 million Filipinos suffer from depressive disorders, while another 3.1 million suffer from anxiety disorder.
The same report said that 17 percent of high school students have attempted suicide at least once, 12 percent said they seriously considered attempting suicide, and 11 percent have made plans on how they would commit suicide.
Unaddressed mental health concerns can affect every aspect of a student’s life—from his or her performance in school to relationships with classmates and family, to attitudes and behavior.
Thus, it is important to be prepared not only physically, but also emotionally and mentally when going back to school.
Here are some tips on how to take care of your mental health this school year:
1) Learn to rest.
Being a student myself, I know that this can be very difficult, especially when you have a lot of homework or are studying for an exam. But when you have no rest, you won’t be able to perform tasks properly. Your brain will have a hard time absorbing and processing information, and you might even suffer from mental block during the test or exams. You also won’t have enough energy to finish your homework or do school projects.
Whenever you feel tired, take a break. Take short study breaks. Listen to music, go for a walk, watch videos, take a nap—do anything that relaxes you. Then, when you regain your energy, go back and finish your tasks.
2) Get enough sleep.
I know this, too, can be very difficult, but getting enough sleep is essential and will make you more attentive and active. Lack of sleep can lead to mood changes and lower body resistance, which makes you vulnerable to illness.
Avoid having sleepless nights by not procrastinating. Study for your test a day or two in advance and do your assignments on time. Which brings us to the next tip…
3) Plan ahead.
Here’s something that helped me, and which might help you, too.
List down all your homeworks and projects and their deadlines. And then make a schedule to assign the day and time you plan to do each item. Make sure to accomplish them before the deadline. This will help you keep track of which assignment or project is already done, and which is still pending.
Stick to your schedule to make sure that everything you need to do will be finished on time. This will help you manage your time better, resulting in less stress. And less stress means better mental health.
4) Know your worth.
Excelling in school can be challenging, and you may sometimes think low of yourself whenever you get mediocre grades, or feel insecure that someone else is achieving more than you. Avoid comparing yourself to others.
Always believe that you, too, can get high grades and achieve a lot of things. Keep trying to learn new things and study hard so you can improve your grades. If you’re struggling with a subject, ask help from others.
Look to people to help you improve certain skills. Have them suggest ways on how you can do better and be successful like them.
5) Practice positive thinking.
Positive thinking yields physical and mental benefits, according to studies. Positive thinking not only gives you confidence, it reduces depression and stress-related disorders.
Here are some simple positive thinking exercises you can do:
• Push away all negative thoughts and replace them with their positive counterparts. Instead of “I can’t,” think “I can.”
• Give yourself positive affirmations. Repeat a positive phrase to yourself every day, like “I am worthy of love,” “I can get through this,” “I am strong,” etc.
• Make a list of the good things you are thankful for every day.
• Do not dwell on the past. The past can never be changed. But what you can do is make sure your future will be great.
6) Call for help.
If you are feeling depressed, anxious or overwhelmed, call a friend, family member or any person you trust. It’s perfectly okay to ask for help. Acknowledge these emotions you have, and talk them out with another person.
This has proven to be helpful, especially to those who are suffering from mental health issues.
If you think things aren’t getting any better, don’t be afraid to consult a guidance counselor or seek professional help.
You can also call Hopeline, a 24/7 suicide hotline launched by the Department of Health, the World Health Organization and the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation. Call 8044673, 09175584673 and 2919 for Globe and TM subscribers.