To say that the past year was a roller-coaster ride, would be the greatest understatement. We’ve all been through challenging times and now we’ve started the New Year with a second lockdown. Student lives, in particular, have changed drastically.
The absence of mamak sessions after class, missing out on extra-curricular activities, the unending stream of online classes and a lack of social contact add to the stress already present. Dealing with all this, whilst having to ensure our studies remain intact, can dampen our mental health.
Although it may seem impossible on some days, we have to prioritise our mental well-being to avoid issues such as depression, anxiety or worse.
There are multiple things we can do to keep our minds healthy and optimistic. The first would be to read this article all the way through and take note of the tips listed!
Negate the negativity
With headlines like ‘Record high Covid-19 cases’ and ‘Hospitals at full capacity’, it is so easy to fall into a spiral of negativity. While it may be important to stay updated, it is also in your best interest to limit time spent reading the news. Trends in the media nowadays keep us hooked and also instill a sense of negativity in our minds. This will only harm our mental state.
Social media platforms have the same effect. We all follow accounts on Instagram and Twitter that constantly demotivate us. In this regard, the best thing to do is to mute these accounts for the time being, especially if you notice that their content affects your happiness. It already is hard enough staying uplifted during these challenging times, without media making things worse.
Instead of shutting out news portals and social media platforms completely, limit your time spent on them and choose your ‘followings’ wisely. Try this out for a couple of weeks and you’ll notice your mind becoming more positive!
Healthy food, sufficient sleep, yoga – repeat!
This was a mouthful, but it has, in fact, been proven that a healthy eating, sleeping and exercise routine can positively impact your mental health. These three factors alone can boost your mood, improve memory power and increase energy levels whilst also keeping anxiety and depression at bay.
Ensure your diet contains lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. This, of course, does not mean you should stop occasionally snacking and indulging in a Big Mac, but make sure to practice moderation in your diet. After a good meal, set aside all your tech devices, switch off all your lights and enjoy a peaceful 6-8 hours of sleep. Sleep deprivation (or the opposite – oversleeping) could also cause depression.
With your balanced diet and sleeping routine, the only thing left is to get some exercise in! Don’t pressure yourself with a regimented workout routine. Instead, focus on getting 20-30 minutes of exercise a few times a week. Keeping active can do wonders for your overall well-being. This trifecta may seem difficult to manage at first but over time, it will feel like clockwork!
Discover new hobbies
There’s something inspirational and therapeutic about finding a hobby. It can be your safe space and stress relief after a long day of classes and studying. The best part about discovering new hobbies is the lack of parameters. Whilst our socialising, studying, and movement have all been hindered, there is nothing in our way when experimenting with new hobbies.
It may be painting, reading, gardening, Twitch streams or even writing Netflix movie reviews – the sky is the limit. There is also no pressure involved – it’s just you and your hobby. This can be liberating for our minds, especially in times like these. Which is why, indulging in hobbies and past-times can be effective prescriptions to any mental difficulties we may be dealing with.
Stay connected and reach out
Although social contact is not possible, we have to find ways to stay in touch with friends and family. Loneliness and solitude are the banes of this pandemic, and they have caused much distress to people all over the world, especially students.
Make sure to carve out time for group zoom calls, an online game or a group study session. These little nuggets of conversation can make a world of a difference. Human beings were never meant to live this way, and a lack of socialising can be detrimental. Students all over are missing out on campus life, college events and yes, even studying at the library. Although it will not be exactly the same, replicating these activities online is possible, and they help greatly in bringing back a sense of normalcy and tranquility to our minds.
If you feel like you are truly struggling with your mental health, do not hesitate to reach out to friends, family, the college or a counselor. Forget the stigmas and taboos. You and your well-being are more important than all that.
In times like these, it can be difficult to feel grateful. However, if we start with the little things, it may become easier. Perhaps a phone call with your best friend, having a good meal or spending time with family – if anything manages to put a smile on your face, practice being grateful for it.
If it helps, keep a gratitude journal and write five things at the end of every day that you were grateful for. When you’re feeling low, you can flip through this journal and remember all the things you have in life. This could really change your outlook and transform your thoughts.
It may not do the trick every day but it could help with our overall struggle with mental health throughout this pandemic.
If you’ve made it to the end of this article, you may have resonated with a few, or all of the tips above. However, be careful not to overwhelm your body and mind by forcing yourself into these new habits. They will take time to cultivate, so be a little patient, and the results will be worth it.
In the meantime, know that you are not alone in your struggles, and do not let anyone belittle the importance of your mental health.
Mental Health Resources in Malaysia:
– Befrienders KL (03-7627 2929)
– Mental Illness Awareness & Support Association (MIASA) (03-7732 2414)
– AWAM Telenita Helpline (03-7877 0224)
– Apps: Happify, Headspace, Moodfit, PlusVibes