5 Ways to Boost Your Mental Health during This Pandemic School Year
As we embark on the new school year, we feel excited and nervous. However, during these unprecedented times, we may also feel dread arising from the uncertainty of COVID-19. In combination with the stress of a normal school year, the anxiety from the pandemic can take a toll on our minds, affect our academic performance, and make us feel as though is 2020 worse than it already is.
Fear not! Below, I have outlined 5 ways that may help boost your mental health as you navigate this academic year.
1. Be Organized
Nothing beats an organized desk and a well-made schedule! We function best with a degree of structure, and maintaining routines is a great way to do that. By setting up a designated space where work is done, you can reset your mind to associate this space with work.
Following a schedule will help minimize distractions, procrastination and help you get your work done. Moreover, turn off your phone and block social media during an allocated time will help you focus. Alternatively, listening to classical can also help.
Exercise has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression. A recent study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that running for 15 minutes or walking for an hour can reduce the risk of depression by 26%. Exercising releases many feel-good chemicals such as endorphins and dopamine, which can energize you and promote feelings of well-beings. Furthermore, enables you to take some breaks from studying.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advsises against going to the gym right now, there are many great alternatives, such as jogging in the park, walking your dog, biking around the Sea Wall or foraying into the world of online fitness. There are many Youtubers who share exercise routines that are fun, engaging, and get you to break a sweat!
Mental and physical stress can increase levels of a stress hormone called cortisol. At high levels, this hormone produces many harmful effects, including mood swings, inflammation, and weight gain, which in turn may decrease sleep quality, promote depression and anxiety, and compromise our immune system.
One way to reduce stress is through meditation, which is increasingly popular. Many studies have shown that meditation can reduce stress, control anxiety and lengthen attention span. Additionally, meditation can also improve sleep quality and enhance memory capacity. In an eight-week study, practice of “mindfulness meditation” was shown to reduce stress-induced inflammation.
You can learn to meditate via Youtube channels, or via apps such as Mindfulness or Headspace. A quick 10 minutes of meditation a day can bring many positive benefits to your overall health!
4. Connect with Friends and Family
During the pandemic, it is easy to feel isolated from the rest of the world. However, it does not have to be that way! By connecting with your friends and family through Whatsapp, Messenger, Viber, Zoom and many more social media platforms, you can re-establish those connections or even making new ones. Maintaining good friendships and your social network is clinically proven to improve your mental health, decreasing depression and anxiety. As friends and family can help maintain accountability with your health resolutions and serve as your confidantes during difficult times, your mental wellness may be a call away!
5. Seek Professional Help
If none of these suggestions are helping you through this difficult time, there is professional help available. Please reach out to these resources to talk to a trained therapist:
- Crisis Intervention & Suicide Prevention Centre of BC: https://crisiscentre.bc.ca/
- Crisis Centre Chat (Online chat): http://crisiscentrechat.ca/
- Vancouver crisis line (24 hours): 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)
- BC HealthLink Mental Health and Substance Abuse Resources: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/mental-health-substance-use/resources
- BounceBack Mental Health Support: https://bouncebackbc.ca/#gf_3
- Vancouver General Hospital: 604-875-4995
- SAFER Counselling Service: 604-675-3985
Remember, in these difficult times: you are not alone.