Mental Health: Discussion, Tips, Support
When I scroll through social media today, my feed is filled with mental health tips: take a bath with a fun bath bomb or eat some chocolate. Not to question the magical qualities of Hershey bars, but this type of advice fails to provide real help in many ways. Media has distorted and demeaned mental health in the eyes of many youth to something that can be equated to a scraped knee: it hurts but if you get ice cream it will probably all be okay.
I have compiled a list of proactive steps you can take in order to address your own mental health, and how to begin working on your wellness and happiness. Don’t worry, having some chocolate is still on it, but so is focusing on what you can control and planning a conversation with a trusted adult.
Before reading through these exercises together, it is critical to take a moment of introspection. “It is okay to not be okay,” but more importantly it is okay to not understand why you are not okay. While these are researched steps compiled by trusted organizations/universities such as the CDC or UMichigan, everyone is very different. Don’t be discouraged if they don’t work out, because we are so, so proud of you for even trying.
Engage in physical activity/exercise!
Physical activities such as running, walking the dog, or swimming not only release endorphins, but make your body feel stronger and happier. I know it can be so hard to motivate yourself, but if you don’t already have a favorite activity, try a bunch until you find one you like! It might help to start off with an end product, for example walking to an ice cream shop, or to a park.
Set boundaries with media consumption.
Although media can be a good momentary escape, it can also be all consuming and psychologically detrimental. Media portrays idealized versions of life and can make everyone feel worse about our own lives. Make sure to take a break, and try sitting outside for a little, talking to a family member, going for a walk, or baking!
Set realistic goals/focus on what you can control!
If you approach your school day saying you have to get stellar grades on every test you take, and finish that 3-page essay by midnight, it just won't happen. Instead, try to readjust your mindset so that if you don’t do well on your math quiz, you can still feel good about your history test and that you wrote half a page. Altering your perspective can decrease expectations and stress. Personally, I have found myself more productive than I had set goals for this way!
Break up monotony!
Especially through COVID, everybody’s life looks pretty much the same every day. Feeling like you aren’t making progress, or just being trapped, can have very serious consequences on your mental health. Each day try to incorporate something new—whether just walking around the block or testing out a new chocolate bar (I told you I would include chocolate!), these can promote productivity and help find a place in life again!
Find interests outside of school!
For me, this manifests itself with our first tip: exercise. But I also love to bake and read, and my sister paints. All of these smaller habits which you might take for granted, or have forgotten about with age, bring some “you” time beyond sitting in a bathtub. They can help refocus your mind, and act as a safer escape than social media.
Take care of your body
Taking care of yourself is so difficult, we know that. But working on something tangible and physical can make everything else seem more possible. Eating healthy, avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, and taking time to self-reflect are the most important steps you can take when addressing your own bodily wellbeing.
Talk to someone!
This is something we all hear every day all day. But nobody really explains it, and it is so hard to trust someone else, or even feel like you are burdening them, that it is mostly unhelpful. To make the process a little easier, I recommend finding someone who has shown they support you unconditionally. Take a moment to reflect on the loved ones in your life and think about who would actually love to help you. This might be a teacher, friend, parent, coach, or family member. Then, rehearse what you might say to them (just like you would an old argument in the mirror or the shower) or even write a script in your journal. Rationalizing the process makes you feel like less of a burden, which means the world. Remember, there are also resources online to utilize, such as Mental Health America, or the Suicide Prevention Hotline (800-273-8255).
I know we have just overloaded your system with information, I got overwhelmed just writing it all down. So, take a moment to find one tip you will use tomorrow, and see how it goes.
Much love and support, Emma
Emma Dower is a rising senior at Sidwell Friends School. Emma hopes to study English and Gender Studies in college and pursue a career in social justice or communications.