Threshpective: How to prioritize your mental health
BETHANY POWLS Editor-in-Chief
How have I kept my mental health in check during the two and a half years that I’ve attended Bethel? Honestly, it is not easy. I typically abide by a few rules when it comes to keeping my brain and my body healthy and regulated when under a considerable amount of stress:
Spend time outside whenever you can. While the scientific evidence that spending time in nature is still a bit ambiguous, there is a connection between ecotherapy and improved mental health. As someone who likes to stay physically active, being outside gives me an opportunity to do so while giving my body a chance to absorb fresh air and hit the trails. Indoor living spaces can sometimes feel cluttered or crowded, depending on whether or not you live with people and whether or not your air circulation is good.
Have an accountability system or network of people that you can check in with to see if they notice things that you might not catch. When I’m absorbed with schoolwork, deadlines and responsibilities, I can always count on my modmates to pull me aside and say “Hey, you seem a little off. What’s up?” It’s gotten to the point that I feel comfortable going to them and asking if they’ve detected anything unhealthy in my behavior and (usually) they’re brutally honest with me.
Regulate social media. As if schoolwork wasn’t stressful enough, we are right in the middle of quite a few other anxiety-inducing situations. Social media makes me more angry than usual and has been the cause of quite a few sleepless nights. Wondering how the world will look in the morning does absolutely no good when I’m about to hit REM, so I’ve made it a policy to stay off social media before I go to bed. Instead, I try to find something interesting to read or something entertaining or enjoyable that puts me in a good mood.
Have regularity in your week. Sunday mornings are for laundry and church. Monday nights are for runs. Tuesday is my day to catch up on reading. When things are so easily changeable and crammed into the schedule, I actually look forward to the mundane, domestic, but perfectly thoughtless task of laundry on a chilly Sunday morning. It gives me a nice brain break and also an opportunity to call my family and friends from back home.
Acknowledging that you will probably be “Bethel busy” in addition to coping with other stressful situations is a healthy first step to establishing a plan for your mental health. If you are new to college, this is a trial-and-error process and it’s likely that you won’t have it figured out right away. Never fear, good mental health can be achieved. It just takes intentionality.