7 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Mental Health

7 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Mental Health

Finding ways to take time and care for your well-being
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As college students (and even adults) we all struggle with mental health problems. This can be anything from a week of anxiety to more serious mental illnesses. Here are 7 tips on how you can easily improve your mental health.

1. Get Enough Sleep

I know this is a struggle for most college students. You’re busy, I get it, but sleep is important for body function, and thus mental function. Generally, people need around eight hours of sleep, but it can vary depending on your personal needs. You probably know your body better than I do and how much sleep you need to feel rested; aim for that amount. Also it’s better to get consistent sleep across the week. So rather than sleep four hours one night and twelve the next, try for eight each.

2. Exercise

This doesn’t have to mean going to the gym three times a week for half an hour, although it certainly can be that. It can be anything that gets you up moving your body. Go swimming. Do some yoga. Take a walk. Do one of the many 10-minute workouts you can find on Youtube. Dance to your favorite song. There are tons of options out there. Try and build quick exercise into your schedule. If you can, do something outside during the daytime because the sun is good for you, we all need the Vitamin D too!

3. Food and Water

Eating is important to keeping your body going. Try and eat on a consistent schedule and frequently. It’s actually better to eat little meals more often than it is to eat large meals two or three times per day. Also, don’t skip breakfast! Even if all you can get down is a bowl of cereal or a granola bar, do that. You need the energy.

It’s recommended that your drink half your weight in fluid ounces of water per day. For example, if you weigh 140 lbs, you should be drinking 70 fl. oz. of water. Then for each 30 minutes of exercise, add 12 fl oz to that. For the first couple weeks of doing this you’ll probably be running to the bathroom all the time, but your body will eventually adjust. I recommend getting a large water bottle (ones that have the fl. oz. marked on the side are great) that fits into your backpack pocket.

4. Mindfulness

This can be a variety of things depending on what works for you. Essentially mindfulness involves being in tune with your body and mind, figuring out how they’re feeling and what they need. For some, meditation works, whether that’s through deep breathing, yoga, or a variety of options. For others, keeping a journal works. There are tons of options that you can use, here’s a place to get you started.

5. Get A Mental Health Date

Find a friend and schedule a time once per week to meet and talk about your life, how you’re feeling, and what’s going on. This forces you to reflect on yourself in order to articulate it to someone else. Setting a time to talk is also important because it ensures you actually follow through. My recommendation is find a meal time and chat over lunch or dinner. Also, make sure the friend is someone you’re comfortable sharing with. It’s a great way to talk about your problems, and it’s also beneficial for your friend because they also get to talk about their own issues.

6. See a Counselor

I know that sometimes it’s intimidating to have to go and talk to someone about your problems. However, sometimes a trained professional is exactly what you need to get help. They can give you tips better tailored toward you. Also, counseling is free at many colleges, so take advantage of it while you can.

7. Give Yourself Space to Not Be Okay

There are times when you’re not going to be okay. You’re going to be sad. You’re going to be angry. You’re going to be upset. Feeling that way is okay. Let yourself feel those bad emotions in a given space. Whether that means crying in the shower, asking your roommate to give you the room for half an hour, or something else. Give yourself the time and space to feel whatever is going on.

However, it’s important to know when to move on from those emotions. You want to acknowledge and express your emotions but not dwell on them. Give yourself the space to experience them, then give yourself something to pull yourself out of that space. That can be stepping out of the shower, watching a funny Youtube video, listening to your favorite song, or something else that will make you feel better. The important thing is to let yourself feel bad and then let yourself move on from it.

Cover Image Credit: Bearseye

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black and white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble; and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time, until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling; whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die," or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you, you are not alone.

If you're thinking about hurting yourself please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionhotline.org to live chat with someone. Help it out there and you are not alone.


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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If I Could, I'd Start Running And Not Stop Until I Got To Kenya ​

The high altitudes of this east African country make conditions ideal for any runner looking to excel.

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If you're into running like me, then it's no secret where the best runners in the world come from. The African country of Kenya is home to some of the greatest runners to ever step foot on planet earth. Phenomenal talent emerges from Kenya year after year. Records get shattered as if they were minor accomplishments. Most of the talent goes unnoticed until the Olympic games roll around and get showcased to the world.

Kenya is a place I've always wanted to visit. Many of my running idols either live or train in Kenya. I'm talking about some world record holding athletes. Like Eliud Kipchoge, for example, who recently broke the world record for the fastest marathon ever. He trains every day alongside other world-class runners on the NN Running Team.

I constantly see athletes post on social media about their experiences while they training in Kenya. I think I would enjoy getting to know the culture. Life as a runner in Kenya looks like a lot of fun. The trails and roads look fascinating. There are always other runners striving to push one another towards their highest potential.

One big reason why I'd want to visit Kenya is that life seems so calm and simple. I wouldn't be caught up in the trends of society that resides while living in the United States. At times I feel overwhelmed and depressed from what goes on in the USA. I feel like there is a constant theme of people trying to outdo one another.

It's annoying because we are all the same and nothing should separate us, Sometimes I just want to get away from all that. I'd rather live out like a hermit and pave my own path in the vast open lands of eastern Africa. I admire the closeness of people in tribes and group settings in Kenya. People seem to be bonded tightly and enjoy the precious moments of life.

From what I read about Kenyan athletes, it sounds like I'd enjoy my time in the country. I would get to train with like-minded individuals day in and day out. The scenery would be incredible and breathtaking. There's just something about Kenya that gravitates me towards it. I've got it on my bucket list to accomplish at some point in my life.

Maybe my running ties could lead me to this place someday. Who knows, I'm just going to keep running until I can't anymore.

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