Studying with Mental Illness: Self-Care
Authors Note: One of my personal favourite websites to use is Tumblr. Not just for the aesthetically pleasing pics, but for the endless supply of positivity and self-care tips on the website. I have combined a few of my favourite things to do when I begin to feel a little overwhelmed.
- Eating and Drinking:
Make sure you eat food, and drink water regularly. Carry a water bottle everywhere you go if it helps. I always have a water bottle, and something I can snack on in my bag, because I tend to forget otherwise. Eat healthy foods where you can, but honestly, something is better than nothing. Take the time to eat, and drink. Nutrition and hydration is important for fuelling your body and will help you focus, and stay focused. I recommend carrying dried fruit, some nuts, fruit and rice cakes with you where ever you go.
- Taking breaks:
These are necessary. It doesn’t have to be long, but you should aim to take at least five minutes every hour, and some longer ones here and there. It can be hard to stay focused, and you can burn yourself out easily if you try and study for hours on end, day after day. Listen to your needs. Getting a headache? Take a short break. If you struggle with concentration when it comes to studying, perhaps try studying in groups with some friends.
- Mental Health Days:
We’ve all had those days where we’ve had good intentions to write notes on some chapters, maybe work on an assignment, read a chapter in the text book, or whatever, only to wake up, and feel like our mental illness is getting the better of us, and study just isn’t on your radar. It’s okay to take a day off to do something mindless, or enjoyable, or relaxing. It’s important to take these days when we need too. Don’t feel ashamed to take a day off for your mental health.
Go to that party, catch up with that friend for coffee, Skype with that friend, catch up with your dash board, or Facebook news feed, FaceTime your mum, whatever it is, it’s okay to do those things. Just as long as you don’t always do those things. Not letting yourself do those things, especially when you’ve been struggling with mental illness and motivation to study, and you take your socializing away from yourself entirely as punishment, can contribute to the cycle of not studying. Find a balance that works for you.
- Talk to someone:
A therapist, a friend, a significant other, sibling, parent, lecturer, whoever. If you trust them, and ask if it’s okay to talk to them about things that are bothering you/going on for you, then you should talk to them. Talking about things can really help you to start working through things one by one when it all seems overwhelming, and upsetting. Also, don’t be afraid to let your lecturers/professors know that you are going through difficult times. Utilise the programs and resources your school/college/university has to offer. Ask for that extension if you need it. For my fellow AIT students, follow this link for student support services!
It’s good to not only have a regular routine for your overall physical health, and fitness, but during your study sessions, it’s also good to get up, and move around, and do some stretches every once in a while. Just like with taking breaks, you can use those break times to incorporate some movement. Get up, walk around the house, stretch, do some star jumps. I am terrible with exercise regimes. I am working on trying to include walking more, reaching 10k steps a day, and other things into my week, because I know that exercise is supposed to help with focus, and my overall physical health. And it’s supposed to help with mental health too.
Get some sleep, and get some good sleep! 7-9 hours of good quality sleep per night, is ideal for most people. Know yourself, and how much sleep you need. I personally need about 8 hours, anything less and I struggle. Sleep can be hard if you’re struggling with insomnia (I do) but giving yourself as much opportunity to sleep as possible (within reason), will really help. Also, taking naps during the day can really be helpful. I often take short naps when I get home from classes, because I find it helps me to consolidate the knowledge better, and revitalises my body, and my mind for me to continue with my day, as classes take a lot out of me mentally, and physically. Don’t stay up all night, you’re better off getting some sleep earlier, and getting up earlier. And take naps if you need too!
- Be fair to yourself:
This is really important. Know your needs, and treat yourself fairly. Even if you don’t get everything done that you wanted, even if you had to take a mental health day when you have so much to do, it’s okay. I also feel the need to point out that if you work part-time, it is very easy to become overwhelmed between your course work and work-work. I encourage you to speak to your manager and your student support services if you are worried about your part-time job interfering with your study. Your feelings are valid, and you are not weak/worthless/incompetent/insert other self-hating statement here. You’ve done so well to accomplish what you have managed today.
With special thanks to the users of Tumblr (Especially Kate!) who have contributed to the ‘self-care’ tag.