Returning to school after the winter break can be a stressful time with new classes, new professors, and the general pressure that accompanies adult responsibilities. The cost of new textbooks alone could send anybody into a state of shock (it’s a sick joke, really), not to mention the anxiety-inducing question of “what are you doing for the summer” floating around. After spending a month-ish being taken care of by our parents/caregivers at home, the reality that we have to take care of ourselves again can be a hard pill to swallow. In the peak of my anxiety, this transition was always the worst time for me.

In light of these challenges, I thought it was an appropriate time to discuss some ways to ensure we remain mentally healthy. We’ve all heard the run-of-the-mill recommendations: “visit your academic advisor”, “lean on your friends”, or “apply for accommodations.” While all of these things are great (seriously – the accommodations bit? – woof, it’s helped me in ways that I can’t even begin to describe), I’m challenging you (yes, you!) to try something else. In fact, I’m challenging you to do three things.

These three things are more “holistic” than the recommendations I just mentioned. By this, I mean they address the underlying causes of stress rather than focusing on how to rectify the aftermath once you are stressed. They consider your mindset – the way you see the world, your appraisals, your thought patterns, and your mental tendencies. Excuse me if this gets a little PSYC-y here (I am a woman of my degree), but as much as we think of ourselves as a deliberate and contemplative species, a fair proportion of our day-to-day thinking runs on autopilot. Humans are creatures of habit, and we do just that; we get stuck in mental habits, like hamsters on a wheel. Nonetheless, there are little things you can do to begin to tap into that process and revise your mindset. (I think I’ve been listening to Oprah’s SuperSoul podcast a little too much recently.)

  1. GLAD practice. At the end of every day, after you’ve slipped into your jammies and closed your laptop on your Netflix show of choice, reflect on the day you just had. Think of something you’re Grateful for, something that you Learned, something that you Accomplished, and something that Delighted you. In addition to being a nice routine to cap off the day, doing this can really work to change how you perceive/appraise your day to day experiences. Plus you’ll have pleasant dreams (okay, I’m making shit up now). If you want to learn more about this, see here:
  2. Throughout your day, find joy in the mundane. This one’s a little cheesy, but it’s actually super delightful so don’t @ me. As you go about your day, be mindful about little things that bring you joy. Think of yourself as Jim and Pam on their wedding day, as they went about taking “mental snapshots” of nice moments. It can be as simple as petting a dog, feeling the warmth of your morning coffee around your fingers, receiving a cute text from a friend, or chilling with your housemates after a long day.
  3. Relinquish control. We humans don’t like losing control, but it can be a really relieving thing to realize and appreciate that some situations are just that – out of our control, like the price of textbooks. It was also a milestone for me when I realized that I can’t really control other people’s opinions of me. Some things are just not worth paying mind. Take a (mental) load off.

Obviously, reader, I don’t know the stress you’re facing. There are some circumstances that just suck, often to a greater degree than spending almost half of this month’s rent on new textbooks. I also know that these things often can’t be solved by simply “thinking positive”. That being said, these practices have made ALL the difference in my mental health journey – more so than accommodations, or therapists, or even medication. More and more people are beginning to realize that this mindset stuff really works – whole practices and books (and Oprah podcasts… haha…) are centered around it. I hope they work for you, cutie.

Header Image Source: Imaginary Friend, Ani CasTillo
Next Post

are all bodies good bodies?