OPINION: Mental health and wellness techniques during pandemic

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Mental health is something that affects us all, whether we like it or not. Many factors can affect our well-being, but I think school particularly impacts college students’ mental health. The pressure that school puts on students can negatively affect students’ well-being and can lead to increases in depression, anxiety, and the number of students dropping out, according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.  

If schools want to encourage better retention levels and promote student well-being, then they must help students manage stress. Thankfully, the university does provide access to therapists and support groups through the Student Counseling Center. But I wish there were more accessible resources that can be used when needed.

Personally, I have dealt with mental health problems many times. Thankfully, with the help of others and myself, I have been able to find coping skills that keep me grounded and relaxed. As someone who has anxiety and overthinks almost every assignment, I have found these strategies extremely helpful. Without them, I honestly do not know where I would be in college.

When times get really hard for me, I immediately practice grounding techniques. According to psychotherapist Sarah Allen, grounding can take many different forms, but I have found one particular form to be the most effective. The technique I use is called the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. This technique involves the senses and remembering the present moment. The five steps consist of naming five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. I usually practice these freely and without a specific order. This specific coping skill really helps me regulate my breathing and control my racing thoughts. 

When I am not so anxious and instead feel burned out from Zoom classes and homework, I turn to another strategy: 10-minute breaks. Whenever I do homework, I make sure to take quick breaks. I usually watch YouTube during these. 

For example, as a communication major, I have to write many papers for my courses. So, I get drained quickly and struggle to come up with writing ideas. Whenever I get an assignment, whatever it may be, I complete a quarter of it and then hop onto YouTube. I watch a fun, lighthearted video that is no longer than 10 minutes. After that video, I bring myself back to the assignment. That small break seems always to help me get through the rest of the assignment. 

Another technique I use to lessen the stress of school is to make time for myself and find a creative outlet. When I look at my assignments due for the week, I check to see when I can fit in a day free of work. By declaring one day of the week as my day off, I end up completing assignments faster and with less stress, because I have a day to spend as I choose. But the demands of school work often limit my opportunities to express creativity. So I end up painting or drawing on my days off. Having these outlets relieves the pressure I often feel from school. I enjoy my day, forget about everything and focus on things I find fun. 

I have learned many ways to strengthen my sense of well-being. These are simply my usual go-tos. Ultimately, any healthy coping strategy that works for you is probably a good one. Remember, school will still be there. Make sure you take care of yourself first. 

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