Updated: Mar 27, 2022
My name is Ariz, and I'm a second-year biochemistry student. One thing I’ve learned since becoming a university student is just how important it is to have good mental health, for your sake and for the sake of the people who love you. Last year especially taught me that achieving a good school-life balance can be difficult when you have homework, assignments, and tests piling up each week. Neglecting your mental health is a common thing for students to do, but it’s when you’re busiest that taking care of yourself becomes the most important. Here’s a short list of things that you can do to give your mind the nourishment it deserves.
1. Get moving
This is something that many people dislike, but the mental and emotional benefits of getting up and moving are scientifically-backed. So many different activities can fall into this category! Going to the gym, doing an at-home workout, taking a stroll outside, or even doing some laps around your living room will give your mind a break, leaving you refreshed and ready to jump back into your work.
2. Eat well
This one may seem a little odd, but studies have shown a relationship between the quality of your diet and your mental health. Eating healthy, whole foods and cutting down on ultra-processed meals will give your brain the high quality nutrients it needs to be working at its best.
3. Get enough sleep
We all know the horrible feeling when you have to drag yourself out of bed for an early morning lab after having gotten less than 5 hours of sleep. Stop doing that! The relationship between poor sleep habits and decreased mental health has been established in many studies. That’s not to say that you need to follow the commonly stated 8 hours of sleep to be at your best. Whether you need 6 hours or 11 hours of sleep to function optimally, listen to your body and find out what works best for you.
4. Do something you love
Studying for hours on end every day can put a lot of strain on you, and finding the motivation to continue with a difficult routine can be challenging. Remember to take time to do the things you love! This can help break up the monotony of your school life and remind you why you wake up every day. Whether it’s reading a book, watching a movie, playing a video game, etc., doing something that genuinely brings you joy can be a great way to recharge and prepare yourself for another few hours of flipping through textbooks.
5. Reach out to family and friends
It can be so easy to forget about all the people you have around you when you’re constantly in work mode. Talking with someone you love can be a great way to wind down and get your mind off day to day tasks. Ask your loved ones how their days are going, step out of your life and forget about the troubles you're facing for a short while. The other person will undoubtedly appreciate the distraction as well.
These are all things that you can do to alleviate some stress and put yourself in a better position mentally and emotionally, but it’s important to recognize when self-help isn’t enough. If you find yourself overwhelmed and unable to cope with a situation, consider reaching out to mental health services available to you as a U of C student and from external resources.
Here’s a list of organizations and resources you can contact if you need more help or information:
University of Calgary Wellness Services Mental Health Services
Alberta Health Services Central Mental Health Services Information Page
Alberta Health Services 24/7 Mental Health Help Line
Crisis Services Canada Canada Suicide Prevention Service
Canadian Mental Health Association Mental Health Information Page
Alberta Blue Cross Mental Health Support