Once junior year of high school hit, Benjamin Louis Santos’ mental health started to take a turn. He hoped coming to college would make things easier, but instead, the stressors of college have just added on. Santos said he goes through good and bad periods, and he just came out of a really bad one.
Cindi Winegardner, senior therapist at Milestones, a mental health clinic, saidas the excitement of the new school year dies down, holidays are just around the corner and schoolwork piles up, there can be a variety of effects on students’ mental health.
“Usually about this time of year, related to it gettingdark earlier, people can’t go outside as much and not as active, there can be more depression,” Winegardner said. “There can also be more anxiety just because they don’t have as much stuff to do.”
One of her tips for people is to communicate with their family, their friends and themselves. For Santos, he said having good communication with himself helps pinpoint what the issue is and how to fix it. He said sometimes he has to look at himself in the mirror and speak about what is going on, and it makes the situation very real.
When he is going through one of his harder periods, a difficult task for him is just getting out of bed. Despite how he’s feeling, he has assignments to complete and classes to attend. So he said these periods can put him behind academically. Winegardner seconds this, saying people can get pretty overwhelmed and feel less motivated at the end of the semester.
But what Santos tries to communicate with himself during these times is to focus on the end goal of why he’s doing what he’s doing.
“I just keep on thinking I gotta do this stuff to get to the end goal, and hopefully once I’m at the end goal I won’t have these issues anymore,” Santos said. “Seeing that light at the end of the tunnel helps a bit.”
Besides communication, another important activity Winegardner said everyone can do as a preventative measure is to fit a time for doing something enjoyable or relaxing into one’s schedule. Although some people might feel like this is selfish, she said people have to be healthy and have to take care of themselves first.
“We fill our gas tank before we go on a trip, so let’s fill our own,” Winegardner said.
Some other things that help fill the gas tank, she said, are eating well, staying hydrated, spending time with other people, having at least a little bit of outside time every day and finding places to be active.
She also suggests breaking things down into parts, as sometimes the whole can be a little bit much. Even writing down what needs to be done on a piece of paper and crossing it off can be satisfying, she said.
To take the focus off someone’s own stress, she said finding a way to give back to other people can help. Just calling up a friend and asking what they need shifts perspective to be on the other person.
“It can help get you outside of your own head, so to speak,” Winegardner said.
Overall though, Winegardner said it’s as much about managing mental health as it is maintaining physical health and being sure to make time to do the things that are enjoyable and asking oneself what they need.
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