There’s no denying that your time at school can be some of the most stressful years of your life. Sure, you’ll meet lots of new people, try out new activities, and set in place a foundation to help you achieve your academic and career goals, but the journey will be far from easy.
Late nights studying for exams, early mornings at sports practice, and keeping up with all the content in each class can test the resilience of even the most level-headed students. Above almost anything else, it’s important to keep an eye on your mental health while you’re at school.
What do we mean by mental health? Well, there’s a few different definitions of what it means to be mentally healthy, but most say that it’s a state of wellbeing where you’re able to do your best work and cope with the normal day-to-day stresses of life.
Often, people don’t talk about mental health as often or as openly as they talk about physical health, so it can be useful to draw parallels between the two. If you’ve broken your leg, for example, nobody would expect you to show up at soccer practice the next day – you’d need to stay home and recover. Mental health is similar in many ways.
Let’s say that, for example, you’ve started to feel overly stressed out by school. If you don’t step back and take the time you need to cool down, your mental health can get worse and worse, to the point where you can get overwhelmed by the smallest of everyday things and your motivation to do anything at all can fade away.
If you’ve ever felt that way, you’ll know that it’s only when you’re mentally healthy that you can learn to your fullest potential. That’s why it’s vital to keep tabs on your mental health. If this is something you don’t quite know how to do effectively, that’s okay! We’ve collected five pointers here to help you understand your mental wellbeing and steer the ship back on course when you need to.
Do the basics right – eat, sleep, exercise.
Mental health is absolutely influenced by physical health. School is busy, but it’s well worth the time to invest in yourself by eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly. This will help you maintain the energy you need to stay on top of your schoolwork.
It’s easy your regular sleep and exercise schedules to fall off when you’re in stressful periods such as exam season. To avoid this, it’s useful to set some guidelines for yourself before these busy seasons. You might make a deal with yourself that you’ll go for a walk every day, and always get to bed before 10:30pm. That way, you’ll be less likely to let these things go once you’re in the thick of it.
Make it a habit to check in with yourself regularly.
One of the tricky things about staying on top of your mental health is that problems can creep in pretty quickly, and almost unnoticed. One day you’re cruising through school and staying on top of everything – and then only a few days later, you’re lying on the couch struggling to find the motivation to even open your book to look at your homework.
To avoid these down periods becoming too long and drawn-out, ask yourself regularly: Am I doing okay? Am I managing to keep up with everything as much as I normally do? Perhaps you might want to take a few moments to consider the answer to these questions on a weekly basis. Before you can start the path back to recovery, you need to become aware that your mental health has taken a hit – if you don’t recognise that, you can’t do anything to fix it.
Okay, so you’ve found yourself in a patch of rough weather. What now?
If you’re feeling stressed, talk to someone about it.
Never feel as if you need to take on everything by yourself! The first thing you can do when you’re feeling mentally unwell is to talk to someone you trust. This might be your parents, a family member, or a close friend at school. These conversations can sometimes make you nervous if you’re not used to them, but remember that if someone cares about you, they’ll want to help you get back to your healthy ways.
If you feel comfortable, it can also be a good idea to talk to your teachers, tutors, and coaches about your mental health. They want to push you to become the best you can be, but all good teachers will ease up if they know that your mental health is suffering. Even saying something like “Sorry, I don’t think I’ll be able to get this assignment done until next week because I’m feeling like I’m under the pump at the moment” will help your teachers understand where you’re at, and they’ll often be more receptive than you expect.
Take mental health days if you need to.
It’s okay to take sick days once in a while, even if you’re not feeling physically sick. If you’ve been getting overwhelmed by your schoolwork and daily life in general, sometimes taking a day off to clear your head is the best thing you can do!
Remember, when you’re mentally healthy, you do much more effective work, and in particular your ability to learn is much better. When you think about it like this, it’s easy to justify taking one day off to get back to 100% so that the rest of your week is spent effectively learning, rather than sticking it out and not achieving much for the entire week (and feeling down while you’re at it). Take a day off, close your laptop and textbooks, and think about something else for the day.
If you’re not feeling right, consider booking an appointment.
If you’re experiencing mental health problems more than just occasionally, it’s always a good idea to book an appointment to see your GP and talk about it. No matter how small you think the problem is, they will always be happy to talk it over with you. Doctors are trained to recognise the signs of when you’re overextending yourself at the expense of your mental health, and they can help in several ways.
At EduExperts, we’re firm believers in promoting the importance of mental health in education, and we see it as a crucial element in helping you achieve to the best of your ability. We hope these tips have helped you recognise the signs of stress and anxiety and to know what to do if you come across them!
Want to know more about EduExperts’ educational offering? Get in touch with your local centre here.