In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, Marcelle Hayashida, UCI’s Associate Vice Chancellor for Wellness, Health & Counseling Services, shares some actions you can take to prioritize your mental well-being
Get enough sleep. Try to have a consistent sleep routine and sleep rituals that signal it’s time for bed (such as wearing cozy pajamas, reading, or sipping hot tea). Put down your screens. Losing sleep can affect your thinking and your mood. Contact your doctor if you think you have a sleep disorder.
Make nutritious choices. Stress can negatively affect the digestive tract. Feed yourself healthy, nutritious foods. There’s no need to make dramatic dietary changes overnight- just add fruits and vegetables and be mindful of caffeine and alcohol consumption, as substances can increase anxiety or contribute negatively to our health if they are abused. For dietary consultations, students should contact the Center for Student Wellness and Health Promotion Nutrition | UCI Center for Student Wellness and Health Promotion
Spend some time in nature. Exposure to peaceful and relaxing green spaces has been associated with better moods. Southern California has many opportunities to enjoy nature year-round, and our own campus offers opportunities to enjoy peaceful natural surroundings.
Write down some of the things for which you are grateful. Research has shown that keeping a gratitude list can be beneficial for those with and without mental health issues. Explore the benefits of gratitude here. But beware; it’s possible to go overboard on the gratitude. Explore one perspective on the pitfalls of excessive gratitude here:
Seek professional counseling. Students, take an online mental health screening or take a look at resources designed to educate you about mental health here.Students who feel the need for professional care should contact the Counseling Center directly. There are urgent care services, evening and weekend support services, and a variety of groups and counseling options. Faculty and staff can reach out to UCI’s Employee Assistance Program or to their insurance provider for ways of connecting to local mental health resources. Recognizing the stressors of the pandemic and seeking professional help is a strength.
Move your body. Getting regular exercise can reduce stress and decrease anxiety and depression. Although you can certainly pay for a class or experience, dancing around your apartment or taking an outdoor walk can help you manage stress.
Think about how much support you receive and give. Social support has been associated with positive mental and physical health outcomes. Support can come in the form of emotional support (such as listening to a friend who is feeling lonely), instrumental support (bringing a sick friend a hot bowl of soup), or informational support (sharing advice or information.) Rather than thinking about social support as some grand gesture that is effortful or time consuming, try thinking of the smaller ways your social network shows up for you and the smaller ways that you can be there for others. Visit the Mayo Clinic’s website for some ways of cultivating a support network.
Have conversations with family/friends about what life might be like once you return physically to campus. Many of us have been home with family during the pandemic, making lunches for children or sharing wifi with spouses. Many students have been sharing close quarters with family members or roommates throughout the day. Although the preliminary adjustment might have been challenging, at over a year into the pandemic, many of us have grown to rely on these close physical relationships during the day. Prepare to have honest conversations about how your daily life might change again once you return to work and school so that the transition feels intentional and thoughtful.
Thank you for reading! Questions? Please contact the social media team at UCI: email@example.com