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As the semester grinds on, the papers and assignments pile up, and the professors all start sounding more and more like the teacher from Charlie Brown, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The last thing on your mind is making room in your calendar for something that’s not studying, sleeping, working, or getting to class. Anything else is just valuable time you could be spending curled up in a ball contemplating the inevitable heat-death of the universe and wondering if you could use it as an excuse to avoid studying for your next test.
If you’re with us so far, but you’re asking, “yeah, and…?”, let’s talk mental health. We don’t want to tell you what to do – okay, we do, but only a little bit, because put your jacket on, it’s cold outside – but if you’re feeling like there’s no end in sight, that means now is the right time to pay a little extra attention to your mental health.
In 2016, nearly half of all students surveyed by the National College Health Assessment reported that mental health issues had a negative impact on their academic performance. That’s an astounding number of students. That’s half of your peers in your class, half of the people you live with in residence, half of your study group. And maybe that half includes you, too.
Wherever it is that you find yourself on the scale from “I got this” to “screaming senselessly into a pillow”, there’s a good chance you could benefit from some self-care during this busy, stressful time.
Self-care: it’s more than bubble baths and a cup of hot tea
Self-care means a lot of things. It means taking care of your physical needs, like feeding yourself and moving your body in a way that feels good and healthy for you or heading to the doctor if you’re feeling sick.
It also means taking care of the important things going on in your life. If you’re having trouble getting your essay finished, try tackling it with a new perspective: once it’s done, you will have a clean mental slate when you get started on your next assignment. If even that feels like too much, then start small: clean out a junk drawer, make a list, or take the first step on a project without pressuring yourself to finish the whole thing in one go.
Whether you identify as an introvert or an extrovert (or the much-storied ambivert), there’s social self-care, too. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention some of our programming that’s geared to scratch that itch. If you’re feeling chatty and want to indulge your inner PoliSci student, we host global discussions every Monday: sometimes it’s watching and talking about a TED Talk, other times it’s sitting down to tea and bannock to talk international issues. If you’re eager to talk LGBTQ+ issues, drop in to the Queer Book Club.
If those options all sound a little too social for you, can we recommend swinging by Crafternoon? Crafting is not only great stress relief: you also don’t need to talk to anyone to do it! That’s a win/win for the creative introverts among us. And if you just want to hit something, we’ve got a drum circle every Thursday.
Figuring out what works for you
If none of those make your soul sing, that’s OK – maybe all you want is to swing by the Hub and grab a beer. That’s a form of self-care, too. (Just try not to overindulge; we do not consider worshipping the porcelain god to be good self-care practice.)
We talk a lot about accessing services and finding the support you need on campus. We do it because we want the best for all our Mount Royal students. We’re like your mom that keeps telling you put on your jacket because it’s cold out and you’ll catch your death of cold: we do it because we care about it, dang it, and we want you to feel and do your very best. And, okay, sure, we also do it because you actually paid fees to us and we want to make sure you know what’s available to you.
The best takeaway might be to recognize that self-care comes in a million different forms, whether it’s a hot bubble bath and wine, axe throwing with friends, or going down the YouTube rabbit hole until you end up at the HEYYEYAAEYAAAEYAEYAA video. Find what works for you, and you might find that you have an easier time making it through to the light at the end of the tunnel.
There’s always help available
All that said, finding and connecting to the right services can seem impossible when you already have so much on your plate. When you need help, know that there’s people ready to help you, and they’re just a phone call away. If you think speaking with a counsellor is the right choice for you, please call Mount Royal’s student counselling department at 403-440-6362. If you need help urgently – if you or a friend are in full crisis mode, for example – there is a 24-hour crisis line available through the Distress Centre at 403-266-HELP (4357).