Time out for mental health

By on October 25, 2013

Midterms are here, and stress levels are beginning to soar at Quinnipiac and at college campuses nationwide. In a community of university students, who by definition are already prone to mental health issues, this surge in anxiety levels can be detrimental not only emotionally, but academically as well.

According to Web MD, too much stress can cause severe depression in susceptible individuals. In addition, the National Institute of Mental Health showed that 30 percent of college students reported feeling “so depressed that it was difficult to function” at some point in 2011. While stress isn’t always a bad thing, and can even lead to increased short-term productivity, the correlating depression can be debilitating.

Not only does depression cause increased suicidal thoughts, but it also leads to issues with substance abuse and a higher occurrence of unsafe sex. Clearly, these are all things that should be avoided, but with all of the emphasis placed on GPA, academic success and involvement on campus, it is difficult to find time to be in touch with your mental wellbeing.

If you are one of the many people who think you are too busy to worry about these problems, here’s a hint: you aren’t. Take the time, no excuses, and you will reap the benefits. If you don’t put yourself first, no one else will; not your peers, not your friends and certainly not your professors. It’s not that they don’t care, but they are just as busy as everyone else.

 So set aside some time today, or later this week, and dedicate it to yourself. Sooth your nerves and reboot your system by doing something on your own. Go in to New Haven and walk around the park, the Yale campus or just the streets full of shops. Take it all in, or turn your mind off. Do not focus on all of the things you need to do. This is a time for reflection, and the scheduling and work can wait an hour.

An even better option is right across the street. There is nothing quite as rejuvenating as a nice hike; it boosts your endorphins and helps clear your mind. Also, a study at the University of Illinois’ Landscape and Human Health Laboratory found that interaction with nature is vital to both physical and psychological health, and makes people better equipped to deal with stress in everyday life.

Life is too short to spend obsessing over commitments and never-ending to-do lists. In the end, it doesn’t matter whether you spent four hours studying instead of three. What matters is how you felt along the way, and by giving yourself a break and relaxing every now and then you set a healthy mental foundation to build your life on.

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About Caroline Tufts