By: Devana Petrovic, Staff Writer
For students, looking after our mental health can often be overlooked — it has been especially the case with the global uncertainty we’re facing and the stresses of an unideal learning situation. Before social isolation, I can vouch for how much easier it was to maintain a sense of emotional stability and to utilize coping mechanisms for the sake of my mental wellness. Nonetheless, the past couple of months for me have consisted of putting in the emotional labour towards reworking how I support my own mental health. Although I am aware that these may not be applicable to everyone and I am by no means an expert, I have found these activities and practices to be particularly helpful.
- Keeping in contact with close friends
It may not seem like it’ll be particularly useful for your mental health, but talking with your friends online during a time like this can do wonders for your well-being. It is also likely that if you aren’t feeling OK, your close friends may share some of the same struggles. If you’re comfortable, try reaching out to the friends who you trust to disclose this information with. I have found frequent FaceTime calls and keeping in contact with my friends over social media to be the absolute saviour in these isolating times.
It also doesn’t have to be a serious conversation. If you aren’t up to talking about your mental health struggles, I highly recommend engaging in virtual games like playingcards.io and scribbl.io while on a video call. Forget about all the bad stuff and unwind. You deserve it.
- Discovering new hobbies and interests
I know this sounds like one of those unrealistic beauty guru tips that don’t consider the extremity of real life issues, and believe me, I understand why you would think that. But hear me out: I recently got into collaging and it has been the only activity that has managed to immediately alleviate some intense moments.
Since I had never really been into collaging beforehand, it got me excited for how I could continue to pursue this hobby. Having something new that allows you to plan and anticipate additional engagement is a wonderful distraction and method of allowing yourself to practice mental wellness. It doesn’t have to be collaging, but if there’s an activity you’ve always wanted to try, but you’ve never really gotten the chance, allow yourself to explore it.
- Spending time with family/roommates
For obvious reasons, this one mostly applies to people who live with others. As someone who’s typically quite busy and is out of the house majority of the time, suddenly being at home a lot was a strange thing to adjust to. However, after some time, I discovered that I could not actually spend the entirety of this pandemic secluded in my bedroom from the rest of my family. In fact, I found that arranging a daily time specifically for the purpose of spending time with my family members, to be beneficial.
Of course it’s important to have personal boundaries and to distance yourself when you need to, but including instances of family time has been a significant factor in my mental wellbeing. Your family members or roommate(s) are probably also feeling the heaviness of social isolation, so you might as well provide each other the comfort of your togetherness.
- Getting exercise or going outside
Since there’s nowhere we can really go these days, it’s pretty easy to feel glued indoors. After all, grocery stores are terrifying right now. But if the weather is good and you’re feeling up for it, try transferring your work area to the outdoors. Even better, if you’re open to it, go on a bike ride or a walk. Getting some kind of exercise or even just stepping out of your house can help you cope with the pandemic stress. As much as I have always dreaded the idea of a family walk, I have to say it has helped me understand the importance of fresh air.
If you’re not up to going outside but still want to exercise, there are many different ways you can accomplish this from the comfort of your own home. While I could go on about these different ways, The Peak released a separate article detailing ways to stay active indoors during quarantine.
- Taking a break from the news/social media
I want to be clear that this does not mean you have to abandon the news altogether, but that distancing yourself from the constant updates is healthy. These are unprecedented times of great anxiety and unforeseeable outcomes, it is essential for your clarity of mind to have those boundaries with checking news outlets and social media. It is important to be up to date on the newest measures and announcements, but it’s not necessary to be constantly checking the internet.
- Looking after your body and hygiene
With not having to show your face anywhere other than the occasional Zoom call, not looking after your body, hygiene, or appearance may seem incredibly tempting. Admittedly, this is a weird thing to include as a mental health coping mechanism, but with relevance to the circumstances of remote life, it is helpful to your wellbeing to put in the energy towards taking care of your physical health. I have found that on the days where I put in the extra effort towards taking care of my body, my headspace tends to follow suit as well. Self-care is more than just face masks and bath bombs, it includes actively looking out for your physical health as well.
If you find yourself struggling with your mental health, remember that as an SFU student, you still have access to health and counselling services. The MySSP app, for example, offers free 24/7 virtual counselling. SFU’s Health & Counselling is also offering emotional support groups. If you’re looking for a creative outlet, the clinical counsellor in Health & Counselling, David Linskoog, is hosting a game of Dungeons and Dragons targeted towards building social skills and fighting back depression. You can email him at email@example.com if you’re interested!
The Canadian Mental Health Association also provides resources, including hotlines and crisis centre responders you can speak to if you feel like you need to seek help.