Finals week is always stressful, but it is sure to be even worse this time around with COVID-19 refusing to leave us alone. It is extremely important to take care of your mental health during this time so let’s talk about how to do that!
Ashley Virella, an intern at CAPS, has supplied us with tips she gives to clients. There is a lot here, but every person has different methods that help them.
- Ground: During periods of distress, it’s easy to get lost in our own thoughts and miss what’s going on around us. Tap into your environment utilizing your five senses: pick out five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Get as specific as possible with the details, and challenge yourself (e.g., five things you can see starting with a particular letter or a particular color/shape).
- Self-soothe: Create a physical or electronic go-to toolbox of items you can use to soothe and distract yourself via your five senses during periods of significant distress; ex: sight – photos of family/friends, pets, landscapes, etc.; touch (textures) – smooth/rough patches of fabric, fidget objects, favorite clothes/bedding; hear – favorite music, calming nature sounds, positive vocalizations; smell – favorite scents, candle shavings, etc.; taste – non-perishable items (e.g., candy, snacks).
- Use positive affirmations: Make note of positive thoughts you AND others have about you and/or things you do; store it somewhere you’ll see it when you’re most distressed (e.g., post-it notes near your desk/laptop, on your phone, etc.).
- Plan ahead: It’s easy to get focused on a task and let chores and self-care fall by the wayside; Look at your tasks for the week and determine a schedule that has adequate time to take breaks, eat, sleep, engage with friends or family, exercise, get outdoors, etc. For academic tasks, double your estimated time of how long it will take you; it’s better to overestimate and have leftover time to fit in a break than to underestimate and be working down to the wire.
- Set reminders: Planning for an activity and doing it are two different stories; Utilize your phone’s alarm clock and reminders to ensure you’re adhering to the schedule you’ve created.
- Create SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound (ex: I want to go to the gym –> I want to practice cardio exercises for 45 min twice per week).
- Use 15-minute increments: If you’re having trouble getting started, break a task up into 15 min time blocks. Doing 15-min of an activity usually isn’t enough time to finish the task, but will get you started. Most of us will want to finish what we started, and on days where you can’t…at least you did 15-minutes; that’s better than nothing!
- Set smaller goals: If you’re having trouble doing something, change the task to something smaller, more immediate, and more manageable; ex – getting out of bed –> sit up in bed, going outside –> putting on shoes, etc.
- Reward yourself: After accomplishing a task or goal, do something fun to celebrate (e.g., a treat, take a break to watch a tv show or movie, socialize), even the small wins!
- Stay in contact with others: We’re social beings who crave connection; although not the ideal, communicate with your loved ones often and make plans to hang out or attend campus events socially-distanced as you feel comfortable.
Did these not help you? Well, luckily Savana Williams and Olivia Rothman, two other CAPS interns, have given us a few more.
- Mindfulness Activities: meditation is great, breathing exercises (four square breathing–breath in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, breathe out for four seconds, hold for four seconds and repeat). There are SO many apps people can download for meditation (e.g., Calm, HeadSpace, Insight Timer) or go on YouTube and there plenty of free options.
- Remember it is okay to notbe okay. Feeling sad, anxious, and everything in between is part of the human experience. Give yourself some grace during times of overwhelming emotion and remind yourself that it is okay.
- Physical Movement: Get outside, go for a walk, stretch, do yoga, sit in nature–sitting outside alone is so beneficial, get fresh air, walk barefoot in the grass.
- Journal your feelings, draw a picture that represents how you feel, sit and write everything that comes to your mind, set a timer and write for five minutes or however long you’d like, Mandala coloring or find a coloring book that sparks joy and color in it.
- For homework, schedule in breaks. Try to give yourself a 10 minute break every hour without a screen.
- Take a break from the screens. At this time, we are sitting in front of screens constantly with Zoom, virtual textbooks, our phones, etc. Challenge yourself to take a break from the screen and find some self-care activities that help you feel present. Anything above is great, or take a nap, play with an animal, paint your nails, or anything that is grounding.
- Reach out to friends or family, or friends you view as family. Or reach out to CAPS–that’s what we’re here for.
Just remember that your mental health is just as important than your physical health. It needs upkeep too, in the same way as your body does, and it is your job to do that.
For more help or information, visit CAPS in the Bird building, 8:00 am-5:00 pm Monday-Friday.