Taking Care of Your Mental Health

By Avalon Kelly

The topic of mental health has been de-stigmatized over the past few years; over the Covid quarantine especially, many people have realized the importance of taking care of your brain.  In particular, it is necessary for teenagers and students to prioritize their mental health and work to find the strategies that work for them to destress and refocus in overwhelming times.  Below are five strategies you can implement to prioritize your mental health.  Find what works for you, and use your strategies consistently to help maintain a healthy brain!

  1. Sleep

Every student should value sleep: not only does it give your body time to rest, but also it is essential in the formation of memories and assists creative thinking.  Lack of sleep can lead to extremely detrimental effects, such as poor health, weakened reflexes, and inability to focus.  Make sure to prioritize your sleep: try to get at least nine hours of sleep each night, and maintain a steady sleep schedule.  A good night’s sleep will leave you reaping the benefits of a brighter mind, increased energy, and improved mood.

  1. Breathing Exercises

Focusing on your breathing can be an easy, relaxing response to bouts of stress and anxiety.  Many methods of focused breathing exist; two of the most effectual strategies for me are box breathing and deep breathing.  

Box breathing: Each step lasts for four slow counts.  Close your eyes, and imagine as you breathe in and out that you are tracing the edges of a square: across the top for four counts of inhalation, down the side as you hold for four, across the bottom for four counts of exhalation, and up the other side as you hold for four more counts.  I like to repeat four times, or until I feel more relaxed.

Deep breathing: I like to use this strategy to refocus when taking a test.  Breathe all the way in, hold for four seconds, then exhale slowly and completely.  Repeat a couple times.  I find it helpful to use this exercise multiple times throughout a test in order to make sure that I can stay calm and focused throughout.

When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, you can use either of these techniques to recenter and refocus.  

  1. Time Outside

Spending some time outdoors everyday can lead to improved moods and a reduction in stress and anxiety.  If you need a break while working on homework, taking a short walk or just sitting outside for a couple minutes can be relaxing and rejuvenating.  If you enjoy exercise, you could go on a run, hike, or bike ride.  Personally, I have loved taking sunset walks for a beautiful end to any day.

  1. Relaxing Activities

Sometimes, the best way to take care of your mind is by taking a break from your responsibilities and allowing yourself to completely relax.  I love to take some chill time to read, listen to music, or bake.  Doing things that you enjoy helps you to destress and enjoy some time to yourself to recharge.

  1. Time Spent With Loved Ones

In times of stress, it can become easy to forget to make time for friends and family.  Putting aside time for loved ones can increase feelings of emotional support and enable you to deepen your connections with the people around you.

All of the above strategies can be extremely helpful in maintaining your mental health.  In addition to these tips, it is equally important to keep in mind that talking to a professional about your mental health can be the most beneficial option available.  Our school offers on- campus counselors, and the mental health hotlines and local numbers below are available 24/7.

  1. National Suicide Prevention Helpline – (800) 273-8255
  2. California Peer-Run Warm Line – (855) 845-7415
  3. Crisis Text Line – Text HOME to 741741