How to Balance Stress and Your Mental Health: Both are Key to Surviving a Busy Season

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As midterms creep into the schedule, the October freak-out becomes a real thing for many of us. Schedules begin to collide as you try to juggle work, sports, rushing and classes. The job hunt begins and it’s time to dust off your resume and look for interviews. 

With so much going on, it may be tempting to simply ignore the stress and try to push through until the end of the year, but there are serious health implications to doing so. According to the Mayo Clinic, stress is often the cause of “high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.” Worse still, all that pressure and stress can often result in lower grades. The American College Health Association ran a study in 2017 where students reported stress and anxiety as the two largest reasons for poor academic results, above even alcohol and drugs. So even with everything else going on in life, it’s more vital than ever to keep a close eye on your mental well-being.

Luckily, there are simple ways to help manage stress. For instance, The National Alliance on Mental Illness recommends doing a self-assessment on your mind and body to catch a problem before it gets worse. “Getting to know yourself is foundational to your success.” Drs. Deborah Tull and Jay Feldman wrote. “Being self aware will not only help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, but it can also help you identify which learning strategies and mental health coping strategies are most effective for you.” Many websites offer simple ways to do this, such as the quizzes available on psycom.net. These sites also offer links to available help should you need it, as do most colleges, while Tull and Feldman also recommend developing a supportive network of friends.

Another simple way to fight stress is to stay organized. Getting a notebook or folder for each class is an easy way to keep track of important documents so you don’t have to scramble looking for them later. It’s also wise to invest in a day planner or calendar where you can highlight upcoming tests and assignments so that you aren’t surprised when they are due.

Along with getting organized, start working on mastering your time management. Set up a schedule and stick to it. Having a set time to study helps establish a natural rhythm for you to follow, while turning things in on time will avoid the anxiety that late assignments bring.  

Eating well, exercising and getting good sleep will also help keep your mind and body in top shape, but it is important to keep the dangers of oversleeping in mind. After a long night of cramming, all of us are tempted to fall into bed and sleep until our bodies say, “No more!” However, the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine warns against this practice. Oversleeping, they say, is linked to numerous health issues ranging from insomnia and headaches to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and depression.

“If you regularly need more than eight or nine hours of sleep per night to feel rested, it might be a sign of an underlying problem” Vsevolod Polotsky, professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins warned.

Most importantly, take a deep breath. Recognize you aren’t alone and that everyone is struggling with similar issues. Try to keep calm and tackle life one thing at a time. Stay organized. Be on time. Talk to others and keep a close eye on your mind and body. Doing so will not only keep you healthy and active but also make that mountain of books seem a little bit smaller.