Life as a student can be stressful – essay deadlines, financial pressures and new social circles can all contribute to a strain on your mental health during post-secondary school.
Almost 70 per cent of post-secondary students in Canada said they felt overwhelming anxiety, and more than half said they were living with debilitating depression, according to a survey by the National College Health Assessment in 2019. Since then, restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic have also changed student life dramatically and students are now at greater risk of developing mental health issues. With many Canadian campuses forcing students to learn exclusively online, feelings of isolation, distress and disconnection are common.
If your mental health is suffering don’t leave it too long before seeking help — just like an untreated infection can blossom into something more serious, when bad feelings are left to fester they can lead to poor grades and worsening personal relationships.
Thankfully, there are many simple practices that can help improve your mental health while at school.
Here’s our top three tips you can implement in your day-to-day life to help you combat any feelings of anxiety or depression:
A 2020 survey of six Canadian universities showed that only 56 percent of students were even aware of the mental health services their campuses offered. Unfortunately, those services tend to be clogged up with long waitlists. Still, it’s worth a shot to ask if there’s a counsellor you can talk to or group therapy available. Your school insurance covers the cost. Some schools are also now providing 24/7 helplines through online chat for crisis and trauma support, as well as free online courses and workshops.
It’s essential to move your body at least 30 minutes three times a week, whether it’s a walk outdoors, a YouTube pilates video or hitting the treadmill at the free campus gym. Experts are clear that exercise improves your mood by reducing anxiety, depression and by boosting self-esteem and cognitive function. (That means it can also help you do better on an exam!).
Mental health issues will almost always be exacerbated by any sleep issues. Do your best to wake up at the same time every day, regardless of the time you go to sleep. While it’s normal to pull the occasional all-nighter or party late into the night with friends, do your best to keep to a routine. If you find it difficult to unwind then consider meditating or stretching before bed, and putting away your phone at least an hour before sleep. Scrolling is the enemy of sleep. You’d be amazed at the difference a solid eight to 10 hours of sleep can make to your mood.
By putting these three habits into action we hope you can begin your journey to increase resilience and boost your mental health.