While you are waiting for a counseling appointment or are considering making one, here are some recommendations for ways to care for yourself in order to minimize any distress you may be experiencing. These are recommendations only, and do not substitute for professional care.
First, remember that being in college is demanding in every way. Your academic and extra-curricular obligations are continual and you live in constant community with others. Family members, professors and others often expect tremendous things from you, and sometimes you expect even more of yourself. Remember that this time of your life requires a great deal of you. Be patient with yourself and the process of growing, changing and healing. These four years of your life are full of transition, adjustment, expectation and stress, as much as they may be full of promise about the future. To help yourself when you are struggling:
Keep as structured a routine as possible.
Try to participate in your normal activities, and keep with as regular a schedule and routine as you can, even when you don’t feel like it.
Make sleep a priority. Most college students don’t get enough sleep, and sleep deprivation is a major contributor to symptoms of depression and anxiety. Everything seems worse when you are tired. Going to bed and getting up at a similar time each day is ideal.
Be physically active.
Getting some type of exercise each day is good for your brain and your body.
Eat healthy food regularly throughout the day and do not skip meals.
You may not have much of an appetite, but eating even small meals or protein-rich snacks at consistent intervals is important to keep your energy up. Eating regularly also helps maintain your blood sugar levels which can aid in maintaining a more stable mood.
Reduce or eliminate caffeine and nicotine. This may include caffeinated coffee, soda and tea, as well as energy drinks and excessive amounts of chocolate. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and may exacerbate symptoms of anxiety.
Turn to your friends and family for support.
Although it might feel like a lot of effort to reach out to others for support, it is important not to isolate yourself when you are feeling distressed.
Share what you are feeling with someone you trust.
Write. Keeping a journal allows you to express your thoughts and feelings. The act of expressing your thoughts and feelings can sometimes help you to gain a new perspective on a situation or to uncover thoughts or feelings you did not know you had.
Do nice things for yourself. Engage in activities that are soothing and relaxing.
Take time to listen to music, read a book for pleasure, improve your living space, or be creative- even for 20-30 minutes at a time. While there will always be endless reading assignments, tests, and papers to complete, learning to create time and space for fun and relaxation is vital in your ability to maintain a level of balance throughout the year.
Distract yourself. Consider a healthy, enjoyable distraction, such as watching a movie or TV, playing a computer game, or doing something else that will temporarily take your mind off of your struggles. Go for a walk or a bike ride.
Think about things that have helped you in the past.
Consider engaging in constructive activities that have helped you feel better in the past.
Be spiritually engaged.
Take time to pray, read your Bible, keep a prayer journal, or worship. However, sometimes spiritual practices and disciplines that foster our relationship with God can become difficult to engage in when we struggle with feelings of guilt and spiritual inadequacy. During these times, however, it is sometimes more helpful to take a break from these if they are making you feel worse, until you have a chance to talk with a counselor or someone in the Dean of Chapel’s Office.
Practice relaxation techniques. Sit or lie down comfortably in a quiet space. Close your eyes, and take a deep breathe in, counting slowly to 5 while you breathe. Then exhale slowly, counting from 5 to 1 while you breathe out. Repeat 10 times. You can do this anywhere to relax your mind and body.
LIST OF HEALTHY ACTIVITIES
Talk to a friend on the phone.
Go out and visit a friend.
Invite a friend to coffee or for a walk.
Text message your friends and make a plan to do something fun, even if it can only be for an hour.
Organize a gathering (movie night, trip to the mall).
Cook or bake.
Exercise, lift weights.
Do yoga, tai chi, or pilates – you can easily find these on youtube or Netflix.
Stretch your muscles.
Go outside and lay on the quad and watch the clouds.
Listen to music.
Go for a jog.
Ride a bike or a skateboard.
Go for a swim.
Learn a new hobby. (wikihow or youtube)
Get a massage.
Go for a drive, get off campus.
Sleep or take a nap.
Plan to enjoy a treat at the end of a hard afternoon – splurge on your favorite drink, et al.
Cook a recipe you’ve never tried before – try to learn to bake bread!
Watch a funny movie with a friend (start collecting movies that make you feel great or make you laugh when aren’t doing well).
Listen to the radio.
Go online and read about another culture – pick any one! Reading about other cultures and different ways of living sometimes provides reprieve from what is hard and can provide a fresh perspective.
Visit or find a great website with your interests (Pinterest, Car and Driver, Sports) Learn new facts about an interest you have!
Go to a sporting event on campus and bring a friend.
Create your own Website or blog.
Sell something you don’t need anymore.
Do a puzzle.
Call a crisis hotline and talk to someone.
Go shopping and buy birthday gifts that you would need to buy eventually anyway, or start your Christmas shopping early.
Go get a haircut and have your hair washed – it feels great.
Go to Barnes and Noble at the North Shore mall to study – change of scenery can help.
Visit a museum – the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem is a great local museum.
Write an honest letter to God.
Write an honest letter to someone you are struggling with, but don’t give it to them.
Play a musical instrument.
Color in a coloring book or create a Zentangle. Google it, it’s fun.
Create a play list of happy songs that make you want to dance or play hard at a sport.
Write a poem.
Make a silly movie with friends using your Smartphone.
Take fun pictures with your phone and create a collage.
Join a club or ministry.
Plant herbs in pots in your window – lavender smells wonderful and is soothing at night.
Paint your nails.
Find some friends and play a game of football or Frisbee on the quad.
Take a hot bath.
Read a book for fun, yes, for fun.
Write things you like about yourself, truths you want to be reminded of, or things that make you feel hopeful or grounded on index cards and tape them to your wall.
Draw a picture.
Write down your own list of pleasurable activities!