How to Keep Up Your Mental Health This Semester

And Still Pass Your Classes


Tammy Do, Times Staff

  1. Breathe.

When you’re feeling particularly stressed out, or your brain is going a million miles per minute, take a moment to just breathe. Five to 10 deep breaths to fill your lungs and feed your brain will do wonders to slow you down and allow you to focus.

  1. Schedule, schedule, schedule.

Time management is key to balancing school, work, family, relationships, and all the other obligations in your life. But don’t forget to include time for self-care as well.

Remember to slot in sleep, meals, work outs, as well as personal time. Personal time can look like painting your nails, shooting some hoops, getting coffee, or whatever else makes you happy.

Be realistic about how much you can do. You might be able to pull off one twenty-hour day, but can you really pull it off for a month? Try to reduce your conflicts, and scale back. It’s better to do less than to burn out in the middle of semester.

  1. Sleep.

It may be tempting to cut a few hours of sleep here and there to catch up on your notes, or pull a late night to study for a test the next morning. But insomnia and sleep deprivation can lead to depression and anxiety. Staying up one night will lead you to be less aware the next day, more likely to make mistakes – and lead to a feedback loop of constantly feeling on the run and frazzled.

Instead, keep to a standard sleep schedule most nights of the week, making sure to get around eight hours a night. If you struggle with going to bed at a good time, work on improving your sleep hygiene, i.e. don’t do things in bed during the day, keep off screens and other bright lights for an hour before bed, and have a routine which relaxes you before the day is done. A sleep supplement such as melatonin or a white noise machine may also help those who struggle with getting to sleep.

  1. Eat healthy.

Your body needs energy and your brain does too. You wouldn’t expect your body to perform its best on a diet of instant ramen, so don’t expect your brain to either. Having well-balanced meals will help your brain focus, learn, and retain information throughout the day.

Don’t use busyness and being on the go as an excuse to eat junk food. Pack healthy high-protein snacks to eat on the go, to give you long-lasting energy to make it through to your next meal, instead of sugary ones that will make you crash later. (And it’ll save you time in the checkout line.)

Another time saver is making enough at dinner to bring the leftovers to lunch the next day. Cooking for yourself can be easy if you do the food prep beforehand, such as during the weekend.

Even if you don’t have the time to cook, take time with your meals and eat mindfully. It may be tempting to scarf down your food, or eat while looking at your cell phone screen, but when you do so, you’ll often miss your own body’s signals about when it’s full, or what it needs. Take snack and meal times instead as a chance to slow down and enjoy it as time for yourself, or to catch up with your loved ones.

  1. Exercise.

Don’t underestimate how important physical health is to mental health. Besides uplifting mood, exercise can also increase energy, decrease pain, and improve sleep.

It doesn’t take much to see the benefits. Sometimes just taking a ten minute break to stretch your legs, or do some jumping jacks will revitalize your mind and keep you from developing those chair aches.

  1. Talk about it.

Sometimes you just need a sympathetic ear for your troubles. Call up your friends and tell them about all the things that are driving you up the wall. They’ll sympathize; then you’ll switch and listen to them. Then get friendship smoothies. That’s just what friends are for. Just remember not to do it on public social media or anywhere else you could leave evidence.

  1. Get support.

If you’re struggling or need help, please reach out, to your family, your peers, and to your professors. Professors know that you have a busy life outside class and unforeseen circumstances can come up that impede your schoolwork, and are often willing to work with you if you approach them (before you’ve bombed the semester).

Additionally, SJCC has added a program called Case Management, a service designed to help students and faculty who are dealing with crisis, including but not limited to depression, anxiety, intimate partner violence, and homelessness. Case Manager Sophia de la Fuente, whose office is located in the Student Center Health Services Clinic (SC109), recognizes that students need to have their safety ensured before they can succeed.

“We recognize that what may have happened that morning and years ago may affect their academics; we hope to support them holistically,” said de la Fuente.

Case Management can help students by arranging medical health care or counseling outside of campus, finding emergency shelter and housing, and overall organizing support from other on-campus and community resources.