Your Mental Wellness
According to the World Health Organization “Wellness is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
Wellness is the cornerstone to our quality of life. It determines how we ultimately look, feel, interact with others and thrive in life, school, and work. Developing wellness is an active process that involves finding the appropriate “tools” to make you a healthier and happier human being, plus discovering your own effective methods to use these “tools” for continued growth and development. There are countless ways to cultivate yourself on the ever-changing path of wellness.
A key component of well-being is resilience. Being resilient is the ability to recognize, face, and either manage or overcome problems and challenges in one’s life, and to be strengthened, rather than defeated by doing so. Resiliency is a protective factor when faced with adversity. Resilience is adapting well to adversity (e.g., trauma, tragedy, significant sources of stress such as relationships, school, etc.), it’s “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.
Being resilient doesn’t mean a person does not experience difficulty or distress. Emotional pain and sadness are common for anyone who has experienced major adversity or trauma and in fact, enacting resilience is likely to involve considerable emotional distress.
Importantly, resilience is not a fixed attribute, it is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.
Make connections. Good relationships with close family members, friends or others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens resilience. Some people find that being active in civic groups, faith-based organizations, or other local groups provides social support and can help with reclaiming hope. Assisting others in their time of need also can benefit the helper.
Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. You can't change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events. Try looking beyond the present to how future circumstances may be a little better. Note any subtle ways in which you might already feel somewhat better as you deal with difficult situations.
Accept that change is a part of living. Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.
Move toward your goals. Develop some realistic goals. Do something regularly — even if it seems like a small accomplishment — that enables you to move toward your goals. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, "What's one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?"
Take decisive actions. Act on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions, rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.
Look for opportunities for self-discovery. People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of their struggle with loss. Many people who have experienced tragedies and hardship have reported better relationships, greater sense of strength even while feeling vulnerable, increased sense of self-worth, a more developed spirituality and heightened appreciation for life.
Nurture a positive view of yourself. Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience.
Keep things in perspective. Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion.
Maintain a hopeful outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear.
Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.
Additional ways of strengthening resilience may be helpful. For example, some people write about their deepest thoughts and feelings related to trauma or other stressful events in their life. Meditation and spiritual practices help some people build connections and restore hope.
The key is to identify ways that are likely to work well for you as part of your own personal strategy for fostering resilience.
(taken from the American Psychological Association’s pamphlet on resilience, www.apa.org)
Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. We often overlook taking care of ourselves when the semester picks up, when demands on our time feel too great, or when we’re simply too tired to do one more thing. But taking a break and doing something for ourselves and our health, often then leads to greater productivity, feeling less stressed, and being better able to be helpful to others in our lives.
Focusing on the basics is the first step in good self-care. The basics are sleep, nutrition, and exercise.
Sleep problems are one of the top complaints of college students with only about 11% reporting getting a good night’s sleep. Prioritizing sleep and establishing a good sleep routine is important to feeling not only well rested but to you being better able to manage everything on your plate more efficiently and effectively.
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, keeping it as consistent as you can throughout the week and weekend.
- Avoid pulling “all-nighters” or staying up extremely late to finish assignments. This can lead to poor retention/recall, impaired concentration, stress, and anxiety.
- Avoid light from computers, phone, TV’s, etc. an hour before bedtime. The light confuses your brain by reducing melatonin and making it more difficult to fall asleep.
- Minimize caffeine use. Caffeine has a 6-hour half-life, so try to avoid it after 2 pm. Avoid energy drinks, sugar, and nicotine.
- Avoid alcohol. Sometimes we think that drinking alcohol helps us “wind down” and fall asleep. Although it can make falling asleep easier, it interferes with the sleep cycle and prevents deep, restorative sleep.
- Avoid taking naps, and if you do, keep it to 20-30 minutes.
- Only use your bed for sleeping. Watching Netflix, doing homework, or scrolling through your phone may all be more comfortable to do in bed, but that can make it more difficult to actually fall asleep as your brain has associated your bed with these other activities.
- Avoid going to bed hungry or full
Eating regular, healthy meals is important in maintaining energy, focus, and mood throughout the day. Taking time to do so may seem overwhelming when you are running late or meeting the other demands to your time. It also can be difficult to choose healthy options when stress triggers cravings for sugary, salty, and/or starchy foods, all of which are easy to grab at Miller or in the SUB. But taking the time to eat breakfast, or choosing something healthier than that piece of pizza and donut in the dining hall could help you feel better about yourself, help you have more constant energy and focus throughout the day, and could help you physically feel better.
Make sure to take the time, at least several times a week, to move your body. Exercise is key to self-care and to our overall wellness. Do whatever it is you enjoy doing—running, skiing, walking, swimming—just make sure you do it! It’s easy to make excuses to not exercise, but just taking 20 or 30 minutes from your studying to lift weights, go for a walk, or swim laps, will help you feel more calm, focused, and efficient when you return to you homework.
Check out the fitness classes, intramural sports, outdoor programs, and the pool and gym schedules at www.montana.edu/getfit/
Office of Health Advancement
Be sure to check out all of the amazing resources at the Office of Health Advancement! This is a wonderful, FREE resource to students. Take advantage of wellness coaching, nutrition services, the Body Project, education and resources for alcohol and drug use, and MUCH more!