Each year in October, the National Alliance on Mental illness works to raise awareness of mental illness. In honor of that, Andrea Mills, the assistant director of the counseling center, provided some tips for Lipscomb college students to maintain mental and emotional health, and some ways in which they can support their friend’s mental health as well. Taking care of your mental and emotional health is just as important as taking care of your physical health, she says.
5 Tips to Maintain Mental and Emotional Health in College
Take care of your body
There is a reason our emotions can cause physical reactions. Our physical health directly affects our emotional health, so one important way to maintain mental and emotional health is to take care of your body. Eating right and exercising are good habits that will benefit your mental and emotional wellness. Students have this mentality that they are going to eat pizza all the time and stay up all night. When you eat poorly and stay up all night it really starts to compromise your mental health.
Maintain your social health
Get involved on campus, explore Nashville and the surrounding areas and fall in love with the city you’re in. We see homesickness a lot but it’s usually from people who don’t get out and explore the city. Stay in contact with old friends. Some people come to college and get involved here, but they don’t talk to their parents or friends from back home. Just like the song says, “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold.”
Restore your spirit
Maintaining a relationship with God is another step to achieving mental and emotional wellness. Spiritual activities such as engaging in prayer, attending church, reading the Bible and asking big faith questions are great ways to continually partake in your faith. Students may have a church they are a member of back home, but it can be so helpful to find a church to get plugged into here as well. Spiritual formation helps us all feel a sense of purpose. Spiritual health, while often discounted, is one of the most important pieces of mental and emotional health.
Learn how to cope
There are several healthy coping mechanisms students can develop instead of numbing out. A great number of students say they use Netflix to cope with stress or mental health issues. When they are stressed out, students also use social media or streaming to push away the problem. Healthy coping skills include things like music, laughter, being outdoors, art, yoga, animals, prayer, spending time with friends or cooking. Any hobbies that get you out of your own head are a useful means of coping. These hobbies and coping mechanisms are different for everyone, though, so find what suits you.
Know when to reach out
Reaching out can mean two different things: Reaching out when you need help and reaching out to others through service and encouragement.
1. Ask for help when you feel like you’re getting overwhelmed, don’t think “I don’t want to burden my friends.” Your friends want to know when you are hurting or struggling. Our struggles wouldn’t feel so grand if we talked about them. We would all feel less alone too. Tell people when you are hurting a friend, mentor, professor or someone in the counseling center. Make sure these thoughts and emotions get outside yourself.
2. Take time to focus on and serve others. Sometimes when you focus on others and their needs, it helps you to feel better too. Helping others is another way to feel we have a purpose. Serving others spreads happiness and can help you feel more fulfilled.
5 ways to support your friends’ mental health and wellness
Check in with those around you
Some people are so hesitant to tell their friends about what they are going through, but if you ask them, “How are you really doing,” people will tell you. Checking in makes them feel valued and it gives you the opportunity to help make their situation better.
Listen more than you speak
Always be willing to hear people out; they have something to say. If you ask how they’re doing, don’t ignore them. Sometimes, people just need to be heard rather than coached.
Know the resources to share
If you are someone’s point person to confide in, it is important to know available resources beyond yourself. The Counseling Center is a great resource. They can be found in the lower level of Elam Hall from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or you can call 615966-1781.
Other resources available include:
Campus Security - 615-966-7600
Mobile Crisis Unit - 855-CRISIS-1 – This is a local crisis unit open 24/7 that will come to you, wherever you are.
National Suicide Prevention Line – 1-800-273-8255
Crisis Text Line - text “start” to 741741
Remind them you care
To remind your friends that you value and care for them, do small things to remind them before it comes to a mental health issue. Nothing big, just simple little things such as bringing them coffee, sending them a note or giving them a compliment.
Be patient with them
Life is full of ups and downs for everyone, and you never know what someone is going through. Always be patient and give grace to your friends and to yourself.
Lipscomb students also have the opportunity to to build resilience and learn more about mental and emotional health through a new program called UShine. To learn more about ways you can get involved, click here.
For more information on these tips, visit ulifeline.org/lipscomb.