A new semester is upon us, and many students across the country are heading back to class. While it is an exciting time for students to return to in-person learning and see their teachers and friends, there are still many hurdles that students are facing. Many students are experiencing mental health challenges — whether these challenges appeared as a result of the pandemic or existed beforehand.
Mental health struggles have become even more prevalent all over the world, especially during the pandemic. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between March and May of 2020, hospitals saw a 24% increase in the number of mental health emergency visits by kids aged 5 to 11 years old and a 31% increase for kids 12 to 17. Additionally, California saw a 20% increase in suicide rates in students from the ages of 10–18 between 2019 and 2020. For some students, re-entering the classroom can be overwhelming as they work to adjust to another new routine. Below are a few tips to help students with that transition and develop positive mental health habits!
Monitoring Mental Health
The first step to improving a person’s mental health is to be more aware of it and to keep track of how they are feeling. Students know best what is and isn’t their normal mood or behavior. When a student finds themselves feeling out of the norm, like feeling stressed, depressed, or worried, they should feel comfortable reaching out to someone they trust to get the help or guidance they need. It’s easy for students to push aside their feelings when thinking about all the other things going on in their life, but doing so can often make matters worse, and bottling up feelings can increase pain and suffering.
Practice Healthy Habits
Mental health is something that needs to be exercised. A person’s mental state relies on many factors, such as what they eat and drink (are they getting the proper nutrients every day?), how active they are (how much physical exercise they are getting every day?), and quality of sleep (are they getting the right amount of hours every night?). The easiest way to make sure students are practicing healthy habits is for them to schedule a routine. Setting a routine will make sure they are using their time wisely and are sticking to their healthy habits. Students can plan their schedule whichever way suits them best; it’s all about making sure they do all of these things in a manageable way. For example, some people like to exercise early in the morning, while others like to exercise later in the day. Depending on their age, students will know best what is most optimal for them.
Meet and Connect With Others
Now that students are returning to class, they are reuniting with (and in some cases meeting new) classmates. Meaningful connections help students feel healthy and happy. That could mean studying together, making plans for the weekend, or just conversing over lunch. Socializing is such an important part of mental wellbeing, and over the past year and a half, so many students have been stripped of that. Students should make sure that in addition to getting an education, that they are forming valuable and healthy connections with their peers. Clubs and organizations are great places for students to meet others. It can also be beneficial for students to branch out and take part in clubs they wouldn’t normally be interested in; it may surprise them with a new passion or a new best friend.
Practice Self Acceptance
Students can be their own biggest enemy when it comes to their education, and they can be very hard on themselves. Students often create stress by comparing themselves to others. One important way to combat the temptation to compare oneself to others is to practice self-love. Although it can be easy for people to focus on the negative aspects of themselves instead of their good qualities, it’s a good practice to make time for themselves and do things that make them feel happy and confident. Students can also write down things they like about themselves, no matter how small, or some of the compliments they’ve received from their friends and family. This can be part of the student’s routine, and it’s best to try this multiple times each week if possible.
Finally, students should make sure they get help when they need it. There is no shame in needing help, whether that be from their friends and family, a professional, or a trusted adult. If a student is feeling mentally unwell, they should consider talking to someone about it. The first step, which can often be the hardest, is to reach out. There are many changes happening in today’s education — changes that can be overwhelming for students. But starting to create healthy mental health habits and prioritizing wellness is the first and most important step.
Written By: Irfan Jeddy