For the past two months, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to be an intern for The Kim Foundation. In that time, I’ve learned more than I could have imagined about suicide prevention, mental health, and the nonprofit world. I have never been more convinced that mental health is one of the most important components of a happy and healthy life. Despite this, as summer is coming to an end, I’m starting to realize that I’ve become a bit of a mental health hypocrite.
In between taking two chemistry classes and working, there hasn’t been much time for fun and relaxation. Somewhere along the way, I stopped living in the moment and started to just wait for all the stress and obligation to be over. I’m sure many busy people (especially college students) can relate to this urging on of the days, going through the motions, or waiting for the weekend. A lot of this is due to the fact that I haven’t been prioritizing my mental health. Deadlines, exams, and being constantly immersed in a competitive or perfectionistic atmosphere can sometimes be so overwhelming that taking care of our minds falls to the bottom of the to-do list. However, I’ve learned that it’s at the times we are busiest when prioritizing mental health becomes the most important.
When we take care of our minds, it not only helps us get through the stressful parts of life, but also gives us the energy to take part in the things that make life worth living and to truly enjoy it. As a college student, there’s many an opportunity I’ve missed out on because I’ve been too stressed or too tired to jump on it. With this in mind, and the school year coming up, I’ve compiled a few lessons that I’ve learned in my time at The Kim Foundation about how to take care of yourself, and truly find calm in the storm instead of simply waiting for it to be over.
1.) Turn off the tech. I believe something that young people struggle with a lot is balancing the blessings and curses of technology. While it may seem like checking your email every 5 minutes or constantly being in contact with friends is the perfect way to stay up to date on what’s going on, it’s often more distracting than helpful. Try turning your phone on Airplane mode when beginning a task, or download an app like Forest or Pocket Points to help you stay motivated to keep off of it. You’ll be amazed at how clear your mind can feel after a break from the flood of (often superfluous) information.
2.) Ask for help. Even if it’s something small, like taking out the trash or helping with laundry. Daily tasks can often pile up, making them feel more overwhelming than they should. Chances are, your family member, friend, or housemate is more than willing to help lighten your load by doing a small chore. Additionally, let professors know when you are struggling! They often want, and will find a way, to help, whether it’s by giving study tips or letting you know about resources on campus.
3.) Don’t isolate yourself. According to NAMI, 1 in 5 young adults will experience a mental health condition during college. Remember that people care about you and can empathize. Sometimes all we need is someone to listen when we are struggling. Realize that socializing doesn’t have to be a big time commitment, reaching out could be as simple as shooting a friend or family member a text or studying in a group.
4.) Take breaks often. I’m the kind of person who will work at something nonstop until it’s done, even if it means I’m up all night. However, studies show that the most productive people take breaks often. “All efforts to control behavior, to perform and to focus draw on that pool of psychological energy. Once that energy source is depleted, we become less effective at everything that we do,” says researcher John Trougakos. Try setting a timer and taking a 15 minute break every hour. Remember: if you really can’t concentrate, calling it a night and waking up early to work is usually the best option.
5.) Embrace the stress. According to Stanford researcher, Alia Crum, “Viewing stress as a helpful part of life, rather than as harmful, is associated with better health, emotional well-being, and productivity at work – even during periods of high stress.” When we can change our mindsets to view stress as our bodies’ way of rising to a challenge, we can find meaning in the adversity we face and end up more compassionate, stronger, wiser people.
Erin Carollo has worked as an intern for The Kim Foundation since May 2018. She is a Senior at The University of San Diego and is majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Chemistry and Biology. Erin loves to hike and be outdoors.