Staying sane - how to balance mental health and study
First semester, second, finals, a year abroad. Whatever stage you’re at in your academic career, one thing remains certain: studying is hard work. The stress of exams, coursework deadlines and two group projects due for Thursday is enough to wear anyone down over time, no matter how resilient, so it’s important to maintain a balance when it comes to daily life.
From home-cooked meals to trips out on the town, take a break and come tour our best-kept secrets for staying sane while still at school.
Food Stuff – A Healthy Body is a Healthy Mind
First up, food. The stuff you put in your body can have a monumental effect on not only your physical wellbeing, but your mental state too. Fried, fatty and greasy foods only hold so much nutritional value when it comes down to it, so try to aim for at least a vegetable or two per day. Five if you can manage it. Shock plus horror for some, maybe, but your stomach and entire body will thank you for it.
The simple act of treating your body well and putting good food inside of it will naturally lead to more energy, more uptime and a greater capacity for learning. So dice some onions. Mix some stir-fry. Bake fresh tarte au chocolat. Cooking can be as much a hobby as a daily chore, and you don’t need to get all your grub from restaurants or the corner store.
Stuck for ideas? Look for bright new flavours that suit your mood and expertise online, for example this one for homemade salsa verde, the perfect condiment for a Mexican plate up. Throw that stir fry in a fresh tortilla, add sauces, and suddenly you’ve got a piping hot burrito on your hands.
Simple dishes like freshly sliced tomatoes (or lightly seared, if you prefer), paired with sour cream or mozzarella cheese, are refreshing and require minimal effort! Win.
Fresh Air Works Wonders
So you’ve studied. You’ve eaten. You’ve been cooped up inside all day long. Time to hit the ground running and get out on the track – metaphorically speaking, of course. If you’re a natural athlete, great, no problem. Balancing sedentary time and moving time will come naturally. For most of us however, staying active remains an act of conscious effort. Booking in a little time for a walk around the block, a trip to a friend’s house, or a little journey into nature does wonders for one’s mental state. Refresh your mind, breathe in that fresh air and in twenty minutes, you’ll (be ready for textbooks and chill all over again.
Pro tip: Make that walk even more refreshing and fun with the help of cool fitness apps such as The Walk, an app that’s basically an immersive game and pedometer all-in-one! Or download the Mr Bean app (Android/Apple), which rewards you with pancake and soy milk vouchers for the milestones you reach.
Screengrabs from The Walk. “Explore” the UK!
Study Group, Happy Group
Study groups exist for a reason – increased productivity, a focus on the topic and a sharing of knowledge – but most of all, they exist for some much-needed socialization. Revision doesn’t have to mean solo mind-numbing torture. So long as you can stay on target and focus on the issue at hand, whether that be an upcoming exam, piece of coursework or deadline, working with friends can be a great way to make sure everyone puts the time in. Joke, teach, laugh and learn. Book a slot and a room and get to work. It’s as simple as that. More brains are better than one, after all.
The next time you find the stress getting all too much, stop, sit, and think. Are you eating right? Have you seen another human being in the last 48 hours? Have you been outside?
It’s easy to get tunnel vision with the weight of a degree or outside qualification on your shoulders, but your brain and your body and the two are undeniably intertwined. Don’t beat yourself up for taking a break every now and then. Don’t feel guilty about a night out with friends. It’s all about balance, and balance can help your mind focus better too. Keep that in mind, and you’ll be making great progress in no time.