Midterm Madness Mental Health Tips

By: Heidi

Editor’s note: in our office we see mental health as a critical component of your overall career path. While these tips are directed toward college students, they’d be helpful for people who are no longer in college. 

I think as students we can all agree we’re at the point in the semester where projects are piling up, the assignments are never-ending, and trying to finish your to-do list feels like being on a hamster wheel. I’m all about trying to see the best in a situation so I found some great mental health tips that therapists give their patients in times of stress.

Now more than ever as a student is it important to work hard towards school but also take the time for yourself and your mental health. Here are some tips to take on to get through these next few weeks.

Small orange flowers with sky in the background; Text: Tips for managing mental health

Try writing your thoughts down
Take 5 minutes or so a day to write down your thoughts, feelings, or ideas. This can help you process emotions you encounter throughout the day and destress from it all.

When you’re super stressed and overwhelmed, see if there’s any way to put a positive spin on it
With so many deadlines as a student, think about how the stress of it is actually helping push you to get it done.

Counter negative thoughts with positive ones
If you’re feeling like you can’t finish everything on your plate, recognize your hard work and all that you’ve accomplished that day. For times when you’re feeling you’ll never be able to make it happen, remind yourself with a positive thought that you always finish what you start.

Have a self-care arsenal
Everyone has certain things or coping mechanisms that give them a boost when they’re feeling crappy whether it’s taking a bath, watching a YouTube clip, or putting on your favorite pair of sweatpants. These may be small tips, but it will give yourself something to look forward to after a long day.

Ask yourself “and then what?” when you’re stuck on an anxious thought
Push your thought process forward by forcing yourself to think ahead. For example, if you keep worrying about receiving a bad grade on an exam, ask yourself what are you going to do to prevent it or what will you do to boost your grade after the exam.

Even though the end of the semester can be a stressful time for us all, keep in mind that all of your work will get done, focus on one thing at a time, and take a little bit of time each day for yourself.

Of Possible Interest: 

Read Heidi’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Masaaki Komori

Managing Mental Health

By: PJay

Editor’s note: In our office, we view mental health as a strong component of overall confidence and success in your future career path. Use PJay’s experience, described below, as inspiration for taking care of your own mental health. 

As the end of the semester was approaching I found myself losing a lot of motivation and constantly feeling stressed. It seemed as if a lot of my acquaintances were also feeling the same way as me when we were discussing mental illness in the Asian community. Whether you are Asian or not, I’m sure you’ve experienced the feeling of being considered “crazy”, “lazy”, or “ungrateful” when you mentioned the feeling of having depression or anxiety. It’s a big problem I want to address it in this post. Being a person who is Hmong American and has been told by doctors that I have anxiety, I want you to know that you are definitely not those stereotypes mentioned above.

Managing mental health

First I would like to share my experience of learning how I came to be aware of my anxiety. I grew up in a very supportive family but mental illness was never addressed as something that needed to be taken care of. I think this actually goes for a lot of Asian households. My sophomore year was the time when my anxiety got really bad. My panic attacks would make my breathing irregular and I would lose control of my body. There would be so much tingling and numbness from my head to toes that I would end up falling over or passing out. For some reason at the time, I thought I had asthma and after several panic attacks, I finally decided to schedule a doctor’s appointment. When meeting with my primary doctor in Saint Paul, we went in depth about my symptoms. It turned out I didn’t have asthma, and she concluded I had anxiety. I was so shocked at the time and I thought the doctor was wrong because I was unaware of mental illness. I was in such disbelief I decided to schedule another appointment at UMD’s Health Services instead. But guess what? The doctor there told me the exact same thing. At first, I was obviously upset because growing up, all I knew was that anxiety meant you were crazy and I didn’t want people to think I was CRAZY, so I only told very close friends about my situation. Thankfully, all of them were very understanding.

Moving on, I knew I couldn’t run away from it because it was something uncontrollable in my mind, therefore the only thing to do was to make it better. I began to learn more about how to take care of myself through online research and being around people who understood and experienced the same things as me. In addition, I attended APAA’s Mental Illness in the Asian Community lead by Julie Kim from Health Services, which gave me more insight about how I wasn’t the only who felt “crazy” with my mental illness. It also made me realize there are a lot of people who needed my guidance and my support. This is how I stopped shying away from accepting the fact I do have anxiety and it is OK.

I want anyone who has, or maybe doesn’t have, depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues to know they should never treat themselves or others differently. Be aware that it can be a sensitive topic and don’t assume it’s “not real”. Someone may look normal on the outside but inside they could be experiencing something psychologically and these are considered non-visible disorders. Next time you hear about someone experiencing this, be kind and offer help. UMD’s Health Services offers free counseling for all register UMD students for various reasons. There are also very supportive groups on campus such as the Disability Resource Center and Access for All. Your mental health plays a bigger role in your life than you make think. Remember to take care of yourself.

Of Possible Interest: 

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Photo Source: Unsplash | Faye Cornish

Unplug and Reset

By: Heidi

Coming back from a school break can be a stressful and overwhelming time. You may have just had a week off and were busy traveling or you were enjoying your time relaxing at home. At this point in the semester, a lot of people are referring to it as “crunch time” and things are “getting real.”

With the overwhelming feeling of so many to-do’s, you may be left feeling with no idea where to start.

First, breathe. Second, map out all of the important due dates you have. Once you have an idea of the timeline you’ll be on you can create a day-to-day and week-by-week guide as to how you will be managing your time in the most efficient way.

With all of the assignments, readings, and projects, it feels like you can never be doing enough school.

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you. by Anne Lamott

There are many benefits to unplugging and taking a step back from school work. Powering down will allow you time to create rather than consume. If you think about it, the majority of our time is either spent consuming or creating. Allow yourself to take a break to build relationships, create hobbies, or forge a relationship with the community.

Here are some ways to practice taking a break and recalibrate yourself to be the best version of yourself.

  1. Get some fresh air and go for a walk
  2. Free write in your journal
  3. Cook a new recipe you’ve been wanting to try
  4. Sign up for a fitness class you’ve never tried before
  5. Donate clothes you don’t wear anymore
  6. Write down your current short-term and long-term goals

Take these ideas and run with them, or let them inspire you to create new ideas of your own to engage in. Although we are all at school with the common goal to get an education, allowing yourself time to take a break is just as important.

Read Heidi’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Oliver Cole

Self-Care Follow-up

By: Alissa (Disability Specialist & Guest Blogger)

Editor’s Note: Today’s post continues the collaboration we are doing with the Disability Resources office on the UMD Campus.

Adding on to our last post on self-care, I would like to share this list (source) I stumbled upon called 10 self-care ideas to inspire your process:

Pause and listen. Set a timer if you need to, but pause every hour or so and listen to your mental body, physical body, and emotional body. At a minimum, pause and listen once a day. I consider the 3 level check in step number one in our self-care practice.

How can we know what we need if we aren’t cultivating a relationship with our mental, emotional, and physical bodies? They each have different needs and it’s vital that we know what they each need for daily nourishment. Listen up! Need a reminder about the 3 level check-in?

Self-Care Journal. Keep a “self-care journal” and record the steps you are taking each day to care for yourself. Record your 3 level check-ins in your journal and any steps you’ve taken each day to care for yourself. This can include movement, creativity, food choices, rest and meditation, using healthy boundaries, breath awareness, and your 3 level check-ins, plus anything else that you are using to intentionally and radically care for yourself. This journal can be that thread throughout your self-care practice of what’s working and not working for you.

What do you do a lot of? What are you neglecting? Here are some questions to consider:

How have I supported and cared for myself today? What actions expressed my commitment to self-care today? What steps am I committed to for my own well being this week? What boundaries are nourishing me or where might I need to re-commit to them? Where might I need to make some adjustments in my self-care practices? What am I learning?

Ten self-care ideas for your mental, physical, and emotional health

Nourish From the Inside Out. Eat simply, eat at regular mealtimes, and eat slowly in a quiet setting if possible. Nourish yourself from the inside out with delicious and wholesome meals.

Get Embodied. Move your body and get embodied. Whether it’s walking, running, a ride on your bike, or a stroll through the woods. Move your body. Dance, stretch and do yoga. Move around and stay energized

Beyond the Body. Caring for your physical body in terms of self-care is essential. Just remember that self-care goes beyond the physical body and also must include the emotional body and mental body as well. Are you tending to your emotional body needs and your mental body needs in your self-care regimen? Are you addressing healthy boundaries in your self-care practices? Have you been re-evaluating your mental body messages? Are you working directly with the emotional body and the felt senses? Make sure your approach to self-care is well rounded.

You may need help with these pieces so check in with a coach, therapist or counselor if you need extra support.

Healthy Boundaries. Pay close attention to your boundaries. Listen to how you feel when you are with others. What sensations arrive physically, mentally, and emotionally? What feelings and thoughts arrive? Be aware of how your relationships affect you. Do they nourish? Overstimulate? Exhaust or support you? What relationships are worthy of your time and energy- which ones should be restructured or let go?

Healthy boundaries are a basic step in getting your needs met and getting the nourishment you need in your life. Use them as a vital self-care tool.

Ask for Support and Express Your Needs. Are you piling your plate too high? Are you feeling burdened and heavy with responsibilities and general overwhelm? Remember to seek support, guidance, and ask for assistance.

Don’t self-isolate and don’t keep your needs to yourself. Who and what are the trustworthy support systems in your life? Call upon them, invite them in, anchor with them. Seek the abundance of support available to you and your life, but don’t go at things alone and martyr yourself. If you don’t feel like you have the support that you need, it may be time to call in a new team of resources. Find a trustworthy therapist, coach, counselor or mentor to get the process started. Seek answers and solutions.

Get Inspired and Go for the Joy! Do something new that inspires you. Try a new class, try a new cafe or recipe, or simply take a different hiking trail today. Be curious and explore while getting out of old ruts and patterns that might be less than fulfilling.

Remember that this can be simple and doesn’t have to be a move to a new state or an exotic vacation in paradise! Do activities that bring you joy, recharge your batteries and inspire you – but do it daily if possible. Walk in the woods, write poetry, dance, draw, journal, play with your animal companions, cook nourishing foods, do yoga.

Reflect and give gratitude. Openly express your gratitude to yourself and others. This can be an essential ritual for experiencing more nourishment in your life. What are you grateful for about yourself? What qualities are you proud of in yourself and in your life? What can you applaud yourself for accomplishing each day that serves your well being?

Celebrate yourself! And celebrate others! Expressing truthful gratitude to others can be a balm for their hearts as well as your own. Speak honestly and kindly to others and remind them why they are so special. I consider this an essential ingredient for life and love.

Work it like a job! Consider self-care to be your part-time job—or full-time job! Nourish yourself daily and always be moving towards greater nourishment for yourself and your life. Take baby steps or leaps, but remember that what you do today will provide sustainable nourishment and well being for your future days. Your steps really add up!

Above all, do what you love, and love what you do, your life depends on it!

As you continue your self-care journey, remember to pause periodically and ask yourself how your self-care practices are working for you and if there are any holes in how you are caring for yourself. Make the necessary adjustments along the way and remember this is a process. Enjoy!

Of Possible Interest: 

Read other posts Alissa has written

Photo Source: Unsplash | Billy Williams

Self-Care 101

By: Alissa (Disability Specialist & Guest Blogger)

Editor’s Note: Today’s post continues the collaboration we are doing with the Disability Resources office on the UMD Campus.

Hi there everyone, Alissa here from UMD Disability Resources returning to post some helpful tips on one of my favorite topics ever, SELF-CARE. You might be thinking, oh but I am so busy and I don’t really have time for self-care? Then chances are, you could probably really use some 😉 Ask yourself: “What have I done today that feels nourishing, supportive and inspiring for my well being, my joy?”

In this post, I am going to focus on some helpful self-care tips I like to practice along with other helpful tips that may be useful for yourself. Beginning to practice self-care, you need to remind yourself that you truly deserve it and you are WORTH it.

Self-care simply speaking is basically any set of practices that make you feel rejuvenated, relaxed, or nourished in either a physical, emotional, spiritual, or all of the above state of mind! Self-care is simply putting time aside to recharge in a way that is really meaningful and helpful to you and there are ton of different ways to do so.

For me personally, some of my favorite self-care activities are practicing mindfulness meditation, yoga, exercise, walking and playing with my dogs, taking a bubble bath, and simply curling up on the couch to watch some of my favorite tv shows.

One of the biggest hurdles to practicing self-care is basically figuring out what works for you as it is something we naturally don’t think about as much as other life duties and responsibilities. We need to make self-care a priority just as we do brushing our teeth or making our beds in the morning. Self-care should be a part of your daily routine. One way to think through a self-care plan is to ask yourself who, what, and where make you feel safe and supported.

Some other important questions to think about are: Who are the people that you can surround yourself with who will make you feel supported? What are some activities that you can do that bring you a sense of calm, and where are the places that you can go to feel safe and comfortable?

Here’s how to start your self-care practice:

  • Start Small. If you don’t already have a self-care regimen in place for yourself, remember to start small. Savor a cup of tea quietly, listen to your breath for 5 minutes each day, walk out in nature, take a bubble bath, or play with a pet. These can all be small, yet meaningful ways to take care of yourself.
  • Put Yourself First. You can’t give to others if you don’t first give to yourself. If you are wearing yourself ragged, you will be giving to others from a very fragile and sensitive place. It will likely be with agitation, frustration, fatigue, and even stress.
  • Adjust accordingly. Because self-care is not a one-size-fits-all reality, and individual needs vary, we have to be willing to adjust and readjust our needs and priorities along the way. Remember self-care is a practice that is ongoing, lifelong, and requires constant attention and intention. Some days will be easy, other days will feel impossible.

If you can do one thing (at minimum) every day that rejuvenates you, then these baby steps can really add up! I know you can do it! Always put yourself first and prioritize YOU. Self love is very important, you got this!

Of Possible Interest: 

Read other posts Alissa has written

 

Mental Health Conditions and Workplace Accommodations

By: Alissa (Disability Specialist & Guest Author)

Editor’s Note: Today’s post continues the year-long collaboration we are doing with the Disability Resources office on the UMD Campus.

Today on the blog, we are going to talk about three more common mental health conditions and what might be some reasonable workplace accommodations for each of those. Did you know that approximately 61.5 million Americans, one in four adults, experience a mental health impairment in a given year (National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2013)? One in seventeen individuals lives with a serious mental health impairment, such as schizophrenia, major depression, or bipolar disorder (National Institute of Mental Health, 2013). We see many different kinds of mental health conditions working in disability and higher education, but a majority of the conditions we primarily work with would be students with anxiety, depression, and/or different mood disorders.

There are a number of different functional areas that these conditions can impact such as concentration, attendance, focus, organization, memory, sleep, stress, handling emotions, fatigue, and coworker interactions just to name a few. The next few pieces of information are found on the Job Accommodation Network website and include many of those different areas that people with mental health conditions could be impacted in and what accommodations would help to reduce those barriers if need be.

Mental Health Reasonable Accommodation Ideas:

Concentration:

  • Reduce distractions in the work area:
    • Provide space enclosures, sound absorption panels, or a private office
    • Allow for use of white noise or environmental sound machines
    • Allow the employee to listen to soothing music
    • Plan for uninterrupted work time
  • Increase natural lighting or provide full spectrum lighting
  • Allow flexible work environment:
    • Flexible scheduling
    • Modified break schedule
    • Work from home/Flexi-place
  • Divide large assignments into smaller tasks and goals

Memory:

  • Provide written as well as verbal instructions
  • Provide written checklists
  • Use a wall calendar
  • Use a daily or weekly task list
  • Provide verbal prompts and reminders
  • Use electronic organizers, handheld devices, and /or apps
  • Provide a mentor for daily guidance
  • Provide reminders of important deadlines via e-mails, memos, and weekly supervision

Organization:

  • Use daily, weekly, and monthly task lists
  • Use calendar with automated reminders to highlight meetings and deadlines
  • Use electronic organizers, mobile devices, and/or apps
  • Divide large assignments into smaller tasks and goals

Time Management / Completing Tasks:

  • Make daily TO-DO lists and check items off as they are completed
  • Provide organizational tools such as electronic schedulers, recorders, software organizers, calendars, watches, and apps
  • Divide large assignments into smaller tasks and steps
  • Schedule weekly meetings with supervisor, manager, or mentor to determine if goals are being met

Stress / Emotions:

  • Encourage use of stress management techniques to deal with frustration
  • Allow the presence of a support animal
  • Allow telephone calls during work hours to doctors and others for needed support
  • Use a mentor or supervisor to alert the employee when his/her behavior is becoming unprofessional or inappropriate
  • Assign a supervisor, manager, or mentor to answer the employee’s questions
  • Restructure job to include only essential functions during times of stress
  • Refer to counseling, employee assistance programs (EAP)
  • Provide backup coverage for when the employee needs to take breaks
  • Allow flexible work environment

Panic Attacks:

  • Allow the employee to take a break and go to a place where s/he feels comfortable to use relaxation techniques or contact a support person
  • Identify and remove environmental triggers such as particular smells or noises
  • Allow the presence of a support animal

Sleep Disturbances:

  • Allow for a flexible start time
  • Combine regularly scheduled short breaks into one longer break
  • Provide a place for the employee to sleep during break
  • Allow the employee to work one consistent schedule
  • Provide a device such as a Doze Alert or other alarms to keep the employee alert
  • Increase natural lighting or provide full spectrum lighting

Fatigue:

  • Allow flexible work environment:
  • Provide a goal-oriented workload
  • Reduce or eliminate physical exertion and workplace stress
  • Implement ergonomic workstation design

Attendance:

  • Allow flexible work environment:
  • Provide straight shift or permanent schedule
  • Allow the employee to make up the time missed
  • Modify attendance policy
    • Example: count one occurrence for all PTSD-related absences

Coworker Interaction:

  • Encourage the employee to walk away from frustrating situations and confrontations
  • Allow the employee to work from home part-time
  • Provide partitions or closed doors to allow for privacy
  • Provide disability awareness training to coworkers and supervisors

All in all, it is good rule of thumb to remember that people with mental health conditions or disabilities are just as capable of completing  tasks and doing an amazing job at whatever they may be working on – as there sometimes is stigma around these conditions due to lack of understanding, judgment, and being uneducated on the topic of mental health. If you are curious about learning more there are many great resources available to you on the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) website and Active Minds website about mental health conditions. Education, awareness, and understanding are key. We must not be afraid to talk openly about these conditions and encourage others to share their awesome stories. We all have something to say, so don’t be afraid to just simply listen.

Also read: #BulldogOnTheJob: Bri (she talks about experience with depression and anxiety and the impact those illnesses have on her professional life)

Read our other Disabilites in the Workplace posts.

Managing Mental Health in the Workplace

By: Alissa (Disability Specialist & Guest Author)

Editor’s Note: Today’s post continues the year-long collaboration we are doing with the Disability Resources office on the UMD Campus.

One of the biggest and most pressing topics in higher education at the moment is the mental health and wellbeing of our college students. It is estimated that around 1 in 3 students have or will experience a mental health condition during their academic career. Currently, our office serves the biggest population of students with mental health conditions compared to any other disability population and that number seems to be rising. With that growing population of students, many of them will, of course, be entering the workplace after graduation and we want our students to be as prepared as possible as this is a very common and normal thing to experience.

We all have mental health and we all need to take care of ourselves. So hopefully, this piece will give you some good tips on managing your mental health and stress better in the workplace and ultimately be as successful as possible.

Managing Mental Health

In this blog post, I will talk about 10 awesome and very helpful tips for better managing mental health and stress in the workplace and ultimately help you be more successful.

  • Know what you do well and your interests. What do you do well? What interests you? Your answers are important because the more you love your job, the more you will want to wake up and go into work every day. This is very important. The more your skills are needed, the more you’ll feel appreciated and valued by your co-workers which in turn will make you feel good. It is also helpful to know the things you need to or would like to improve on as well as this can be helpful.
  • Develop a good routine. Routines make everything much easier. Develop a routine for getting ready for work each morning so you start each day as productively as you are able to. To help you manage your time, use a weekly routine for at work and in your personal life. Make sure to include social time with friends, family, and possibly that cute little furbaby of yours.
  • Physical health is just as important. A healthy body contributes to a healthy mind. Going for walks or to the gym can be incorporated into your weekly routine. Involving your friends or making new ones is a great way to make it fun and a great stress reliever.
  • Stay organized. Being organized is a great way to reduce stress. Investing time thinking about how to organize your work is smart. Being on time and continuing to use a planner or calendar to keep track of your appointments is key. I am a huge fan of to-do lists as they can definitely keep you on track and way ahead of a deadline so you don’t get stressed out. Prioritizing things using post-it notes or highlighters for color coding is also beneficial. It takes practice to find out what tips and tools will work best for you.
  • Reward yourself. Work can be hard, so reward yourself. Buy yourself something special you have been wanting or go see a new movie. Take a break. You’ve totally earned it.
  • Take time for YOURSELF. Along with staying organized and rewarding yourself, an important way to reduce stress is to make time for relaxation and YOU TIME. Whatever it is that helps you calm down after a stressful day or week, keep it high up on your list of priorities. It is the best way to stay refreshed and motivated. These are often called coping skills so develop a good list of them and keep it available to you at all times!
  • Use resources available to you. There are some resources available to you which help level the playing field. These are just a few:
  • Surround yourself with positive people. Do not waste time and energy on people who bring you down. Research shows that positive people are more effective and happy, and so hanging out with positive people can help too. Having a strong support system can make all the difference at your place of employment and in your personal life as well.
  • Maintain a stable and organized work environment. Your physical work environment can have a huge impact on your mood. Things that help you through the day could be snacks, a good playlist and headphones, a warm sweater, a plant, a stress ball; really anything that will make you feel more comfortable throughout the day. Keeping a clean and orderly desk or workspace will help you focus on your work and present a professional image to coworkers.
  • Understand that nothing can be perfect. Some days will be harder than others and that is totally okay. You will have support as long as you reach out to people and use your resources. Some days will require a little more work than others. Don’t be discouraged. Stay confident – you’ve got a job to do. You can totally do it!

This information was adopted from: https://www.nami.org/About-NAMI/NAMI-News/10-Tips-for-Managing-Mental-Health-in-the-Workplac#sthash.g5By5UTw.dpuf

Other posts/resources about Disabilities in the Workplace