Looking after your mental health whilst studying
BY GURVINDER SINGH
You’re on your chosen course, at your selected uni, and back home the family thinks you’re having the time of your life. Yet the days of life are just passing by emptily. You’re trapped inside your own mind, stuck in a deep dark hole. Being alive yet dead.
You feel so little yet so much. Angry. Stressed. Confused. Alone. Insecure. Hopeless. Anxious. Depressed. Perhaps you know why you feel like this, or maybe you don’t have a clue.
You won’t believe it in this moment, but trust me, you WILL feel happy once more. Things WILL get better. You will learn how to climb the ladder to get out of this dark hole. You just need to find out what your weapons against the demons are.
The first step to recovering is acknowledging that you have a mental health problem, and that it’s normal amongst many people but NOT healthy. No matter how bad things are right now, it’s all a temporary phase in your life and can be fully cured.
The second, and the most important step, is to ask for help. This is probably the hardest step to take. As Sikhs, we’re so used to giving to others, but when it comes to receiving, there’s a stereotype of whoever rejects the most help is the the most fearless. Asking for help is one of the bravest decisions you can ever make, and it takes true strength to show your vulnerabilities to others.
I can’t stress enough the importance of visiting a professional. Therapy will help you handle your emotions from triggers and get to the root cause of whatever problem you’re struggling with. Therapy can be expensive but your health is priceless. Besides, most GPs and uni’s will offer a few free sessions of counselling. Not all therapists and types of therapy are the same though. You may need to go through a few to find one you really click with - everyone is different so what works for me may not work for you.
On top of that, you have your family and friends to open up to as well. Realise you’re not a burden and they’ll do everything in their power to support you. You’ll be surprised how many of them have suffered similarly to you but kept it quiet all along.
Don’t forget about your university’s staff too. Let them know about your mental health and they’ll make amendments to the assessments on your course, so you’re more able to cope with your studies. If it’s exceptionally bad, then taking a leave of absence from your studies can be an absolute lifesaver, so you’re able to put all you energy into just YOU.
Remember that antidepressants are an option as well, there’s nothing to be ashamed of if you take them! We wouldn’t hesitate to take a painkiller, so why is it different with SSRIs? These meds aren’t for everyone, but they can be a BOOST to stabilise the minds of many. A pill can make the difference of you getting out of bed, to carry out your day to day activities, or just sleeping all day. They’re absolutely temporary and you’re not reliant on them.
The third step is to open up your armoury to find out what weapons you have against the demons.
Below are a few examples:
- Reading and writing:
- Self help books can teach you to have a positive outlook on yourself and the world as well as destroying your perceptions of your ‘limitations’. Writing your thoughts down pen to paper helps put those thoughts into a bigger perspective.
- Keeping physically healthy:
- Your physical health is linked to your mental health and vice versa. It’s crucial to keep your physical body in check in order to accelerate becoming healthier mentally. Certain foods can affect your moods - you are what you eat! Whether it’s weight training, yoga, or cardio - exercising will provide you with a ‘feel good’ vibe and set your mood for the rest of the day.
- Listening or playing - music has been a healer for centuries. Be careful with this one though, listening to sad songs can make you feel worse so stick to upbeat and happy music only. Playing a musical instrument is incredibly meditative and provides a sense of calmness all around.
- ‘Your thoughts are not you’. Mindfulness is a type of meditation which trains you to separate your thoughts from reality. Every single person on this planet has negative thoughts, but the happy ones are those who know how to process those thoughts.
- Cutting off toxic people:
- Those individuals who make things worse for you don’t deserve to be in your life. The bravest thing you can do is cut them off. It might bring you hurt in the moment but you’re doing yourself a favour in the long run. Tying in with this, meeting new people can raise your spirits. If you haven’t already, join your Sikh Society!
- Recognising and beating self destructive addictions:
- The bulk of people who have problems with their mental health also have self destructive addictions as ‘coping mechanisms’. It might be wasting hours of your time binge watching Netflix. Spending money you don’t have on clothes. Or drinking alcohol every night. These addictions will make you happy in the moment, but in the long run they’re not doing you any favours.
- Gratitude and faith:
- This is the most powerful weapon. Perform a gratitude prayer everyday, but don’t compare yourself to others because it’ll probably make you feel guilty and a lot worse. Don’t underestimate the power of having faith in God. Faith in the Gurus. Faith in spirituality. Faith in yourself. During this hard time, your faith might become weaker, and that’s okay - it will come back.
If you wish to contact me, don’t hesitate to contact me on my instagram: dr_gindybob or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Always remember, life might be hammering you like glass right now, but that same hammer will forge you into steel.
Gindy (Gurvinder Singh)