mental health tips
A simple five-minute meditation a day can do wonders in helping your mind and body keep sane and feel positive. Source: Mark Makela/AFP

It’s of no surprise that 2020 roughed us up quite a bit. Now, it also looks like 2021 will keep travel restrictions and regulations pretty much in place. For students abroad, if you’re stressed or homesick, hang in there. A way to make things better, is to look at the ways you can help yourself, so we’ve rounded some excellent mental health tips according to several sources around the world. 

Slowly, institutions around the world have begun to finally invest more money that would help in any way to give students mental health resources, whether it’s more therapists, more activities, dedicated break centres, and so on. A cool initiative is like the one taken by Meridian Healthcare, who gave US$20,000 to Boardman Centre Intermediate School in Ohio to create a sensory room for its students.

In the UK, Kelechi Matthias — a psychology student at the University of Warwick — started the Black Mind Initiative which aims to diversify the mental health system specifically for the black community. This initiative encourages young black students to pursue a degree related to the mental health profession to change the current statistics of only one in 14 counsellors in the UK from a black, Asian and minority ethnic background.

With more students creating support groups for mental health awareness in their institutions, there are no shortages of where to turn to if you feel lost or stuck. You should be able to contact your school to check what resources they have too. Below we round up a small list of mental health tips, from how to keep a healthy diet to apps that can help alleviate the stress that students struggle with:

Food for the brain

You probably know this, but what you eat is important how you feel physically and mentally. Your brain is running 24/7 and not only looks after your physical wellbeing, but also your thoughts, breathing and senses. Even when you’re asleep, it’s busy regenerating cells and therefore constantly needs a supply of nutrients.

This supply comes from the foods you ingest, and what goes in your body is important as different things affect the function of your brain and your mood. When you eat high in quality foods, meaning vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, this helps fuel your brain and protect it from stress. 

Salads are a great way to get in your fill of nutrients for the day, and easy to make even if you’re in a dorm. Source: Noam Galai/AFP

The best three foods to incorporate in your diet are firstly, complex carbohydrates — brown rice, starchy veggies, quinoa, potatoes, and so on will help keep you feeling satisfied much more than your typical junk food. Secondly, lean proteins which give your body energy and come from chicken, meat, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds. Lastly, fatty acids — flax seeds, avocados, salmon, are among a few essential for proper brain function.

Get your body moving

The health benefits from regular exercise cannot be underestimated. Exercise not only improves mental health, but also improves sleep, increases stamina, reduces cholesterol levels, and helps maintain a healthy weight.

Even if you’re under lockdown, there are easy aerobic exercises you can do in your halls or dorm room. If you’re allowed a daily outdoor excursion, try jogging, walking, swimming and dancing. Additionally, by the power of Youtube and other social media platforms, you now have a range of instructional videos that are easy to follow and can be done at home with just your bodyweight. A popular channel on Youtube is POPSUGAR Fitness with different exercises from HIIT to pilates and yoga.

mental health tips

No matter where you are, you can always adjust to get a good workout in, which is beneficial to both your body and mind. Source: Mohammed Abed/AFP

Write and meditate

Writing can be a form of therapy. It helps you organise thoughts and give meaning to whatever is weighing you down. The whole process of writing enables you to learn how to regulate your emotions better — really, it’s time to get back into journaling. Another way writing can help and ease the stress off your plate, is to note down whatever deadlines you have so you can plan your time accordingly. 

Alternatively, meditation helps to focus your attention on your breathing. This can help create a tranquil mind by getting you into a deep state of relaxation. It’s quite hard to meditate, but if you start out with five minutes in the morning, it will work wonders on your mind.

Turn to digital apps for help

Innovation is happening at warp speed, especially since the pandemic started. There is no shortage of apps we can use to entertain and heal ourselves with. While it is healthy to take a break from technology and social media once in a while, there are some free apps — that don’t replace professional help in any way — that we think are helpful.

mental health tips

While it’s not a replacement for professional help, there are many upon many digital apps — some free — that help you take some weight off your mind. Source: Yamil Lage/AFP

HearMe is an app that anonymously connects you with a listener in under a minute, and is available 24 hours a day. Emoodji tracks your moods, and is easy to use. You just need to use emojis to keep track of how you feel throughout the day — perfect for university students who have busy schedules. What’s Up?, another app on our list of mental health tips, shows you negative thinking patterns and how to overcome them. They offer lots of other useful tips too.