Be kind to your mind: the importance of emotional hygiene

(Photo by Michala Head/Catalyst)
Mental distress can manifest physically–such as dirty dishes or an unkempt dorm room.

 

According to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), 95 percent of college counseling centers reported that the number of students with significant psychological problems was a growing concern for their center. The same survey reflected that nearly 42 percent of students suffer from anxiety and roughly 36 percent suffer from depression.

The growing emphasis on mental health seen today is due to these climbing statistics. Oftentimes, students facing the newness of their environment and the need to effectively care for themselves struggle to develop the skills needed to do so, either causing or exacerbating these disorders.

One may hear the term “self-care” floated around and may associate it with the occasional, little things, such as taking a moment to enjoy a warm cup of tea or taking some time to meditate here and there. Maintaining one’s emotional hygiene, however, is that it is more habitual than doing nice little things for oneself every now and then. Not to say that those smaller moments are inconsequential, rather that rejuvenating actions ought to be more routine.

“New College has a healthy dose of imposter syndrome, it’s an honors college, people come in wondering if they are going to be able to meet the demands,” Dr. Duane Khan, assistant director at New College of Florida’s Counseling and Wellness Center (CWC) said. “Out of that anxiety comes a significant focus on accomplishments for academics and adjusting to social environment and those kinds of things and then self care and care of our machinery, our body, our emotional and psychological health becomes secondary, it becomes a thing that needs to function without our paying attention to it so we have to be really purposeful in putting that back into the equation.”

In regards to how to put mindfulness into the equation that is one’s routine, Khan takes a nondirective approach when advising students.

“If you are coming from a place and taking an approach then you can find all sorts of ways to meet the needs that you have. The approach is to be in the present moment,” Khan said. “The future is the unknown and we have no idea what is going to happen and we ratchet up the consequences that we need to prepare for, all of that leads us to forget to live in the present moment, which is safe, for the most part if we locate ourselves.

“Being in the present moment allows us to attend to what is happening with our body, our mind, our current relationships, our goals and how we are doing that day,” Khan continued.

Khan stressed the importance of understanding and giving credit to all of the stressors faced when evaluating oneself.

“The hurricane, for example, this semester was shortened, the amount of psychological and emotional resources that we have were truncated. The amount of cognitive space that we have to work was shortened, but the academics remained at the high standard of excellence that we expect from our students, that was not the design,” Khan said, in reference to how the academic calendar was altered by Hurricane Irma.

“When students evaluate how they are doing and what their progress has been should be able to give themselves a break and acknowledge the difficulties they have been through, factor in that information so that they can have a sense of accomplishment but also a sense of compassion with themselves,” Khan said.

Khan also brought up resources available to students, such as relaxation, mindfulness and meditation videos that can be found on Youtube and the CWC’s therapy assisted online program. The program contains a mindfulness library and can be accessed from one of the counselors or on their homepage.

The Catalyst spoke with New College students about what they do to maintain their emotional health.

“Sometimes you just need to make a day for yourself, make it an entire day for yourself rather than taking a couple things out to recover and recuperate from having a busy life. If you do not take that time it is likely you will deal with burnout, and it will set you back further,” third-year Hal Trejo said.

“The self-care wheel really has been so informative and reminds us that we have psychological, personal, professional, spiritual and emotional needs in addition to physical ones,” third-year student Sara Friend said. “We can learn to take mental health days when we need them, practice self-compassion and forgiveness, call the people who mean a lot to us, and write out our long- and short-term goals.

“All of these practices can be extremely grounding and through this, we can work on cultivating a better understanding of ourselves and our needs and what makes us feel best. Of course, getting plenty of sleep and food and water is also important.”

 

Information gathered from apa.org, olgaphoenix.com, psychologytoday.com, and ted.com

Leave a Reply