High school is a stressful time for students. The provision of adequate mental health support for young people and destigmatizing the mental health diseases should be a top priority for high schools across the country. High school students are under immense pressure; they have to excel in their academics, athletics and community service all while trying to maintain a healthy social life. A student’s mental health can perpetually impact the student’s academic learning and levels of achievement. Although high school can be really difficult at times, it is important to remember that there are ways to manage these challenges. Remember, you cannot perform to the best of your ability both intellectually and physically when you are not feeling your best. By maintain habits that boost mental health, students can not only be happier, but also achieve great success. Here are a few habits to help maintain mental health in school:
It is important to stay hydrated in your day to day life. This can help support good mental and physical health in the long run. According to Harvard University, staying hydrated is crucial to being healthy and making sure the heart, brain and muscles, as well as other body systems are maintaining their function and working efficiently. Research indicates that students are able to retain more information and focus for longer periods of time when they are well hydrated. Studies have actually found that drinking water can improve brain function by 15 percent. A good idea is to take a reusable bottle to school and set a goal of how many times you need to refill it during the school day. Having improved brain, heart and muscle function will help you to excel in your academics and athletics.
While school can be grueling enough and it may be hard to muster the energy or the time to do something physical, it is important to make time to focus on physical activity. This could mean participating in team sports, running, doing yoga, or another physical activity. Regular exercise causes the body to release different chemicals that positively affect the brain like dopamine and serotonin. One group of these chemicals is called endorphins. These endorphins and physical benefits will help reduce levels of stress. A consistent exercise routine equips students to handle stressful situations and maintain their overall wellbeing.
As part of the Staying Ahead of the Game program, one of the areas we focus on is the importance of time management for students. There have been plenty of studies that show a link between adequate planning and decreased stress levels. This means increasing your awareness and preparation for big events, exams or assignments. Knowing where and when important events are going to take place is a vital life skill that prepares you for future success. Forward thinking can also allow you to budget your time, which supports other EF skills like reducing procrastination and studying in chunks. Learning how to fit all of your tasks into your weekly schedule is a skill that will be beneficial throughout your life. Being able to plan ahead will help you to reduce stress and limit the number of chaotic weeks in any given school year.
Similar to staying hydrated, maintaining a nutritious daily diet is important. A healthy daily diet is crucial to maintaining good mental and physical health. Felice Jacka, President of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research, explains that “A healthy diet is protective, and an unhealthy diet is a risk factor for depression and anxiety.” In other words, a healthy diet is insurance against stressful situations. Your brain needs a mix of nutrients in order to stay healthy and functioning, just like the other organs in your body. However, the brain uses more than 30% of the body’s energy in any given day, meaning that nutrition is key to student performance. For example, diet is linked to the hippocampus, an important area of the brain that is involved in learning, memory, and mental health. People with healthy diets have more hippocampal volume than those with unhealthy diets. A diet that’s good for your physical health is also good for your mental health.
Create Some Me Time
We cannot always control our stressors or life events, which is why it is so important to prioritize your mental health and to spend some time doing things that you enjoy. Self-care usually refers to activities that people engage in to relax or help themselves with their emotional well-being. Activities such as dancing, watching a favorite TV show, painting or reading are examples of self-care routines. The easiest way to incorporate self-care into your schedule is to try to make little changes in your routine that provide more time for fun. Incorporating self-care into your schedule can boost your resilience and energy levels during hard times.
Get some rest
The importance of sleep cannot be overstated. We have two other posts devoted to sleep, but it is worth mentioning again here. Being well rested is imperative for good mental health and your overall wellbeing. Without good sleep habits, you are at a greater risk of developing both physical and mental illness. When we sleep, we cycle through different stages of rest. Studies have shown that the REM cycle of sleep helps our brains improve learning skills, memory, and our overall emotional health. When this type of sleep is disrupted, our neurotransmitters and stress hormones are also disrupted, throwing the body out of rhythm for days. Some tips to help with insuring good sleep are to try and follow a regular bedtime and wake time. The body craves routines. Resetting your sleep clock by establishing a clear schedule can be a gamechanger for both your mental and physical health. Try to maintain a regular exercise routine during the day so that you fall asleep more easily. Try using the bedroom only for sleep (not for work or using electronics, so that your brain doesn’t associate your bed as a place of busy activity). Yes, this means that you shouldn’t fall asleep to Netflix every night. Also, try not to drink caffeine too late in the day or at night. Integrating these sleep practices into your day will ensure strong mental health.
All in all, the goal for students should be to maintain a consistent routine that bolsters their mental and mental health. By following the tips above, students can get ahead and stay ahead in all areas of their lives. Our goal at SAOTG is not only academic success, but overall success. We want to help students manage everything, not just their academics. To learn more about our unique program or the benefits of having an academic coach, please visit our services page.