By Jack D. Haden, LCSW, Mental Health Intervention Specialist, University Counseling Center and Claudia Reyes, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, University Counseling Center
The University of Utah Counseling Center has increased medication services, expanded appointments to 6 p.m. on Tuesday/Wednesday and hired two additional counselors, all thanks to the efforts of student leaders and a new $4 Mental Health Fee.
Claudia Reyes and Jack D. Haden, the two new counselors, share some of their tips for taking care of your mental health at the end of the semester—and beyond.
For more tips and support, be sure to click here and follow the Counseling Center on Instagram @uofucounseling.
Manage stress in these 10 ways:
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
PMR is a mindfulness exercise where you tighten a muscle group—like your shoulders—for 5-10 seconds and then relax that tension away. Do this with slow, even breaths and progress down your body. For some people, visualizing the stress “flowing out” of their body helps them relax even more. PMR can help alleviate insomnia, stress and anxiety.
This can work wonders, even if you’re out for just a few minutes. Being outside on the grass, on a bench in the shade of a tree or even being bundled up watching the snow fall during a storm, it’s all beneficial. Being outside can increase your happiness, reduce inflammation, increase energy (you can’t help but feel alive), improve memory (also your attention span) and, oh yeah, relieve stress.
Talk nicely to yourself
Pay attention to how you talk to yourself (i.e., talk to yourself as you would a friend). If you find yourself saying negative things about yourself in your mind, try this simple trick: Say those same things out loud. Chances are when you hear them, you’ll notice just how irrational they are.
Do something creative
Draw, write, paint, dance, knit—anything that gets your creative mind working can help reduce stress and increase self-confidence.
Listen to a podcast
Here are a few of our favorite podcasts and podcasters on mindfulness, self-care and mental health: Tara Brach, “Conversation with Alanis Morissette,” “Mental Illness Happy Hour,” “Invisibilia” and the “TED Radio Hour.” For storytelling, you might like “The Moth,” “Myths & Legends,” “Fictional” and “Tanis and Rabbits.” These podcasts are geared toward audiences that are interested in LGBTQ+ topics: “Nancy,” “Gender Rebels” and “How to be a Girl.”
Follow mental health pages on social media
Add some positivity and mental health tips and reminders to your daily scroll. A few of our favorites on Facebook are: University of Utah Counseling Center (of course!), Power of Positivity and Melanin and Therapy. For Instagram, follow: @uofucounseling, @journey_to_wellness, @gottmaninstitute.
Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Not getting enough sleep can impact your mood and ability to concentrate.
Organize and develop a game plan
Use a planner or calendar to sort out exam dates, assignments or other important tasks (e.g., grocery shopping, club meetings, yoga class) that you need to make time for. The act of writing it down—and color coding, if you’re so inclined—will make it feel more doable and may reduce anxiety.
Move your body
Exercising releases feel-good endorphins and can help quiet an overactive mind.
Make time to eat at least three meals a day and carry snacks with you throughout the day to keep your mind and body fueled. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water.
On a personal level, I am a self-described “introvert supreme.” I find joy and rejuvenation in one-on-one dialogues with close friends, as well as in activities like yoga, writing and cuddling with my three cats while listening to a podcast. I’d be remiss if I didn’t have a book readily at hand—no matter where I find myself—and probably spend far too much money and time scouring the shelves of my local independent booksellers. As a kid who grew up playing piano competitively, music has a soft spot in my heart. I have a wide variety of musical interests ranging from classic punk to gypsy jazz to avant-garde rock and am always open to finding new and exciting artists. Last, but certainly not least, connecting with others who share a passion for social justice, as well as sarcastic irreverence, over a good cup of coffee is something I value greatly.