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Sample Research Paper: How to Care for Your Mental Health While in College
College academic life is a mentally-taxing experience that often leads to anxiety, stress, depression, and other mental illnesses. Students have to deal with managing their workloads, maintaining their social relationships, working on personal development, and improving their academic performance. These tasks require them to efficiently manage their time which is a tedious job by itself. Additionally, the social impact of the Internet has led to a further increase in mental illnesses due to certain psychological effects. To remain productive, students must put the effort into taking care of their mental health. Students can take care of their mental health by engaging in face-to-face interactions, avoiding passive social media viewing behaviors, disconnecting from electronics, achieving a sense of accomplishment, seeking out professional counseling, and regular exercise.
1. Engage in Face-to-Face Interactions
The popularity of social media has led students to regularly browse the platforms and spend their time in front of computer screens. While this behavior may seem enjoyable for most students, the improper use of the platform has detrimental effects on mental health. According to Lattie et al. (2019), the poor mental health of students is related to the decrease in face-to-face interactions. Social media platforms and other websites promote distant communication which can be unhealthy if students depend on them for their daily human interactions.
Students should aim to engage in face-to-face interactions to avoid the negative effects of social media. To do this, they can schedule regular meetings with their friends, family members, and other social groups. The meetings can be as simple as visiting the local park or engaging as a family vacation. However, due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic , certain face-to-face interactions may be difficult to achieve. Students that decide to engage in outdoor activities should follow health protocols and ensure their safety and others.
2. Avoid Passive Viewing Behaviors
Aside from decreased face-to-face interactions, social media affects the mental health of students through the promotion of unhealthy behaviors. One of these behaviors is “passive viewing behavior” which is when an individual passively scrolls social media without engaging in any posts. According to Verduyn et al. (2015), passive viewing can have detrimental mental effects on an individual while active social media engagement does not. Passive viewing may promote behaviors like the fear of missing out, damaging one’s self-worth, and subtly judging people.
Instead, students should actively engage in social media to avoid developing unhealthy behaviors. They should post comments or send reactions to their friends’ posts. This will help them avoid developing negative emotions, such as envy or resentment. Communicating with friends online will help improve their mood which is important in maintaining mental health. Students may also choose to mute or block posts that they dislike. This will reduce their exposure to topics that can negatively affect their mood and provide them with a better social media experience. Most social media platforms and websites; such as Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube; provide options that allow users to actively respond to various situations online. Students should be active and utilize these options to take care of their mental health.
3. Disconnect from Electronics
While the proper use of social media does not have negative effects, disconnecting from electronic devices can lead to improved mental health. According to Borenstein (2019), establishing an electronics-free time every day can significantly improve mental health. Students with electronics-free time can avoid developing unhealthy viewing behaviors since they spend less time online. They can utilize this time to engage in other activities like reading a book, face-to-face interactions, or simple exercises.
Disconnecting from electronics can be difficult since modern life heavily depends on the utilization of these devices. However, students can disconnect by simply turning off their electronic devices and practicing self-control. The duration of the electronics-free time will be dependent on the availability of the student. Busy students can aim for a 30-minute or more electronics-free time while others can spend a couple of hours. Students with hobbies, such as writing, playing sports, and painting, can utilize the time to improve their craft. This will allow them to work on personal development while also taking care of their mental health . Disconnecting from electronics can provide students with time for introspection which can improve their productivity and mental health.
4. Achieve a Sense of Accomplishment
One of the many factors that lead to poor mental health is the feeling of lack of success or accomplishment. Students can easily acquire this feeling through failed exams, poor grades, and missed deadlines. Finding ways to circumvent these unhealthy feelings can help improve a student’s mental health. They can aim to achieve a sense of accomplishment through the performance of other tasks. According to Vagnii et al. (2020), personal accomplishments are effective in reducing stress levels and emotional exhaustion of emergency workers. While their study focused on the mental health of workers, students can utilize this fact to improve their mental health. Personal accomplishments will allow students to feel productive and increase their self-worth. It can have long-term benefits for students as it can promote the development of certain soft and hard skills.
Students have many options for achieving a sense of accomplishment. They can utilize hobbies, menial tasks, and personal relationships to help in the endeavor. Hobbies like writing, painting, playing sports, and playing video games are useful outlets that can provide students with a sense of accomplishment. These activities can engage and challenge the students which can improve their mental health and productivity. Students who are busy or do not have a recurring hobby can find a sense of accomplishment through the performance of menial tasks. These can be simple chores like cleaning a room and cooking meals. Additionally, students can also work on developing personal relationships to achieve a sense of accomplishment. They can go out on a date with their family, friends, or significant other which can improve their mood and allow them to feel that they have progressed through relationships.
5. Seek Professional Counseling
Students with poor mental health may not consider looking for professional help due to shame, lack of awareness, or physical inability. However, Borenstein (2019) suggests that students should seek the help of mental health professionals when they need it. Taking this action can help students avoid the long-term effects of poor mental health which can affect their adult life. Mental health counseling can improve a student’s interpersonal skills, self-esteem, decision-making skills, stress management ability, and problem-solving ability. It will also allow students to remove negative behaviors and mental conditions including self-defeating behaviors, poor communication, and poor emotion management.
Students exhibiting poor mental health can approach university counselors as their first attempt in seeking professional counseling. They can share their negative thoughts and discuss their personal, academic, or social problems. Students with poor mental health may see university counselors as individuals that they can rely on. This may improve the students’ overall mood and allow them to feel secure on campus. Even students that do not exhibit poor mental health can visit counselors and other professionals to ask for guidance. A session with professionals may allow students to discover issues that they tend to ignore but has an effect on their mental health. Professional counseling will not only improve a student’s mental health but also develop skills that are essential for a healthy mind.
6. Exercise Regularly
A student’s physical health can affect their mental health condition. A good physical condition ensures that an individual’s body has enough energy which students need for their academic tasks. According to Chekroud et al. (2018), regular exercise can lead to fewer days of poor mental health conditions. Exercising can help students release stress and excrete hormones that can improve their productivity. However, the study revealed that over-exercise can lead to poorer mental health than not exercising. Chekroud et al. (2019) stated that exercising for more than three hours a day can lead to obsessive behaviors which are harmful to mental health. Students will need to find a balance in regulating their physical health to ensure that their mental health will not suffer.
Students can simply go for a 30-minute jog or aerobic exercise every day to ensure that they are physically active. Chekroud et al. (2019) suggested that 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day can lead to improved mental health. Additionally, the researchers noted that exercising less or more than three to five times a week can lead to poorer mental health. Students should aim to exercise with these limitations in mind to ensure that they maintain a good mental health condition. While the study suggests exercising three to five times a week, students can still do simple exercises during their off days. They can do a short 10 to 15-minute morning routine which can help them start the day. Regular exercise will allow students to develop healthy habits and avoid mental health risks.
Students will need to take care of their mental health to remain productive and functional during their academic life. Poor mental health can lead to failed exams, bad grades, and depression which will significantly affect a student’s personal life. They can avoid these negative effects by engaging in face-to-face interactions, avoiding passive viewing behaviors, disconnecting from electronics, achieving a sense of accomplishment, seeking professional counseling, and exercising regularly. These steps will allow students to maintain their mental health condition and ensure that they have a productive and meaningful academic life.
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Borenstein, J. (2019). Everyday Mental Health Tips. Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. Available at https://www.bbrfoundation.org/blog/everyday-mental-health-tips. Accessed December 16, 2021.
Chekroud, S., Gueorguieva, R., Zheutlin, A., Paulus, M., Krumholz, H., Krystal, J., & Chekroud, A. (2018). Association Between Physical Exercise and Mental Health in 1.2 Million Individuals in the USA Between 2011 and 2015: A Cross-Sectional Study. The Lancet Psychiatry. Available at 10.1016/S2215-0366(18)30227-X. Accessed December 16, 2021.
Lattie, E., Lipson, S., & Eisenberg, D. (2019). Technology and College Student Mental Health: Challenges and Opportunites. Frontiers in Psychiatry, vol. 10. Available at https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00246. Accessed December 16, 2021.
Medlineplus.gov (n.d.). How to Improve Mental Health. MedlinePlus. Available at https://medlineplus.gov/howtoimprovementalhealth.html. Accessed December 16, 2021.
Montarebehavioralhealth.com. (n.d.). 8 Benefits of Mental Health Counseling. Montare Behavioral Health. Available at https://montarebehavioralhealth.com/8-benefits-of-mental-health-counseling/# . Accessed December 16, 2021.
Nakai T, Nakatani H, Hosoda C, Nonaka Y, Okanoya K. (2017). Sense of Accomplishment Is Modulated by a Proper Level of Instruction and Represented in the Brain Reward System. PLOS ONE 12(1): e0168661. Available at https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0168661. Accessed December 16, 2021.
Vagni, M., Giostra, V., Maiorano, T., Santaniello, G., & Pajardi, D. (2020). Personal Accomplishment and Hardiness in Reducing Emergency Stress and Burnout among COVID-19 Emergency Workers. MDPI. Available at 10.3390/su12219071. Accessed December 16, 2021.
Verduyn, P., Lee, D., Park, J., Shablack, H., Orvel, A., Bayer, J., Ybarra, O., Jonides, J., & Kross E. (2015). Passive Facebook Usage Undermines Affective Well-Being: Experimental and Longitudinal Evidence. J Exp Psychol Gen. Available at 10.1037/xge0000057. Accessed December 16, 2021.
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