Six Tips for Taking Control of Your Emotional Health
Choices you make about sleep, diet and exercise can have a direct impact on your emotions and state of mind. Here are some quick tips that everyone can use to stay well or feel better:
College students practically invented the all-nighter, but lack of sleep can interfere with your ability to think rationally, make good decisions and deal with stressful situations. Skipping sleep may give you more hours in the day, but it won’t be quality time. It can make it hard to do well in class and can make you more likely to get sick, upset or depressed. Planning ahead and prioritizing can help you get the sleep you need. Most experts recommend 7 to 8 hours a sleep of night, but the best sleep schedule is one that works for you and fits into your schedule.
College is an important time to develop exercise habits that will help you stay healthy and fit. In addition to improving your physical health, just 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 to 5 times a week can significantly improve mood, decrease fatigue and reduce stress. Research has shown that people dealing with mild to moderate depression have experienced up to a 50 percent reduction in symptoms after exercising on a regular basis.
It can be hard to eat well at college, but the “Freshman Fifteen” is not the only consequence of ignoring your body’s nutritional needs. Bad eating habits can also affect your state of mind. Too much caffeine or foods high in sugar can increase nervousness and irritability and make you less able to concentrate and manage stress. Not getting enough key vitamins and nutrients can also have a negative impact on your mood. Try to eat fresh foods including fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
How we deal with stress is just as important as the factors that cause it. Avoid stress when possible, but also develop coping skills to deal with necessary challenges and pressures. If you can’t avoid a stressful situation, find the best ways to deal with it. Is it a workout or a yoga class? Do you write or listen to music? Learn what works for you.
Know Your Limits
Hanging out with friends and going to parties can be a stress reliever, but using drugs or alcohol can also test your emotional health. Abusing drugs and alcohol can cause depression, irritability, bad judgment and insomnia. Determine your limits ahead of time so it is easier to avoid pressure to cross that line later.
If you were experiencing back pain or stomach cramps, you would probably go to your doctor or health center to get it checked out. It’s just as important to speak up and get things checked out if you are concerned about your thoughts, feelings or behavior. As with all health concerns, the earlier you address emotional health issues the better.