Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Don’t let your mental health slip this finals season

Dakota Birenbaum / Advance-Titan – UW Oshkosh’s Disability Advocates band together outside of Dempsey Hall to protest the university’s DEI defunding and unfair treatment.

May is mental health awareness month, and the first two weeks of it also happens to be the busiest month of the year for UWO college students. In a time where many feel they have to put their mental health on the back burner, I’m here to tell you that this isn’t the case.

We are all starting to feel a little burnt out at this point, but neglecting your mental health can actually contribute to this burnout, making it even harder to be a good student. Your degree is important, but so is your mental health. Here are some ways you can keep both your academics and your mental health intact amidst Mental Health Awareness Month and finals season.


1. Take care of yourself

The best way you can tend to your mental health and increase your motivation to keep going is by taking care of yourself. During busy times like these, it can be easy to push yourself to the side when in reality we should be doing the opposite. That’s like expecting your plant to grow without watering it. How can we expect ourselves to perform well when we’re not nurturing ourselves? We are the ones responsible for completing these tasks, after all.

It can be easy to let these things slip, but remember that we need to take care of ourselves now more than ever. At the most basic level, this includes making sure you take your meds every day, eating at least three (balanced) meals a day, and making sure you sleep six to eight hours every night.

Keeping up with your hygiene is also a good idea, not to mention showers can provide a great atmosphere for brainstorming. Showers can also be great for relaxation when you just need a break.

Allowing yourself to take breaks in general can be incredibly helpful in both maintaining your mental health and your motivation, thereby combating burnout. During these breaks, reward yourself with things that re-energize you whether that be hanging out with friends, calling your family or just spending time outside and soaking up some of that vitamin D. Making sure you get at least 30-60 minutes of downtime before bed to yourself can also help improve motivation and sleep quality, allowing you to wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the day.


2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Asking for help can sometimes be one of the hardest parts of dealing with mental health. It can be scary to be vulnerable with another person, let alone admit that you need help. Most of this comes from fear of judgment, and while these feelings are valid, it doesn’t mean people are judging you. You are not alone. According to the national Healthy Minds Study, more than 60% of college students “met criteria for one or more mental health problems”.

Asking for help with your academics can also be scary for similar reasons. We’re afraid of asking stupid questions and admitting failure, but that’s how we learn. Luckily, the university created resources and programs with these things in mind. Things like the Writing Center, the Center for Academic Resources and the Counseling Center are all awesome (and free) resources.

You can talk to a counselor in person at the Student Success Center or you can schedule a virtual appointment. If you’re having a mental health crisis after hours, you can call, text or chat with a counselor. For those academic crises, the writing and tutoring centers can also be found in the Student Success Center, and there are drop-in hours in Swart for those math-related crises. If you’re interested, you can find additional information on the UWO website.


3. Practice gratitude

Anxiety can be incredibly debilitating. Especially with final exams and presentations around the corner, it can be hard to manage. When my anxiety starts to overwhelm me, I always like to think or write down at least five things that I’m grateful for. It sounds weird, but Dan Baker, psychiatrist and co-author of the book, “What Happy People Know,” claims that our brains cannot hold feelings of appreciation and fear at the same time.

While you do have the ability to switch between the two emotions, you physically cannot be anxious and grateful at the same time. According to Cameron Staulth and Baker, “during active appreciation the threatening messages from your amygdala [the fear center of the brain] and the anxious instincts of your brainstem are cut off, suddenly and surely, from access to your brain’s neocortex.” According to Baker, the neocortex is where feelings of anxiety “can fester, replicate themselves and turn your stream of thoughts into a cold river of dread.”

It can be difficult to think of things you’re grateful for in a moment of anxiety, especially when you first start. I recommend keeping a running list of things you’re grateful for in your notes app so that you can easily jot down things you’re grateful for when they come to mind, and so that you can easily access them when you feel an anxiety attack coming on. Getting in the practice of practicing gratitude every day can also do wonders for your mental health in general. Keeping a gratitude journal can be an awesome way to stay optimistic during this stressful time.

Noel Gallagher said it best: “I don’t live to work; I work to live.” Our academics are extremely important, but so is our well-being and happiness. Moreover, greater well-being can actually contribute to a better performance as a student. I know it can feel like a time-waster to let out those emotions, but we all know how much harder it is to get work done with underlying negative emotions. You actually end up saving time by allowing yourself to just feel your emotions in the first place instead of ignoring them and letting them fester. Those emotions will demand to be felt, and you can only push them aside for so long until it all overflows. The quicker you let yourself feel your emotions, the sooner you can get your work done.

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