By Alyssa Abel
When you enrolled in a course, you probably thought about things like course loads and books — and you most likely weren’t considering the pressure of online learning if you don't care for your mental health.
Lots of things weigh on your mind. There's the pressure to perform academically, coupled with your work duties. Fear of missing out (FOMO) can increase your sense of obligation to make the most of your campus years to the point where you become burnt out.
The stress of juggling university, work and extracurricular obligations can hinder your mental health as a student. Here are six mental health tips for preserving your wellness when you take your online university classes this year:
1. Plan your week on Sunday
Far too much stress stems from realising you forgot a vital assignment at zero-hour. Please don't amp up your anxiety levels this way. Invest in a planner — whether an app or a print version — and allot time each Sunday evening to plan your week.
This technique helps you budget time the way you do your finances. By realising how many hours you have and what tasks you have to complete during them, you can maximise your time efficiency. While you might balk at yet-more advice to become more productive, remember — this method saves you more hours for doing what you love. In addition, it’s essential to create the right environmental conditions to keep you motivated for your studies — make setting up your learning space part of your schedule.
2. Get your meal prep game on point
University students aren't famous for their healthy diets, but malnutrition can influence your mental health. Over-reliance on processed flours has stripped vital nutrients like magnesium from many frequently eaten foods. However, deficiencies in this critical mineral can lead to depression.
The solution? Even if you work full-time, you probably have at least one day that's less busy than others. Use this time to prepare budget-friendly freezer meals featuring real foods in their natural state or close to it. That way, when you're exhausted after a long day but still need to hit the books, you can quickly heat up some near-instant nourishment.
3. Move your muscles
According to the folks at Better Health Channel, exercise can work as effectively as antidepressants in treating mild-to-moderate depression. It helps to reduce some of the immune-system chemicals that can worsen the condition. Plus, it spurs your body to produce endorphins — natural opioid-like substances that decrease pain and boost your mood.
4. Involve yourself in the social side of student life
While you don't want to let FOMO amp up your stress levels, humans are social creatures by nature. You may never have a better opportunity to make friends who share similar interests and struggles.
Join a club or two, but exercise discretion if you are time-crunched. You should probably pass on opportunities that involve a hefty weekly commitment if you have other responsibilities — like work — outside of the university. Be upfront with your availability, but express genuine interest in meeting others. Depending on where you’re located, you might be able attend many online meetings from the comfort of your couch – being at home doesn’t mean you can’t have a social life!
5. Plan for unscheduled downtime
What do you think would happen to your arms if you tried to do biceps curls for 20-hours straight? They might not fall off, but good luck lifting so much as a feather afterward.
While your brain differs from your pecs, it can burn out, too. When you plan your weekly schedule, allot time to do whatever you like — including nothing at all. You don't want to be hopelessly out of touch when all your classmates invite you to a trivia night featuring the hottest new Netflix series — that you haven't seen.
6. Locate mental health resources
Did you know that 75% of mental health issues arise before the age of 24? However, many online students fail to realise that campus resources exist. The best way to locate your campus mental health center is by searching your school's website or calling the admissions office. They should direct you to the appropriate department.
Alyssa Abel is a college and career writer with a special interest in student life and health. Read more of her advice on her blog, Syllabusy.