Checking On Your Mental Health

Kylie Mullaly, Staff Writer

In 2020, the world decided to challenge our mental health by treating us all to a catastrophic pandemic. Forced to stay inside, distance from our loved ones, and abandon our favorite extracurriculars, we each struggled to find happiness in isolation. For me, this became a catalyst for paying attention to my mental health. While I am not at all a mental health professional, I thought I would include a couple of coping strategies that have helped me this year.

For many high school students, stress and anxiety are almost constant. Even when every assignment is submitted, there is the expectation that we could be doing better or could be doing more. In reality, you are not supposed to feel constantly stressed or overworked. Especially with the overbearing shadow of coronavirus looming over us, there seems to be no escape from the unending nerves and stress. Our brains need breaks and relaxation, but it seems selfish to take time out of our busy schedules just to breathe. Why take a breath when you could be finishing that assignment? I promise, if you take a minute to relax, you feel better and be able to accomplish your tasks more efficiently.

One way to do this is to remove yourself from your workstation and find an area where you can comfortably sit or lie down. I recommend closing your eyes, but that is up to you. Place a hand on your chest and a hand on your stomach. Notice how you are breathing. If your breath is coming from your chest, this means you are stressed or nervous. To trick your mind, take deep inhales through your nose and breath from your stomach. Your chest should be almost still. Exhale slowly through your mouth. Try to set aside about ten minutes to practice this technique. It helps to do it multiple times a day, but you are aware of how much you and your mind need it. 

You can also mediate. There are plenty of guided meditations on YouTube. I prefer to find ones with affirmations as they encourage positivity and remind you to be thankful for what you have. I like to listen to ASMR meditations. I am aware these are not for everyone, but I recommend you give it a try. If you don’t like it, you can move on to something else.

Additionally, practicing grounding exercise can be incredibly helpful for reducing anxiety. My personal favorite is as follows. Try to relax as much as possible. Notice five things that you can hear. Next, 4 things you can smell. 3 things you can feel. 2 things you can see. 1 thing you can taste. Then, switch it up. Find 5 things you can feel, four things you can see, and so on. Eventually, you will feel connected to your body and your senses, becoming completely aware of yourself and your situation. I find this to be very helpful. There are plenty of other grounding techniques you can find online, this just so happened to be my favorite.

One of the most helpful ways to aid your mental health is to find something you enjoy doing so much that it becomes a relaxing and happy experience. For me, this is any creative pursuit. Whether I am sewing, sketching, doing collages, or writing a poem, it is a fantastic and healthy emotional release. Art may not be the solution for you, but I am certain there is something you enjoy just as much. Exercise, music, and cooking are all wonderful alternatives.

Lastly, make sure to reach out to your friends and family. We are all struggling right now, and there is nothing we can do to control the chaos outside our window. However, we can make sure our loved ones have someone to talk to. It can be difficult to be vulnerable, and if you are having trouble, I encourage you to chat with someone qualified. In order to visit a mental health professional, you do not have to be mentally ill or in a crisis. You can just be someone who wants to take care of yourself. We all feel rotten from time to time, and it helps to have someone with experience guide us through these rough times. 


For those of you who are interested, the Seward Community Health Center is offering free mental health screenings. These short, non-intrusive sessions make sure you are checking up on your mind and are finding healthy ways to deal with the on-fire-garbage-can that is 2020. I will be taking advantage of this opportunity to make sure that I am the best possible version of myself so I can be helpful to those around me and continue creating. You can call the Seward Community Health Center at 907-224-2273. These sessions can be set up over Zoom or in person, whatever works best for you.

Remember to take care of yourself and most importantly, remember to take the time to breathe.