Jennifer Schrafft, BA, ACC
www.jenschrafftcoaching.com

Stress and anxiety are common concerns for graduate students at the best of times.  As you cope with isolation, the constant barrage of bad news and the challenge of maintaining personal relationships and supporting friends and family during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may experience additional strains on your mental and physical health.

How is your mental health? It may be all over the place these days and that’s okay. Constant change and being in uncharted territory can provoke a range of emotions. Be patient with yourself and don’t judge. This will take time and practice and it will be messy at times. That’s okay – every day is an opportunity to begin again.

What is Mental Health?

Take a look at the Mental Health Continuum Model below. Where do you fit in?

Mental health continuum model
Chart taken from Covid 2020 Canada

Three Ways to Stay Mentally Healthy

1. Routine

Below is a guide to setting up a routine that includes blocks of time rather than strict scheduling. Make it your own. As long as you include the three major areas of Mind, Body and Fun, bookended with good daily hygiene, you can be flexible with how it is implemented.

Time Block Action Block Action Items
Morning
7-10am
Wake up routine
  • Showered and dressed for the day
  • Make bed, open curtains and air out rooms
BODY
  • 20-30 minutes of physical movement, preferably outdoors
Afternoon MIND
  • Journal 3 things for which you are grateful
  • Create a list of 2 or 3 different types of tasks you can work on
  • Work
Distraction
  • Cleaning, cooking, dusting, raking, etcetera
FUN
  • Silly, artsy, creative, sporty, musical, comedy: completely pleasure based!
Evening
9-11pm
BODY
  • 20-30 minutes of physical movement (follow a program if possible)
Bedtime Routine
  • Put on clean sleepwear, set the room temperature to cool for sleeping
  • Read 20 minutes of fiction—not social media or news
  • STOP all screens a minimum of one hour before sleeping
  • NO screens in your bedroom

2. Avoid Numbing the Pain

Occasional distraction from the heaviness of what is going on is great. Over consuming alcohol, tobacco and recreational drugs is not so good. The obvious downsides are the physical hangovers; the not so obvious are the emotional ones. Headaches, nausea, shame and guilt are the last thing you need right now.

Excessive media consumption is luring us at every opportunity.  Repetitively scrolling is a one-way ticket to Worry Ville and Negativity Land.  Trust me when I say this: Limit your news consumption to 2 or 3 times a day. Any monumental changes in the world that you must know about will make its way to you.  Consuming constant media allows the mind to wander down dangerous roads. Facts are important, there is no question, but reading bad news stories all day that are spun out of the facts is unhealthy.

Here is an analogy. Imagine you come to a fork in the road in your car. On the left is a paved road with stop signs, traffic lights and where rules of the road apply. On the right is an unpaved, bumpy potholed road. It is not maintained and nor is it mapped anywhere.

Choosing unlimited media is like choosing the unpaved dirt track. It will eventually cause so much wear and tear on your car that it will warp, bolts will become loose and things will start to break that you won’t be able to fix. Stay on the paved roads!

3. Make Hope and Positivity a Daily Practice

This is a pandemic. We can’t “will” our way out of it. Wishing it hadn’t happened does not change the reality we are experiencing.

A healthy mental practice is remaining hopeful and planning for a healed and prosperous future. Create a daily practice of writing down answers to the following:

What are you hopeful for in your future?
What positivity are you soaking up in the world, and how are you redistributing it?

Train yourself to look for the good in all the unlikely places. When you see it, absorb it. Revel in it. Share it.

I encourage you all to follow this incredible family physician out of Guelph Ontario. Her daily updates are factual, honest and hopeful https://www.facebook.com/annemarie.zajdlik

If you are slipping and find yourself in trouble, do not wait to get help. Check out mental health resources on your school’s website, visit https://thelifelinecanada.ca/ or call 911.

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