Ahh, January… a month that brings with it crisp lungfuls of air that smells like fresh rain, and chilly fingertips of wind that make it prudent to bundle up with sweater after sweater, the promise of warm soup and hot tea and cozy fireplace evenings.
No, let’s be real, folks. January can kind of suck.
It’s true that the air has a season-specific freshness to it around the time of winter, and cold evenings when the sun is still sleepy can have a certain magic to them. But, students of UBC, this probably isn’t what you’re focusing on right now, and I can’t blame you.
What you are more likely consumed with are the upcoming midterms, three papers, and two group assignments you’re expected to tackle this month while balancing your job, your extracurricular activities, your basic responsibility of feeding and clothing your body, and hanging on desperately to some semblance of a social life. And as horrible as this sounds… it’s pretty normal, or at least it’s treated as such by the academic community at large.
So between all of these responsibilities that crowd you like they’re kids at a petting zoo and you are the fluffy feature exhibit, there is one other extremely crucial element that all too often falls by the wayside: your mental health.
Physical health has a way of making you pay attention to it. You’re bogged down by your academic commitments and sleep is hard to come by and you’re not eating very well and before you know it, you’re sneezing constantly as though the air you breathe is actually cleverly disguised pepper. Our bodies are very comfortable being complainers, and they’re avid attention-seekers. If we ignore what they need, they won’t hesitate to start griping.
Mental health, though, is shier. Its griping is quiet, akin to a gentle tug on your sleeve that could easily be the wind. Often you won’t notice that your mental health is suffering until you realize you would rather stay in bed all day than face your responsibilities. Nothing seems fun anymore, and even the activities that you know you’re supposed to enjoy just feel like glorified chores. You’re going through the motions of your day-to-day life, but nothing about it feels good or right.
“Well, Nicole,” you may be thinking to yourself right about now, “you’ve gone and described what sounds like a really hopeless situation, and to be honest, you’re kind of bumming me out. The demands of academia and student life are taking a toll on my mental health, but it’s not like I’m just going to drop out of university.”
You’re right, reader. But the most comforting and the most frightening fact about your situation is this: you aren’t alone.
Mental health issues affect a staggeringly high number of people, and students are especially at risk given they’re usually in the 18 to 24 age range and they’re almost always under enormous amounts of stress. It’s not unusual to be stressed out and sad, or to even cross over that delicate threshold into being depressed and anxious.
So what can be done about this issue?
My name is Nicole. I’m a 4th year English Honours student at UBC, a Chapman Learning Commons Assistant, a writer, an avid consumer of coffee, a sister, a daughter, and an individual who has always struggled with her mental health. Sometimes something as simple as putting a name and an identity to the problem makes it a little less daunting. But what else?
Over the next several months, I’m going to be blogging about mental health and general well-being. I’m going to share my struggles with my mental health as well as my coping mechanisms, and focus on self-care as an integral tool to living as the happiest and healthiest human being one can possibly be.
I hope you stick around as I write, and maybe we’ll both end up learning something. In the meantime, here are some resources that could help.