3 Back-to-School Mental Health Tips

It’s that time of year where everything is gearing up for going back to school. This is the time to not only get all the clothes and supplies in order, but also to also get mentally ready. So, here are some helpful tips to consider as you or your loved one heads back to school.

1. Pros always talk to Pros!

The best athletes in sports never think they have arrived. In fact, they keep seeking other professionals to help them manage and improve their ‘game.’ Just like these athletes, if you have a mental health condition, you want the same focus. So, there two simple things with this:

— Review Your Pro Plan: Even if you’re doing great, get time with your therapist or find a therapist to help you review what keeps you doing well, how to recognize if things are going down hill, and what your go-to-plan is when life starts to hurt more than normal – a plan to help you manage with more support or help (this go-to plan can involve the campus counseling center for those in college).

— Review Your Pro Meds: If you’re taking medications, make sure to get a good review and plan with your psychiatrist as well.

2. Know your grace and pace.

Students are under a lot of pressure between school, sports, clubs (fraternity or sorority), church weekly events, and navigating all the social pressures between it all. So, you want to know your grace to stay healthy and balanced (living without burden and expectation) and what pace you can really manage well (not always being behind and trying to keep up). In other words, this refers to the new trendy phrase, “Don’t do them, do you!”

Here’s how to know your simple grace and pace:

HEALTH, SCHOOL, & SOCIAL LIFE (in that order) … what do you want in each area?

HEALTH (8 hrs sleep every night, consistent healthy meals, exercise = sports or 3x weekly)

SCHOOL (always stay ahead on reading/assignments, no last-minute studying, always get help when I need it)

SOCIAL LIFE (consistent time with my safe friends, social media doesn’t drive me, more fun vs. drama)

The key is to make it simple.  If you want to share it with a close friend just make sure they’re not “keeping you accountable” as a checklist, rather as an encouraging reminder when life seems to get off track. 

3. Know your go-to plan when life hurts.

Be encouraged … just because you start seeing signs that you may be struggling doesn’t mean you’re headed to the deep pit. I’ve worked with people who started seeing challenges, but then made adjustments to manage things, and they avoided the deep pit and managed well through the dip. So, here are keys to your “Life hurts go-to plan.”

A. Know your warning signs

What are the key factors that you know you’re slipping, but not falling? What are the top three? If they last longer than 2-3 days, you know it’s time to adjust.

B. Know your tools

What are the tools you need to start adjusting for more benefit? This could be pulling back from activities to get more sleep or less social stress, breathing and mental tools to work down mood and thoughts, or even setting up an appointment at the counseling center. 

C. Know your team

Talk to 2-3 close friends now — don’t wait until it’s rough. Share with them what you would like life to look like when you’re having rough time. You can even explore what type of support outlets there are through the campus counseling center. 

Going through these ideas can be a simple exercise and can even fit on one page, whether you keep it in your journal or in your notes on your smart phone or tablet. 

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