Editor’s note: This article is not professional mental health care. If you think you are in need of a mental health professional, seek an adult to help you find a licensed psychologist. If you are feeling suicidal, please call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255 and if there is a medical emergency, call 911.
Self-care is important to practice as a high school student, especially if you are dealing with mental health issues. Many times, there are self-care lists online that involve spending a lot of money and are not very helpful. This list is supposed to provide some free or inexpensive and accessible coping skills for students to practice in their lives.
- Meditation. Meditation is extremely centering. Try the free Headspace app, which has guided meditation sessions that are easy to follow along, or just practice mindfulness and find time in the day to clear your mind. All you need is a quiet environment where you can go for a few minutes.
- Yoga. You do not need to spend a lot of money to practice yoga. There are many free guided yoga sessions available on YouTube. Yoga is great because it combines mindfulness with movement.
- Run. Breaking a sweat is great for our bodies and minds. Running is free, and it provides much-needed endorphins that can make us happier. Although it may feel like the last thing you want to do, especially if you are dealing with depression, forcing yourself to exercise a few times a week is an essential part of healing.
- Walk. If you have a pet dog, this can double as taking care of your dog too. Try walking for even ten or 20 minutes. Sometimes, some fresh air can get us out of a bad mindset.
- Read. This relaxing activity can help you take your mind off what is bothering you.
- Write. Write down how you feel. You can even write some poetry if that helps. It can be very cathartic to articulate your emotions and put them on paper.
- Art. Explore your creative side and try painting, drawing, pottery, or any type of art. This can be so helpful when dealing with heavy emotions. Your art does not need to be perfect, you do not even need to show it to anyone. Just doing something for yourself will help.
- Music. Listening to your favorite music can help your mood.
- Clean. Having a messy room can make you feel worse. A clean and organized environment can help you feel more relaxed. Add some things to your room that make you happy. Your room should be a calming place that you feel comfortable to go to when you need to feel better.
- Eat. Remember that your body needs nutrients to function. Sometimes we can forget to eat when we are not feeling mentally stable. Try to eat something healthy because it will help you feel better.
- Shower. Taking care of your hygiene is important. Showering when you are in a funk can help make you feel more alert if you are feeling spaced out. Splashing your face with cold water is refreshing, and if you dunk your face into an ice-cold bucket of water or put ice on your face below your eyes, this induces something called the diving reflex. This causes the blood to be diverted from the limbs and all organs except the heart and brain, allowing the blood to circle between the heart and brain, conserving oxygen. You will notice that this exercise has an immediate calming effect and slows down breathing. The diving reflex can be used to cope with anxiety.
- Get some sun. As a high school student, you probably don’t spend a ton of time outside during the day. It is important to get in the sunshine because Vitamin D can actually improve your mood. You get Vitamin D from being in sunlight, so try to go outside.
- Talk to a friend. Remember to not isolate yourself when you are feeling unwell. Socializing can be very helpful to get you in a better mood. Meet up with your best friend do something active, or just talk. Remember that you do not have to go through mental illness alone.
When dealing with a mental disorder, sometimes it can be difficult to find the motivation or time to take care of ourselves. The above list will not cure your mental illness, but it could help alleviate some of the negative symptoms you are feeling. Even if you just remember to take care of your personal hygiene, or try to get more sleep, exercise, and water, your mindset can improve. I know even this is difficult, but your mind and body will thank you for taking care of yourself.