As a doctoral-level student, stress can be inevitable. Deadlines, externships, exams, friends, family, and work—life can feel like it comes at you in one take. It can feel like there is no room to breathe.
Your friends at the Student Academy of Audiology (SAA) want you to know that we are here for you.
Take a couple of minutes, get a warm cup of tea, and read through 10 tips to de-stress on World Mental Health Day.
What Is World Mental Health Day?
World Mental Health Day, first observed on October 10, 1992, was developed by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH). It aims to raise awareness about critical mental health agendas that play a role in the global community. Each year, a theme is presented, and this year is no different. WFMH’s World Health Day 2022 theme is ‘make mental health and well-being for all a global priority.’
Learn more about World Mental Health Day here.
10 Tips to De-Stress on World Mental Health Day
- Drink Water and Incorporate a Healthy Diet into Your Routine
- Chat with a Friend
- Do Something You Love
- Get Fresh Air
- Get Enough Sleep
- Set Boundaries
- Listen to Music
- Take a Break from Screens
Drink Water and Incorporate a Healthy Diet into Your Routine
We all know that water is an essential part of our lives. However, even though we all know it’s important, many of us fail to drink the right amount of water we need every day.
With water making up 60 to 70 percent of the human body, it’s not a far stretch to believe water is an important part of maintaining good health (Liska, 2019).
A 2014 study suggests that dehydration can affect cognitive ability and mood, even citing effects on short-term memory and visual perceptual abilities in cases of severe dehydration (Masento et al, 2014).
How much water should you be drinking? According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, men between the ages of 19 to 30 should drink 131 oz. of water, and women between the ages of 19 to 30 should drink 95 oz. per day.
Along the lines of drinking enough water, incorporating a healthy and balanced diet into your life is just as essential to addressing your stress.
With all that’s happening, grabbing a quick snack can feel like a huge accomplishment. However, instead of reaching for snacks to improve brain function, sometimes (and we understand), all you want is a big bag of chips or fast food.
While eating those foods in moderation is okay, the Harvard School of Public Health suggests incorporating a healthy and balanced diet can help support your immune system and provide the energy you may need to deal with stressful situations. This could include incorporating veggies and polyunsaturated fats into your diet.
Chat with a Friend
When you’re stressed or feeling down, who is the first person you want to talk to? A friend, a family member, or do you try to bottle it up inside?
If you said the latter, think again. Bottling up your stress or other emotional responses can be like shaking a bottle of coca cola. At some point, it will…POP!
If you’re feeling stressed about life or your graduate work, turn to a friend you can trust. It’s likely they may be experiencing the same thing or have gone through a similar event. Talking to a friend can benefit you in more ways than one.
In fact, according to a 2018 review, high life satisfaction is associated with the presence of friendship (Amati et al, 2018). Another 2010 study concluded that social relationships not only affected mental health but also morbidity and mortality (Holt-Lunstand et al, 2010).
Having trouble making friends? That’s okay. When you’re a graduate student and even in your professional years, it can feel like it’s tough to make good quality friends. Try these few tips:
- Attend small university events like local SAA chapter events and other club events.
- Ask an acquaintance that you want to know better out to coffee or lunch.
- Take your pet (or a neighbor’s pet) for a walk around the neighborhood.
When you have a million and one things to do, it can feel like you have no time to relax. But, did you know that it can take as little as 10 minutes to bring down your stress levels?
According to a 2020 study that investigated whether standardized massages were capable of inducing physiological and psychological states of relaxation, both types of massages did increase psychophysiological relaxation (Meier et al, 2020).
The good news is that you don’t have to book a private massage to bring your stress levels down. According to Healthline, there are many inexpensive ways to give yourself a massage, including using:
- Your hands to massage your head, neck, and feet
- A foam roller to massage your legs and lower back
- A tennis ball to massage your shoulders, back, and pectoral muscles
Additionally, Healthline also provides comprehensive steps to execute self-massages for acute pain such as headaches, back pain, foot pain, and more (Nunez, 2022).
Do Something You Love
School, work, friends, and add time for relaxation—you may be wondering ‘when am I ever going to get to do something I love?’
School, work, and maintaining family and friend relationships are important, but so is self-care. Self-care can come in many forms and should be incorporated into your life. Whether it’s daily, weekly, or bi-weekly, make sure to schedule some time for a bath, to read a book or watch your favorite show, or even to go on a hike or to a concert.
Get Fresh Air
As a graduate student, you may feel like you’re cooped up indoors all of the time. That is probably true; however, it’s important to your health to get outside. Like taking time for relaxation, spending time outdoors, even for 10 minutes, can reduce stress.
According to research from Cornell University, spending ten minutes outside, walking or sitting, can reduce stress levels for college-aged students. Cornell University’s full systematic review was published in Frontiers of Psychology (Meredith et al, 2020).
Get Enough Sleep
Have you recently been spending your nights awake and up until the wee hours of the morning? While one or two of those nights here and there aren’t bad, you must get enough sleep due to the short and long-term mental and health effects it has.
According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School (2021), short and long-term sleep deprivation can affect memory, judgement, and mood, as well as cause health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and more.
How much sleep is enough? According to the Sleep Foundation, young adults, aged 18 to 25, should get a recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep, but could also sleep anywhere between 6 to 11 hours (Suni, 2022).
When you’re in graduate school, it can feel like you’re being pulled in many different directions. From school to friends to family and mentors, everyone needs or wants something.
While maintaining those relationships is important, it’s also essential to make sure you are setting healthy boundaries.
What does setting boundaries look like and where should you begin?
When setting boundaries, you want to think about what you will and won’t do, when you will or when you won’t be available, and with whom you will or won’t be doing these things with.
The Ohio State University Office of Student Life provides great examples of how students can begin setting boundaries, including:
- Determine when you can and cannot be contacted during non-work hours.
- Set a hard stop time for your end of day.
- Set expectations for response times for family, friends, and supervisors.
- Provide clear communication regarding your communication preferences (2022).
We understand that it can be scary to start, but we encourage you to take it one step at a time.
Listen to Music
Have you ever listened to your favorite songs and felt better after an hour?
In a 2020 systematic review and meta-analysis, the question was raised on if music therapy could be used for stress reduction. This review concluded that there is evidence that music therapy can reduce stress (Witte et al, 2020).
According to the American Music Therapy Association, all types of music can be useful in affecting your life. So, while music therapy is used as a part of medical practice, starting out by listening to your favorite songs can be a good first step (2022).
Some say that there is nothing like the endorphin rush those who exercise get. In fact, that might be true and have a real impact on decreasing graduate student stressors.
In a 2020 study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, researchers looked at the role regular physical activity and short-term exercise had on the mental health of university students. These researchers concluded that low- to moderate-intensity exercise was effective in alleviating symptoms of depression and perceived stress (Herbert, 2020).
Low- to moderate-intensity exercise could include walking and jogging, riding a bike, and swimming.
Take a Break from Screens
Too much screen time can not only be bad for your eyes, but it can also affect your mental health…especially if social media comes into play.
Like relaxation and going outdoors, take time to get away from your screen. This could be while you’re cooking your meals, taking part in a hobby like reading, and even…getting out in the fresh air.
Graduate Students and Mental Health
It’s no secret that graduate students’ mental health is left on the back burner. Furthermore, graduate students often exhibit higher rates of depression, anxiety, and burnout.
The Student Academy of Audiology encourages everyone to take time for self-care and mental and physical health.
Amati V, Meggiolaro S, Rivellini G, Zaccarin S. (2018) Social relations and life satisfaction: the role of friends. Social relations and life satisfaction: the role of friends. Genus 74 (7). https://doi.org/10.1186/s41118-018-0032-z.
American Music Therapy Association. (2022) FAQs | American Music Therapy Association (AMTA). www.musictherapy.org/faq/#45 (accessed October 5, 2022).
Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. (2022) Consequences of insufficient sleep. http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/consequences (accessed October 5, 2022).
Greaver M. (2020) Spending time in nature reduces stress, research finds. Cornell Chronicle. https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2020/02/spending-time-nature-reduces-stress-research-finds (accessed October 5, 2022).
Harvard School of Public Health the Nutrition Source. (2021) Stress and health. www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/stress-and-health (accessed October 5, 2022).
Hennon L. (2022). Your student life: Healthy boundary setting. The Ohio State University Office of Student Life https://studentlife.osu.edu/articles/your-student-life-healthy-boundary-setting/ (accessed October 5, 2022).
Herbert C, Meixner F, Wiebking C, Gilg V. (2020) Regular physical activity, short-term exercise, mental health, and well-being among university students: The results of an online and a laboratory study. Frontiers Psych 11 (509). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00509.
Holt-Lunstad J, Smith T, Layton J. (2010) Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. PLOS Medicine 7(7): e1000316. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316.
Liska D, Mah E, Brisbois T, Barrios P, Baker L, Spriet L. (2019) Narrative Review of Hydration and Selected Health Outcomes in the General Population. Nutrients 11(1):70. doi: 10.3390/nu11010070. PMID: 30609670; PMCID: PMC6356561.
Masento N, Golightly M, Field D, Butler L, Van Reekum C. (2014). Effects of hydration status on cognitive performance and mood. Brit J Nutrition 111(10):1841-1852. doi:10.1017/S0007114513004455.
Meier M, Unternaehrer E, Dimitroff S, et al. (2020) Standardized massage interventions as protocols for the induction of psychophysiological relaxation in the laboratory: a block randomized, controlled trial. Sci Rep 10. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-71173-w.
National Academics of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2005) Dietary Reference Intakes for Electrolytes and Water. www.nationalacademies.org/our-work/dietary-reference-intakes-for-electrolytes-and-water (accessed October 5, 2022).
Nunez K. (2022) Massage techniques to give yourself some love. Healthline. www.healthline.com/health/self-massage (accessed October 5, 2022).
Suni E. (2022) How much sleep do we really need? Sleep Foundation. www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need (accessed October 5, 2022).
Witte M, Silva Pinho A, Stams G, Moonen X, Bos A, Hooren S. (2020) Music therapy for stress reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Health Psychology Review, 16:1, 134-159. doi: 10.1080/17437199.2020.1846580.
World Mental Health Day. (2022) Make mental health and well-being for all a global priority. World Federation for Mental Health https://wmhdofficial.com (accessed October 5, 2022).
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