Now is the perfect time to discuss regulating your mental health, since October includes World Mental Health Day. I will say, however, I haven’t always thought that mental health was important. I used to be annoyed whenever I saw an ad about a mental health facility or discussing your mental health with your doctor. But that all changed during the first semester of my freshman year. Even before I first set foot on campus, I struggled with severe anxiety. I was anxious about homesickness and academic success. Then, once the school year officially started, my anxiety developed into panic attacks, which I struggled with frequently. I knew I would have trials during my time at Cedarville, but of the possibilities that crossed my mind, panic attacks were not one of them. While I have not had a panic attack for about a year now, the Lord has used that season of my life to open my eyes to the truth that mental health is very important. It also revealed to me that I battle anxiety a lot more than I was aware of before. Since that time in my life, I have put a few strategies in place to help manage my anxiety, and I would love to share some of them with you.
Tip #1: Journal
I don’t do this every day, but I make sure I make time to do it at least 3-4 times a week. I journal in the morning before my 9 a.m. class. I prefer to journal at the beginning of the day because it helps to clear my mind so I can focus on class lectures, chapel, and homework for the rest of the day. It also helps to manage stress, and it is a healthy outlet for me to rant about something that frustrates me, record things that I am uncomfortable sharing with others, or pour all my excitement about something onto an empty page rather than keeping it all bottled up inside me. Upset that you failed a test? Let it out on paper. Stressed about that midterm paper? Write down all your thoughts and feelings about it. Excited that you landed an internship for the summer? Grab your journal and a pen and start writing.
Tip #2: Read Your Bible
As part of Cedarville’s “Love for God” core value, spending time in the Word is essential for living our lives for God’s glory. I am sure you have heard Dr. White say, “no Bible, no breakfast” several times in chapel. However, that does not mean that your quiet time with the Lord must take place in the morning before you eat breakfast. Set aside a specific time in your schedule to spend time in the Word. I know our lives get super busy, but it is important that you make your devotions your top priority every day. God gives us true peace through His Word. Whether life is going well or you are going through a difficult season in your life, grab your Bible, pick a passage, and start reading.
Tip #3: Take Breaks
This one is hard for me to do. We are at Cedarville to get an excellent education. Our core values, “Integrity in Conduct” and “Excellence in Effort” relate directly to our studies. Maybe this is just me, because I’m a perfectionist, but when I think “Excellence in Effort,” I think of studying until my work is done with no breaks. However, there is more to life than school. Everyone needs something fun to look forward to every so often. Plus, no one is mentally capable of working 24/7. That would be insane! God designed our bodies to need rest, physical and mental. So, when you are feeling exhausted at 2 a.m. as you are trying to study, it would be wise to call it a night. Studying through exhaustion does not give you any benefits.
I was homeschooled my whole life, and my mother once told me that I had to get all my schoolwork done before I could play. That advice has stuck with me through today. I am constantly thinking, “I have to get everything on my list done before I can have some free time.” However, if I try to sit down and work on assignments for several hours straight, I almost always procrastinate. Once I complete and turn in one assignment, another takes its place. Unless you live in a “perfect” world, you will never “have” time to take a break. Instead, you simply must carve out time to put your books down and turn off your laptop.
It is OK to take a break from your homework when you feel stressed out. Go somewhere off campus with your friends, take a walk, go to an Alt Night. Even if you have not completed everything you wanted to get done, sometimes you just need to walk away and come back to it later. When you pick up the books again, you will feel refreshed.
Tip #4: Seek Help
This one can be harder than it sounds. After struggling with panic attacks for a couple weeks, my parents encouraged me to go to UMS and seek counseling. I was very opposed, partly because I knew this issue was only temporary, and I felt that by seeking help from those places I would be admitting that this issue was permanent. I thought, “At this point, I don’t need to ask for help. This issue is only temporary. I’m fine. It’ll end soon.” However, my mother reminded me that it was not just my mental health that was being affected, but my physical health as well. As the Lord commands us in the Scriptures, I honored my parents and followed their advice. I am so glad I did. After my initial UMS appointment, my panic attacks went away a few weeks later, and as mentioned earlier, I have not had one for almost a year. Praise the Lord!
Contrary to what the world says, asking for help does not make you weak; it’s actually a sign of how strong you are. No matter what you are struggling with, the staff and faculty here at Cedarville care about you, and they want to help you. They have a “Love for Others.” Whatever season you are in, even if it’s only temporary, ask for help. It’ll be worth it!
Tip #5: Be Assured That You Are Not Alone and That You Are Loved
God is always with you. He says, “’I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5). Pray to Him and talk about what you are going through. He is ready to listen, and He knows everything that is going on even before you say a single word. Get it off your chest. Share your hopes, worries, doubts, fears, and anything else that you need to tell Him.
Don’t isolate yourself from your family and friends by keeping this solely between you and God. It is important to share your hardships with those who love you. God placed those people in your life for a reason, and they can help you through this. This part may be easier for me than it is for others since I am an extrovert, but it is vital to have a community of people we trust during times like this.
As Dr. White has said in chapel, “You are loved!” You are loved by the God who sent His Son to die on the cross to pay the price for your sins, and you are loved by the students, faculty, and staff here at Cedarville University. Take heart! You are not alone!
Your 1,000 days at Cedarville University will be filled with unique experiences that will be full of growth and challenges. Some of the hardships you will face might be related to your mental health. With the tips discussed above, you can take charge of your mental health and live your life “for the Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus Christ!”
Year & Major: Junior, English
Favorite Music Artist: Jeremy Camp, For King & Country
Favorite Quote: It’s hard to pick a favorite, but one of my favorites is, “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”-Christopher Robin in Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin
What do you like to do in your free time? Reading, writing, cooking, baking, playing the piano, playing the guitar, spending time with friends and family, visiting coffee shops and bookstores.
Favorite Bible Verse: Psalm 23