Most students maintaining mental health with strategies

Ivan Olivares, Reporter

Students and staff are finding ways to maintain stable mental health during this pandemic. 

According to an article on Business Insider, “These are the biggest health problems caused by quarantine, and 6 things you can do to prevent them,” published by Amy Morin, says that the mental reaction of people may vary on who the person is. For example, a person that already worked from home may not be impacted much by a quarantine.  On the other hand, another person who interacts with a lot of people outside of the home is going to have a different mental reaction to quarantine. The same article gives ideas to cope with the decline in your mental health such as staying active in your home by doing yoga and home exercises. Another article on CNBC Make it, “Psychological experts share their tips for safeguarding your mental health during quarantine,” published by Karen Gilchrist says that you should stay informed on the news through reliable sources, but you should limit how much your intake of news you watch every day to not feel overwhelmedThe third article on Very Well Mind, “How to Cope with Quarantine,” published by Kendra Cherry mentions that you need to establish a routine, it can be helpful to structure your day so that it can give you a sense of a regular day.  

In a random survey of 15 Morton East students, 11 students said that they have been practicing new ways to maintain stable mental health.  Psychologist Ricardo Camacho has some suggestions here:  

“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many things, including mental health. This has made coping necessary during the ongoing pandemic. (Try this):

  1. Listen to your needs at any given moment. You may need to pause and rest physically, emotionally, and mentally. If we don’t we may become irritable, annoyed, frustrated, and overwhelmed more easily than usual.
  2. Practice releasing tension from your body, like your jaw, hands, and stomach. Breathing and grounding techniques work. Here is a link to some (8 Grounding Techniques for When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed).
  3. Create schedules and routines to have a structure with particular goals you might have with academics, involvement with school activities, and additional responsibilities like work or home obligations.
  4. Find a community of people with similar values. Whether those who have similar goals academically to keep you motivated and consistent, to individuals who can support you when you need someone to talk and connect with. Connection at the moment is a valuable necessity to remind us that what we’re facing is not normal and we’re each facing particular challenges as a result. There are support and resources for what we may need at any given moment and it requires communicating. 

Mental health is not a destination, rather an ongoing process. It’s okay if your mental health may need more support than usual right now especially during a pandemic impacting everyone in some form. If you know someone in need of more support, have them talk to a trusted adult or school staff member. We can connect and provide support to each person’s unique needs. Stigma often stops us from seeking support in times of need. We can eliminate stigma by being there for each other,” Morton East psychologist Ricardo Camacho said.

Many psychologists have similar ideas on how to take care of your mental heal — like creating a routine of your own while at home, using social media to benefit your lack of physical human interaction, interacting with friends, family members, and people that are in your community, but they also clarify that your mental health doesn’t an end goal, but it’s more of a journey that can and will have ups and downs throughout your entire life not just in quarantine.

“Some strategies that we recommend are: 

  • Exercise 
  • Get outside for fresh air and a walk 
  • A few minutes each day spent on a Calm/Mindfulness app such as youper, calm, aura 
  • Read a book for pleasure 
  • Designate your study space 
  • Organize your study space 
  • Do something creative that you enjoy; art, music, cook, dance, etc.   

The above strategies apply to everyone, including students who are feeling unstable. For those students in particular we would also recommend that you reach out to your counselor or social worker at school.  In extreme cases, we recommend you call a help hotline such as: 

  • Text TALK to 552020 (For people struggling with stress related to COVID— this will link you to a counselor in your area) 
  • Illinois Warmline—866-359-7953 (For people struggling with mental health issues to chat on phone) 
  • Text HOME  to 741741—crisis text line- counselor will respond ASAP 
  • 1-800-273-8255—National Suicide Prevention Lifeline,” Morton east school counselor Ms. Menges said. 

Various advisors offer similar if not the same strategies to keep your mental health stable, but all of them offer phone numbers such as the national suicide prevention lifeline, crisis text line, and many more that are at the disposal of the people if they’re struggling with their mental health, negative thoughts, and other mental health issues that quarantine has brought people.

To help with quarantine, I recommend finding ways to continue engaging with peers and family. This is a highly important part of our well-being and mental health. This can occur through FaceTime, Zoom, online gaming, phone calls, or socially distanced activities with proper personal protection equipment in an outdoor setting. In addition, it has been helpful to many to pick up a new hobby or invest greater time in an old hobby. Take an opportunity to learn something new or to dust off that guitar you got as a Christmas present last year. Another strategy that has been very helpful to many is the use of a gratitude journal. Things are more difficult now for many of us than ever before. Despite these circumstances, it is important we remind ourselves of all the good and positive things we still have in our lives. A gratitude journal can consist of daily writings of things that you are thankful for or appreciative of in your life. Maybe it is as simple as having a family that is healthy, a home to live in, friends to talk to, or maybe something good happened to you that day. When things are as tough as they are now, we need to remind ourselves of the positive-in this environment, our brains tend to go negative and we need to practice more positive thinking. Lastly, a helpful tool for many is lending a hand or assisting others. This does not need to be any grand gesture of formal volunteering (though this is also an option), but rather, offering help to people close in our lives. Lending a helping hand has the dual benefit of making the receiver and giver feel better.  

The best thing I can recommend to those who are struggling emotionally right now is to reach out to help. For students, reach out to your supports here at school and at home. For adults, reach out to community mental health/counseling agencies or your primary care physician who can provide mental health referrals. Simultaneously, reach out to friends and family and let them know you are struggling. People would rather know that t you need help and that they can help than to worry you are struggling alone,school psychologist Michael Ryva said 

Professionals such as psychologists, advisors, therapists, and many others have various strategies that students, teachers, and many other people can use to try to keep their minds and mental states stable. As well as other alternatives if their mental state is worsening such as phone numbers of lines able to talk to for any mental health issues you might be having. 

“I have tried some new things to help me survive the quarantine. 1. I have been trying to stay off my phone and interact with my family more. I find that I feel calmer and less stressed or lonely when I watch movies with my family, play games, eat dinner together, or talk. It has helped. I was on my phone too much. 2. I am learning to meditate. I thought meditation seemed kind of lame like it wouldn’t work. “How is staring at a dot on the wall going to help?” But then I learned that I could actually control my body and my mind if I practiced, that I could actually help myself to calm down when I needed to. This idea, that I could control my stress, seemed super cool, so I gave it a try. It has honestly been helping! I have my own tricks that work for me like imaging the in and out of the waves on a beach, and it helps when the stress of the pandemic feels like it’s too much. So far, so good. I feel that these are two things that have helped me survive the last months. 

The second part is that I feel these are two strategies that anyone can do to do feel better.  They don’t cost anything.  We all have pets, family members, and our minds to help us during this time.  We need to focus on what’s important and try to shut the stress or sadness out.  At least, I think it helps. There are many cool meditation apps that will help people get started if they don’t know-how.  And they are free!” AP literature teacher Ms, Tracy Lloyd said.

Many adults have tried and are practicing some of the strategies that psychologists and advisors have been advising to keep your mental health in check. For example, many are staying away from unnecessary social media and staying active at home. 

“Journaling and virtually interacting with friends through quarantine (are the things I’m doing),” senior student Cesar Martinez said. 

Many students have taken to expressing their thoughts through pen and paper as well as others have tried many other ways one is keeping in touch with close friends and other family members to have a connection to the world outside their homes. 

The ways I try to keep my mental sanity at bay is by working, watching good old movies such as “The Terminator,” and also online shopping,” senior student Robert Soto said. 

Many students that have a job during the quarantine use their jobs as an escape from the reality of quarantine, but they also have various hobbies at home such as watching or re-watching movies that they enjoyed.  

“Get distracted with schoolwork, go to work, video games, work out at home, talk more with parents, and a lot of time on social media,” senior student Anthony Nunez said.