By Lana Sumner-Borema
During COVID-19 lockdown, homebound Americans encountered new stressful situations from not being able to live normally. Some were forced into dangerous living situations while others had to continue their jobs interacting with others despite their own personal health. And from this, there has been a noticeable increase in conversations of mental health and well-being in the U.S.
According to the article, “The Dangers of Over-Using Mental Health Buzzwords,” by The Academy for Addiction Professionals, the increased conversation on mental health should be encouraged to eradicate the surrounding stigma. However, the eradication of a stigma seems to also have the potential to encourage inaccurate personal diagnoses.
According to the Addiction Academy, “… by misappropriating a legitimate mental health diagnosis to what is normal behavioral variation, chips away at the seriousness of the problem.”
The Buccaneer sought to answer questions about mental health and self-care among students at Barry with Luis Estrada, a senior double majoring in biology and philosophy, a freshman international studies major Maya Beydoun, and Carlo Jacques, a senior computer science major.
The students agreed a proper level of self-care and attention to mental health are essential. Being in tune with yourself for Jacques is necessary to perform “optimally,” while for Estrada you need a healthy mental state to live a “good life.”
Beydoun, a rower on the women’s rowing team, believes the value of mental health is not realized enough in the realm of student athletes.
She said she has increased her attention to mental health in recent years and became weary of cases involving “loosely self-diagnosing” which can undervalue mental illnesses. This can eventually cause more obstacles for those who are truly struggling, like not being taken seriously if they have debilitating anxiety and depression because it’s been so misappropriated and overused.
Estrada agrees and encourages students who are struggling with mental wellness to work with mental health professionals.
“When a mental health professional advocates for taking care of your mental health by practicing self-care, they have training and guidelines that help to guide your thoughts and actions toward a better tomorrow,” he said. “While when the average person who’s watched a few too many TikTok videos tries to practice it, they all too easily end up binging Netflix and skipping classes all day.”
For the three students, productivity was the main reason behind prioritizing their mental health.
Beydoun feels the importance of mental health because sometimes it can be the only thing “you can control” in a life influenced by many outside influences. This idea was furthered by Jacques who said a person’s poor mental health ultimately leads them to “make decisions that are damaging to themselves or society,” such as disregarding nutrition or exercise due to stress to later deal with its consequences.
Estrada considers self-care a form of “self-management” and without its upkeep, “it is far too easy to crash and burn or to push through things so often that you end up living an incomplete life.” The philosophy major referenced Aristotle to outline this importance, “… it’s all about balance, to go to either end of the extreme is to invite peril into your life.”
When asked how they practice self-care, they all answered in terms of spending time with loved ones and rewarding themselves on the weekends.
Estrada said. “During the week, I allocate enough time to getting as much as I can done so that I can afford [to go out Friday night]; hanging out with friends is not a right, but rather a reward that I am able to indulge in if I get everything done.”
“I pay attention to my mental health by talking with my roommate about my feelings and how to better handle certain situations, said Beydoun. “With the little time I do have, I try and make time to go off campus and do things with friends that I enjoy. This helps me relax and unwind for the week.”
“I practice mental health by managing my thoughts,” said Jacques, adding he refrains from unfavorable and potentially stress-inducing situations. “When a task seems draining, for example tutoring kids, I change my perspective and I imagine myself in their shoes.”
For students, Jacques recommends staying “positive.” Beydoun recommends not “projecting bad mental health practices onto others.” Estrada feels students may need to focus on self-care a little more as he said some of his friends “really need to force themselves to take a break” and practice Aristotle’s concept of balance.
So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed take a study break to exercise, eat right and use your weekends as a mini vacation from work as much as you can. Talk to a mental health care professional for more healthy habits.