Looking on the bright side

STU’s Student Mental Health Committee is brainstorming for fun de-stressing activities (Kerstin Schlote / AQ)
STU’s Student Mental Health Committee is brainstorming for fun de-stressing activities (Kerstin Schlote/AQ)

When assignments and exam preparations seem like a mountain impossible to climb, it’s important to keep a positive attitude and take breaks, said STU student Kevin Gleeson.

The third-year criminology and history student is a member of the Student Mental Health Committee. Under the guidance of Lindsay Gallagher, the committee plans a de-stress day for STU students before final exams.

“Don’t let the stress take over,” said Gleeson. “Then you start worrying and you’re not going to be able to focus at all. As soon as you start feeling that stress, do something that cheers you up.”

He said focusing on the bright side helps to “crush the negative.” After exams are over, a month of vacation awaits students to relax. Listening to Christmas music while studying may trigger this positive energy in the brain, he said. He also suggests finishing the toughest assignment before tackling shorter papers.

Gleeson became involved with the Student Mental Health Committee after attending a session at the East Coast Leadership Conference earlier this month. This session “sparked the passion inside me [him] to give back and make people aware” of mental health, he said.

The Student Mental Health Committee aims to remove stigmas from mental health and raise awareness. Lindsay Gallagher, who has been working as a positive mental health champion at STU since Thanksgiving, created the committee.

She said when most people think of mental health, they think of mental illness. Positive mental health is about being healthy before problems develop.

Gallagher said one in every five Canadian young people struggle with mental illness. Most of the time, symptoms appear before the age of 25.

“Mental illness and poor mental health is out there,” Gallagher said.

In a university environment, sometimes all that students do is work, which can become overwhelming. According to Gallagher, stress, depression and anxiety are common among university students.

Finding a balance between studies, part-time employment and fun activities is essential, along with eating healthy food, getting exercise and enough sleep.

Gallagher has three suggestions for students in the middle of essay season and preparing for exams.

  1. Prioritize, figure out what’s important and what needs to get done first.
  2. Take a 15-minute break every few hours. Do something – whether it’s playing video games, talking to a friend, going for a walk, or listening to music, to recharge.
  3. Have a positive support group. People who support you and who you support, can understand that you may not be able to go out all the time, but will encourage you to go out when you need to.
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