Staying well

Maintaining good mental health

Good mental health involves more than finding help when things get tough. Habits and strategies that keep you well and maintain your resilience are important parts of mental and emotional wellbeing. The pressure of academics, financial stress, and changes to your social environment are some of the many reasons to keep yourself as healthy and happy as possible. There are a lot of small steps you can take to keep yourself well throughout your studies.

Limit or avoid drugs and alcohol

  • Drinking or using drugs does not reduce stressors and will only provide a temporary fix. When the substance wears off, your problems are still there and may end up being worse. Further, excessive drinking or drug use can lead to significant physical and mental health, academic and other issues.
  • If you drink, make a plan to help keep yourself safe. Deciding in advance how much you’re going to drink, eating food before drinking, keeping an eye on your drink at all times, and planning a ride home are simple steps that you can take to reduce your risk of problems later on.
  • Reach out for help to a health practitioner and learn more about addictions if your drug or alcohol use is concerning.

Eat healthy foods

  • A proper diet will make you mentally and physically stronger. Proper nutrition is highly connected to overall mental health, especially when managing a busy and sometimes stressful schedule. UVic Food Services provides informed dining information  to guide you in making healthy dietary choices on campus. Look for informed dining guides around campus, which tell you the nutritional value of menu items.
  • UVic’s registered dietitian is also available as a resource for students to achieve optimal health while attending UVic. They can advise you on learning how to make healthier choices on campus, and can offer more information on student health. The dietitian is available for one-on-one counseling at no cost to students by visiting their website. Students can also access the expertise of a Registered Dietitian at Victory Health and Wellness.

Stay active

  • A great way to maintain positive mental health in university is to understand the link between active, healthy living and mental health. Positive mental health and exercise go hand in hand.
  • Vikes Recreation provides training facilities for all UVic community members. CARSA is the home of Vikes Rec and offers a climbing wall, fitness and weight-training space, squash and racquetball courts, a rowing center, dance space, yoga studio, and an indoor fieldhouse. Intramurals are a great way to get exercise and meet people, with over 6,500 students participating each year. Vikes Rec also offers volleyball, capture the flag, soccer, hockey, tournaments, softball and much more. Exercise classes such as Yoga, Bootcamp, Pilates, and personal training options are also available.
  • Some other options for being active on and around campus include:

Get enough sleep

  • Getting enough sleep is essential to a sharp and clear mind. Although it may be tempting to stay up late to study and finish assignments, being sleep deprived makes it difficult to focus and can impair learning.
  • The amount of sleep required for optimal functioning varies across the lifespan and increases from adolescence to 24 years old, averaging at 7-9 hours a night.
  • Researchers have found sleep deprivation to be associated with difficulties concentrating and higher rates of depression and anxiety. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to numerous other health concerns such as cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and cancer. Sleep experts stress the importance of going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day. A consistent sleep pattern allows our bodies to adjust to a stable sleep-wake cycle, reduces daytime drowsiness and enhances energy levels throughout the day.
  • Many students drink coffee and other caffeinated beverages to increase alertness, but having caffeine after 2:00pm has been shown to negatively affect sleep habits. This makes it difficult to fall asleep and reduces the amount of REM sleep we get. REM is a stage in the sleep cycle where our deepest cognitive processing normally occurs.

Manage stress and anxiety

  • To deal with stress and anxiety before it becomes a big problem, try some of the following strategies:
    • Manage your time effectively - Learning how to schedule your key responsibilities and keep on track with due dates will help you be more productive and keep you from feeling overwhelmed.
    • Relax - Make time to do things that you enjoy and to relax. Taking a break to rest your body and mind will allow you to be more productive and take on challenges.
    • Be realistic - Remember, not every stressor you have is the end of the world. Think about whether the problem will still matter in a week, month, or year from now.
    • Use humour - Humour can be found in just about anything, try to laugh and enjoy life.
    • Breathing - If you feel overwhelmed, take a few deep breaths; this will enable you to slow your heart rate and calm down.

Try different stress relief strategies to find the ones that work best for you. Some suggestions for different types of stress relief strategies are available online.

Healthy relationships and social connections

  • Making and maintaining healthy relationships is key to positive mental health. Healthy relationships make you feel good about yourself, and about others. Joining clubs, intramurals, course unions, sports teams, advocacy groups or spiritual groups are great ways to nurture social connections. Club and Course Union Days at the beginning of each semester are a good way to get to know more about potential activities on campus. You can also find more information about the different groups on campus by visiting the UVSS website. It is never too late to get involved.

For support and services related to these topics, check out self-help and on-campus resources, suggestions for connecting with others, and academic support.