Balancing Mental Health with Academics
By Keiko Casserly '23
If you were to be asked “What’s more important, school or your mental health?” the obvious answer would be your mental health, right? This is something we all know but sometimes fail to actually put into practice. Now, I’m not going to lie to you and pretend my mental health is in perfect shape. I am a perfectionist to say the least, and sometimes it really is difficult to allow myself to take breaks; it can be almost guilt-inducing when I do. However, actively making sure I rest and allot time for self-care, as well as reminding myself that, although my grades are important, they do not define me--these are all things that I am trying to instill into my daily thoughts and actions. From a young age, we are constantly told that in order to be successful in life we must achieve academic excellence and have perfect transcripts with perfect grades. For many, getting into a great college and having a successful career is the end goal, but if achieving that means tearing yourself apart in the process, does it really count as reaching your goal?
As a junior, I am constantly reminded that time is ticking and college applications are quickly approaching. There’s this constant pressure to excel, not necessarily from my parents or teachers, but from myself, often stemming from the fear of failure. Last year, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), after which I began to understand many of the challenges I faced and tendencies I developed over the years, both in and outside of school. Growing up with ADHD made school incredibly difficult for me, especially because I was unaware of it. Besides the general difficulty with focusing in classes and chronic procrastination, there also came this seemingly never-ending lack of motivation, and my grades sometimes suffered as a result.
When I moved to California and transferred to ICA, I gained a lot more confidence in myself and my intelligence, fueling the motivation and drive I have now. However, the fear of self-sabotage and reverting to my old tendencies often fuels this drive as well, which ironically, can be a harmful mindset to maintain. I found myself overworking to make sure I got everything done and avoided taking breaks, leading me to feel very drained and burnt out; I even caught a cold from lack of sleep. I realized that no matter how much I want to succeed at everything I do, in order to do that I need to take care of myself first. I can never truly achieve my goals if I’m constantly ignoring my health, both physical and mental. As students, we’re going through a very stressful period in our lives and will be for some time, but as Lalah Delia says, “self-care is how you take your power back.”
Here are some tips on taking care of your mental health:
Value yourself: Making time for yourself and your hobbies is always important for maintaining positive mental health. Set aside time for the things you enjoy or for the people you enjoy spending time with. From personal experience, making and keeping these promises to yourself, as well as having things to look forward to, can help with getting through a stressful week or day.
Create a support system: Creating a strong network of family, friends, and (possibly) a counselor can be very helpful when managing or experiencing stressful situations. As cliche as it may be, I always find that voicing my thoughts and emotions takes a weight off my shoulders.
Managing stress effectively: Finding non-self-destructive coping mechanisms for stress is beneficial to both your mental and physical health. Finding a coping skill that works for you, whether it be exercising, journaling, or meditation, is very important for positive mental health.