Those who suffer from mental illnesses are all too familiar with the roller-coaster that is taking care of ones mental and physical health. Some days everything is going up, some days you reach the top, others you plummet downhill, stay down, or ride a hill both up and down throughout the day. Your mood, productivity level, and willpower are unpredictable and difficult to manage.
In college, regardless of if you have a mental illness or not, you tend to have good mental health days and bad mental health days. On those bad days you may not even be able to take care of yourself and do simple tasks like brush your teeth, make breakfast, or sometimes even get out of bed, let alone do real productive work. Depending on the severity of the bad mental health day, your life can be seriously impacted and pushed behind.
On the good days it is easy to forget that these bad days exist, until you are blindsided by them. The best thing that you can do for your future self is to prepare for the bad days while you’re having a good one.
Preparing for a bad mental health day or a rough week will make it easier on yourself to get through them without being too unproductive or struggling as badly.
Habit tracking is something that I had been slowly playing with doing for a while, and started to take seriously during February. I saw real results in being able to track my habits. Even simple things like marking down when I took my medication in the morning helped so that I could look back at it later in the day in case I couldn’t remember anymore if I had taken it or not.
Using habit tracking for everyday small tasks such as taking medication or washing your face is a great way to create a routine and track your mental and physical health. Using habit tracking for small goals that you set such as working out more often or eating cleaner is a great way to track improvement and progress toward those goals as well.
Creating a routine
Going along with what was just said about habit tracking, creating a routine can be very beneficial to your mental health on bad days. If you set up a routine on good days and get into the swing of doing certain things at certain times then when you have a bad day it can benefit you in multiple ways.
Having a routine of good habits (such as taking your medication, eating your veggies, reaching your step count goal, getting out of bed at a certain time, etc.) can help your mental health when you have bad days by:
- Creating a set of tasks that your body is used to doing. If you are used to waking up at the same time every morning then even when you are extremely tired you are more likely to wake up at the right time automatically.
- Preparing your physical body by giving it the nutrition and exercise it needs to function even when you need to take the day off.
- Making you less likely to fall behind on an important self-care task like eating lunch or doing your homework because you are used to doing it.
Opening the Curtains
When the weather outside is beautiful and sunny (Spring get here sooner!) it is beneficial to your mental and physical health to open the curtains and let the light shine in. Soak in the vitamin D, even if you don’t have time to actually go outside, and breathe in the fresh air by opening the window up. This will benefit you on your off days by allowing your body to get used to the sun and fresh air which will then cause you to crave it and give you motivation to open those curtains even when you feel crappy.
Make to do lists ongoing
For me the most difficult thing to do on a bad mental health day is to actually get real work done. It’s hard to know where to start and get the motivation to do so. If I have an ongoing to-do list (I use Plan for this!) then it is one less thing for me to think about. I can just look at the list, pick one small task, get up, and complete it.
This also helps if I am feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes when I am feeling overwhelmed it helps for me to write down all my tasks and get it out of my head. Sometimes, however, looking at all those tasks written down overwhelms me even more. If I have an ongoing to-do list and I’m feeling overwhelmed I like to cover up the rest of them and choose just one to focus on, pretending its all I have to do.
Find your Passion
When you have something you are passionate about you have a reason to get up in the morning, a creative outlet, something to look up to and look forward to.
Writing, drawing, photography, running, blogging, rock climbing, playing music… all amazing hobbies and passions that can help you feel more fulfilled.
Looking to take up a new hobby or passion? Check out The Passion Project – a collection of guides on how to start a variety of passions, or consider writing about your own.
Related: Interested in starting a blog? Read my guide on how to start your own successful blog.
Create a Self Care Kit
My good friend Kaitlyn recently shared with my readers how she created her very own “Self Care Kit” to help her through some bad mental health days.
A self care kit can help you prepare for a difficult day by giving yourself a collection of things that cheer you up to act as distractions or sources of relaxation – all in a handy bag or container so you can grab it and go at any given time.
What have you found to be the most effective way to prepare for a difficult day? What do you do to get yourself through a rough week?