If I’ve learned one thing the past two quarters, it is to listen to your body when it is trying to tell you something. Sometimes our bodies act and feel in ways that other people may not understand. And that is okay. You need to not be discouraged by a negative test result or rolling eyes at the sound of you feeling a certain way. Keep persevering until you figure out the answers you are seeking.
When people are sad, we often say that changing their mentality will help shape how they look at events, making them happier. While there is absolute truth to the idea that having a positive mentality helps positively shape the outcome of an event, sometimes a person’s mentality is not what is inducing sadness. Telling them this will only make them frustrated.
I know how it feels to be sad and not know why. It feels as though something is living through you, portraying this muted version of an otherwise peppy, outgoing gal. For a long time I just accepted this as my new truth. I listened to all of those people telling me that I just needed to accept change and think more positively. I accepted the fact that I just wasn’t able to do that.
This brings me back to the idea that we must listen to our bodies and not be discouraged by outside sources. After multiple tests done, I found that not only was I extremely deficient in major vitamins and nutrients that are crucial for maintaining drive and happiness, but I had multiple parasites in my stomach that were known for inducing depressive symptoms.
I am not sharing this to tell everyone that they may have parasites or be extremely deficient in crucial nutrients. I am sharing this because it is a prime example of how if we feel off, we need to trust that initial instinct. We need to be understanding of ourselves and not blame ourselves up for feeling this way. It is okay to feel sad. It is okay to feel off.
It also is a prime example of how eating properly or lack-thereof, can really affect one’s mental health. In college, it can be hard to maintain a healthy diet, regardless if one has food allergies. I urge you all, if you are feeling more sad than normal or just “off,” to reflect on what variety of foods you have been consuming. You don’t need to know the nutrient benefits of all foods to know if you have been consuming a balanced diet. A balanced diet is crucial to creating a balanced life, mentally and physically.
Here are few, non-medical, things I like to do both when I am down and to prevent myself from feeling down.
1. Prioritize eating
Even though college brings a lot of fun social events and academic strain, it is extremely important to not leave food for the last minute. I am a strong believer that food nourishes both the body and soul. If you are not eating regularly, not eating proper food, your mental health will take a toll. Prioritize when and what you eat.
2. Try to find variety in food
Going off what I wrote above, try hard not to eat the same exact food every day. While it may be convenient, if you eat the same food too much, your body may become intolerant to it or your taste buds may begin to just not like it as much. Also, by switching up your diet a little, it will ensure you are getting a different set of nutrients that you may not have gotten from the previous foods.
3. When you walk, keep your phone in your pocket or bag
When I walk to class or around campus, I usually have my headphones in listening to music or a podcast. However, when I have my actual phone in my hand while I listen, I find myself clicking through social media instead of looking out around me. I’ve realized that my phone in my hand while I walk makes me feel more anxious than when it’s in my pocket or bag. So, if you are walking and listening to something on your phone, try to not walk holding it.
4. If you are a freshman, try to stay in the dorms as little as possible
After being sick for so long, I’ve come to resent my room. It brings back this sense of sadness;
I find it restraining. When I am in my room, I usually climb right into my bed and then am left alone with anxious thoughts. It feels lonely, which can perpetuate that initial feeling of sadness. My advice is to avoid being alone in your dorm room as much as possible and instead be social with people or be alone in a less restraining environment, like outside. When you are in your room though, keep the blinds open so you can at least see outside and have natural light peeking in.
5. Be outdoors as much as possible- if the weather permits
Going off of #4, instead of being in your dorm room, be outside! (If weather permits, of course.) I am blessed to go to school in a place with lots of amazing sunlight. Being outside, even when it is cloudy, makes me feel less restrained and more free. So go outside and do homework or just sit and listen to music! It’s crazy how much this can positively affect mental health.
6. Invest in an oil diffuser
Because I am in a dorm room and candles are not allowed, I reluctantly purchased an oil diffuser so my room would still smell good. This purchase has been one of my best. My oil diffuser has quickly become one of my absolute favorite things ever because not only do you not have to worry about accidentally burning something down, but I truly think the smells from the oils last longer than those from a candle. Before bed I like to put in lavender and eucalyptus, and when I wake up I put in an orange-y scent. The lavender is very soothing and the orange ensures you get ready in a yummy, citrusy smelling room.
So far, these are the six tips that I can think of that have helped me feel happier. Mental health is a complicated concept to delve into because of all the factors that make it up. Someone could be struggling due to a genetic reasoning, while another person may be dealing with more environmental catalysts. And it is okay that little environmental changes may not make much of a difference in mental health to some people. While these tips have helped me in some way or another, I am also taking countless vitamin supplements and medications that will kill the parasites inside my stomach.
The bottom line is that if you are ever feeling sad, or not like yourself, to listen to yourself and forgive yourself. It is okay to feel these feelings. One of the most empowering and freeing things I am learning how to do is forgive myself for not always feeling the best. Feeling anxious and sad can be really hard. It’s even harder when you put the blame on yourself.
Every body is different, much like everybody is different. You are on your own path with your own body that you have been blessed to be born with. Listen to it and be kind to it.
And remember that you are never alone:)
My name is Gabriella. Join me on my health and wellness journey as I discover foods that not only please my taste buds but my stomach as well!