Taking Care of Your Mind by Taking Care of Your Body
As the weeks are progressing and the months turn into fall, I have been hearing from more and more of my clients about their stress level, study schedule, and difficulty managing everything they have to accomplish. It can be hard to prioritize ourselves when there are deadlines and projects looming overhead.
One of the things I encourage each of my clients to do during exam season (and quite honestly, year-round) is to make sure they are taking care of their bodies to help take care of their minds. If we make sure our bodies are in order, it can help us retain more information; reduce stress levels; and improve our overall emotional well-being.
I like to utilize a common skill taught in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) known as the PLEASE skill. The PLEASE skills requires the following action:
Take care of yourself if you are feeling sick or have any sort of injury! This may seem like a silly or obvious thing to address, but I find that many of my clients neglect this very important aspect of their lives. They can be so focused on making sure they write their last paper, that they ignore how they are feeling. This also includes making sure you are taking your prescribed medications.
The key to this skill is balance. When clients are stressed, they can either over eat or under eat. I encourage my clients to make sure they are eating regularly and snacking when and if necessary. If there are foods that tend to make you overly emotional, avoid it or eat it in moderation- including using sweets as rewards!
Avoid Mood Altering Substances
This skill generally refers to substances such as drugs and alcohol, however, there are other substances that can affect our mood as well. I encourage clients to pay attention to their sensitivity to caffeine. If it increases your anxiety, stay off it or reduce it until the work is done. At the very least, make sure it is enjoyed sparingly.
Try to get 7-9 hours of sleep, or the amount of sleep needed in order to feel rested. Get on as regular of a sleep schedule as you possibly can, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Make sure that you are not engaging in activities outside of sleeping while in bed. If you write papers, watch tv, or talk on the phone in bed, it can be harder to wind down for the night, as your brain will be ready to work instead of rest.
I encourage each of my clients to get at least 20 minutes of exercise every day. It does not have to be anything over the top or too extravagant. I find that going on a walk; doing crunches and jumping jacks; or something more intense can drastically reduce stress levels and keep our minds alert.
And there you have it! A simple guide to a healthier body and mind. I know it may sound difficult to add something to an already busy schedule but through taking care of our bodies, we can help ourselves have a more successful and less anxiety producing exam season.
Emotion Regulation is one of the four modules of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. The Summit Counseling Center offers skills courses throughout the year. If you or a loved one would be interested in hearing more about these services, please contact us at (678) 893-5300.