Attention Spans in the Age of Technology

It seems like kids today are not as good at concentration as we might remember being at their age. If your child seems to be having trouble focusing or finishing simple tasks without getting distracted, you may be wondering if it’s because of a mental health condition, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It’s natural to be concerned when you see your child struggling. Before jumping to conclusions, though, take some time to survey your child’s environment. Today’s world is vastly different from the one we grew up in.

In the current age of fast-paced modern technology and social media, it’s no wonder that adults—let alone children—are unable to focus their attention easily. Think about how much stimulation we’re exposed to daily, and how much it impacts your world. Between smartphones, iPods, email, TV, DVRs, the internet, social media and more, our brain’s neurons are firing on all cylinders all day long.

Our children are experiencing the same stimulation, while developmentally they’re also learning how to organize information and pay attention. Bombarded with excessive stimulation and distraction, they are expected to focus on subjects that may not hold their interest the same way other stimulating, instantly gratifying subjects do. The brain is trained at a young age to multitask to such a high degree that it is often incapable of focusing on one task or thought at a time. In 2010, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that of students ages 8 to 18, half of them watch TV, surf the internet or use some other form of media while doing their homework.

Dr. Richard Restak’s book The New Brain: How the Modern Age Is Rewiring Your Mind covers this topic in depth. He discusses how we are all capable of reaching a breaking point where we lose our ability to focus due to overstimulation. This is what could be happening with many of our children. A child who is seen as “having difficulty focusing” or “bright, but not working to his full potential” may be unable to keep up with the demands of a stimulus-filled environment.

ADHD Or Technology Overload?

I know that in my own practice over the last few years, electronic usage has greatly contributed to various difficulties for my adolescent clients. These include problems with executive function, such as concentration and focus, as well as insomnia, mood swings and anxiety. However, there is a distinction between a child who is struggling with ADHD and a child who is struggling to focus due to technological overload.

Children living with ADHD need mental stimulation and arousal, which is why they are given stimulants to help them focus in the classroom. They can focus easily on certain things such as video games and television because these things provide them with instant gratification, are thrilling and dynamic, and give them a “hit” of dopamine that keeps them enthralled.

On the other hand, children who simply spend large amounts of time with their electronics have trained their brain to receive heightened stimulation and the accompanying dopamine boosts. They are therefore susceptible to similar symptoms as a child with ADHD—as he or she may also begin to have difficulty focusing on classroom instruction or chores.

ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder for kids in the U.S., with at least 4.5 million diagnoses among children under age 18. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the prevalence of ADHD in children ages 4 to 17 years was 11%. These findings represent a dramatic increase from more than 30 years ago, when the rate of ADHD was estimated at between 3% and 5%. What is more concerning is that the prevalence of ADHD increased by about 35% from 2003 to 2011 alone.

Does this mean 11% of our children have always had ADHD and we’ve just never noticed? Or are we overdiagnosing what is really simple technology overload and exhaustion? Before putting your child on any medications, try these few simple modifications to your child’s environment.

Monitor “Screen Time”

How much time does your child spend on a smartphone, the computer or watching TV? Those screens are overloaded with information, movement, color and hyper-stimulation. Set strict daily time limits, such as 30-45 minutes a day, after homework and chores are done. Once your child reaches the limit, spend time with your child. Try reading a book together, painting, taking a walk, baking/cooking or playing a board game, or help him or her find a hobby.

Relax The Mind

Teach your children relaxation and deep breathing to increase focus and mind control. When they are doing homework, try playing soft music in the background at a low volume to help their brain learn to focus. You could also engage in mindfulness while engaging in ordinary activities, purposefully focusing your attention together on your tasks.

Make The Bedroom A Stimulus-Free Zone

A lot of teens relax before bed by texting on their phones, which causes sleep deprivation and fatigue. Sound sleep is one of the most effective tools for improving attention and focus. Take the TV, computer and smartphone out of the bedroom. Set a strict time for your child to wind down and help them by lowering noise levels, dimming lights and doing relaxing activities.

Teach Delayed Gratification

Nowadays, kids want immediate satisfaction, and when they don’t get it, they lose focus and attention, and grow impatient. Delayed gratification is a life skill that will help your child persevere and remain focused on goals for which the returns are not immediately experienced. It is an essential ability that will help your child gain success in life. Identify both short- and long-term goals with your child, and encourage your child to work toward them.

Remember that while these interventions may be met with resistance, the long-term benefits—both intellectually and emotionally—have been found to contribute to improved focus, attention, sleep and mood.

Dr. Jyothsna Bhat is a licensed clinical psychologist with a private practice in Newtown, Pa., and Princeton, N.J. Learn more at www.bhatpsych.com.

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/August-2017/Attention-Spans-in-the-Age-of-Technology

You’ll Be Happier If You Let Yourself Feel Bad

There’s a moment in Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray when the title character declares war on his feelings: “I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions,” Dorian says. “I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.” Basil Hallward, the artist who had painted Dorian’s portrait, becomes fearful of his subject’s newfound aggression: “You talk as if you had no heart, no pity in you,” he says. But Dorian, in the throes of an existential crises, isn’t listening; he wants control, most especially over how he feels.

It’s not an uncommon desire. In fact, it may be a near-universal one. With varying levels of success, we try to hold on to good emotions and ward off the bad ones — but research suggests that those efforts, at least when it comes to negative feelings, may be misplaced.

For many, accepting our negative emotions appears counterproductive, especially because it gets in the way of what motivates us. Our negative emotions can act as catalysts and adrenaline boosts — nervousness in the face of a closing deadline, for instance, might help push you to finish your task on time. Often, though, people don’t use their negative emotions so productively; instead, many tend to get stuck in their negativity, spiraling downwards. It’s hard to accept your emotions — both positive and negative — and let them pass by. Dorian Gray certainly never could.

But studies have shown that the ability to embrace your negative feelings can provide a slew of benefits. Those who accept all their emotions without judgment tend to be less likely to ruminate on negativity, less likely to try to suppress mental experiences (which can backfire by amplifying these experiences), and less likely to experience negative “meta-emotional reactions,” like feeling upset about feeling upset. Or, as the authors of a recent study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology put it: “When people accept (versus judge) their mental experiences, those experiences run their natural — and relatively short-lived — course, rather than being exacerbated.”

This latest study, led by University of Toronto assistant psychology professor Brett Ford, explored the link between one’s acceptance of negativity and one’s well-being. The researchers first set out to discover if and how the acceptance of negativity benefits psychological health, and whether this kind of acceptance works for everyone across socioeconomic, gender, and racial divides. Around 1,000 study subjects filled out surveys about their mindfulness, life satisfaction, depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, and the number of stressful events they’d been through over the course of their lives.

Ford and her colleagues found that those who accepted their negative feelings were, on average, also more psychologically healthy. They also found that the factor most strongly linked to participants’ well-being wasn’t a low-stress life — rather, it was the capacity to accept life’s difficulties and one’s own negative feelings nonjudgmentally.

On the face of it, this is a counterintuitive idea. A person with, say, no medical or financial issues — someone who should theoretically have low stress — ought to have greater well-being than a poorer, less healthy person who’s working 70 hours a week. And yet if the latter person is better at accepting the negative experiences that come with his objectively more difficult life, this study suggests, she may be happier than the person who has fewer stressors in life.

In order to further prove this apparent paradox, the researchers recruited 160 women, half of whom had experienced a life stressor “of at least moderate impact” within the past six months, to complete a neutral task (watching a movie clip) and then a stressful task (giving a three-minute video-recorded speech on their job qualifications in front of an audience). During both tasks, the women rated their own emotional experiences; once again, Ford found that the people who were more accepting of their negative mental states reported less intense negative feelings.

Finally, to test their findings with a more diverse set of participants, Ford and her colleagues had 222 men and women complete diary entries every night for two straight weeks, making note each night of the stressful events they’d experienced during the day. Some reported particularly high-stress moments, like receiving a phone call from a son in prison, while others had mostly mild stressors, like low-key arguments with a romantic partner. For each entry, participants also rated the extent to which they felt 12 negative emotions: sad, hopeless, lonely, distressed, angry, irritable, hostile, anxious, worried, nervous, ashamed, and guilty.

Once again, acceptance was associated with greater psychological health, but with an added layer of nuance: The correlations showed that accepting negative situations was not associated with increased psychological health. Rather, it was the acceptance of one’s state of mind that came from negative situations that best indicated psychological well-being.

Taken together, Ford says, the results across all three experiments “underscore the broad relevance of acceptance as a useful tool for many people.”

“The overall take-home message is that emotions are naturally short-lived experiences,” she says, and if we let them wash over us instead of trying to push them away, “these emotional experiences would actually pass relatively quickly.”

Still, opening your arms to all your negative feelings is easier said than done in a culture where happiness is considered a virtue. We tend to valorize the pursuit of positivity, while ignoring or dismissing the importance of a well-rounded emotional experience. Happiness, the thinking still often goes, is the absence of negativity rather than the acceptance of it. But the research says otherwise — you can’t always control your emotions, but you can control how you respond to them. Sometimes it’s best to let yourself feel okay about feeling bad.

By 

https://www.thecut.com/2017/08/youll-be-happier-if-you-let-yourself-feel-bad.html

How Invalidating My Bipolar Disorder Invalidates Me

It has been almost two years since I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, ADHD and generalized panic disorder. I can be pretty open about mental health and my diagnosis. However, I almost never share the more extreme parts of my illness, or I hide it completely due to the stigmas attached to it.

After years of being misdiagnosed and going on and off antidepressants, I was finally given the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. That was a huge breakthrough for me. It made the way I felt and the severe mood swings I would experience feel validated. There was a reason. I now had words to explain what I was going through: mania, depression, hypomania.

I now know why all of the medications I’ve tried over the years never worked for me. Like most people with bipolar, I had been diagnosed consistently with depression and anxiety disorder. The reason for this common misdiagnosis is due to the fact that most people with bipolar don’t acknowledge or recognize the mania. For many—not all—mania is relief from the depression. You feel good, productive, accomplished, unstoppable. However, the mania can also be dangerous and is always met with an inevitable crash because your body can’t withstand that type of exertion without rest. So, when I would plunge into severe depression and couldn’t take it anymore, I would go see a doctor.

The antidepressants never worked, and the antianxiety medications made me a zombie. Often times, I would get worse, but the doctors always told me it was because I stopped taking the medications. I found out recently that antidepressants can actually throw someone with bipolar into mania or depression. Again, I finally felt validated.

Still, I found that the validation I felt, or the acceptance of this diagnosis, was not felt by everyone. There are many reasons for this: lack of knowledge, bias, misconceptions, etc. Below are some of the responses I have received after telling people about my bipolar diagnosis. Some people have been supportive, some well-intentioned, others ignorant, or just plain hurtful. A few of the responses I have received are listed below.

“You don’t have bipolar.” “You seem normal.” You don’t seem crazy.”

I’m not crazy. I have a mental illness. I don’t announce it to the world when I can’t get out of bed for 48+ hours or that the reason I have recently taken up so many hobbies or work so many hours is actually one of the many, many symptoms of a manic episode.

“You didn’t seem like you had bipolar until you were diagnosed.”

This one hurts a lot. I have finally, for once in my life, had my feelings and emotions validated. I understand better why I am the way I am, and for the first time, I can actually work towards a proper plan to treat it, or minimize it. I was also very good at hiding it most of the time. This response completely crushes that feeling.

My mania was controlled by being massively sedated, and I learned that no one wants to talk to you when you’re depressed, so I would just disappear during those times. Now, I am learning to cope and experience the emotions and moods that come with my illness.

Now, I must learn to cope and experience the emotions and moods that come with my illness. I am experiencing a lot mentally, emotionally, and physically due to new medications, quitting antianxiety medications and actually being allowed to claim bipolar and feel it’s heavy full weight and the burden it bears. This means those mood swings, emotions and deceptive thoughts must be felt for the first time in a long time and that’s extremely challenging to say the least.

I talk about it because I trust you, I need support, or I want to explain why I have been acting the way I have lately. Having bipolar disorder can put a massive strain on relationships. There’s nothing worse than seeing its effects and not knowing how to stop it.

“I feel like bipolar is just an excuse.”

I am responsible for my actions. I will own up to those actions, accept that I am accountable, and work as hard as I can to fix it. It’s not an excuse, but it is a cause. A lot of times, especially in the past, everything is blurred by the mania or depression, and I don’t see the effects of my actions until clarity returns.

Believe me, it’s as frustrating for me as it is for you. The guilt, shame and self-hate can be so real. This is why many of us end up isolating ourselves. Sometimes I feel that all I do is apologize, even if I don’t know why. I know that this makes it seem less sincere, but I can’t control the intense feelings of guilt. Don’t be afraid to tell me when I’m doing something wrong or if my moods are affecting you. I don’t want to make you feel the way that I do. But don’t tell me that bipolar is just an excuse. It’s a reason, and I want you to know that sometimes the bipolar causes me to act in a way that is not me. I have been working on it desperately.

“That’s the bipolar talking.” “Have you taken your meds?” “Maybe you’re just imagining it.”

My feelings are real and not always a symptom of my mental health condition. Everyone gets angry, sad, excited, passionate, etc. Believe it or not, my emotions are not always synonymous with my illness.

“You don’t need medication.” “Just think positive.” “Just calm down.” “You need to do yoga.”

You have no idea how frustrating and exhausting the years of trial and error in medications and treatment are, or how frightening the side effects of certain medications can be. Still, I continued to seek treatment because the symptoms of not treating the illness were far worse. I held that mentality before. “I don’t need meds. I feel fine.” This was typically when manic. I was wrong. Even though there are many other things I do to help manage, I do also need medication.

A lot changed for me after coming off of antidepressants and benzodiazepines. I had more energy. I talked faster than I already did. I wanted to do and accomplish more. I was more excitable. I was more agitated. I would get easily frustrated. For good and for bad, a lot of the symptoms haven’t and will never completely go away. I would take things out on my husband, my mom, my family, and my friends without realizing it, or I completely isolate myself when I do.

I was prescribed medication to treat my ADHD. Now, not only was I dealing with the stigma of having bipolar, but now I had to deal with the stigma of the medication to anyone who knew. People started looking at me differently and attributing a lot of my actions, and even accomplishments, to either the illness or my medication. “That’s why you’re so productive.” “That’s why you’re so sped up.” “You don’t need that.”

Actually, I do. It doesn’t affect me in the same way that it affects people who don’t have ADHD. I’ve always had a hard time focusing, sitting in one place, being on time, staying on task. This gets even worse when I’m manic. Medication isn’t a cure all, but it can help manage the extremes of my condition. You’re not in my head.

Before my medication, there were times that I would self-medicate. I would drink too much, or make reckless decisions. The guilt that would follow would be unbearable. All I would feel is shame. Then the cycle would repeat until periods of stability. This is an impulse and cycle that I do not miss.

For the first time in a long time, I am learning to deal with my feelings, emotions and moods. It hasn’t been easy for me and it hasn’t been easy for those close to me. For that, I am sorry. The ones that stuck around, were there to listen, or to offer support, have been critical in this journey. Mental illness can be extremely lonely.

I am particularly grateful for my husband. He bears the brunt of my illness the most and it kills me. He does it graciously. He’s understanding. He doesn’t take it personally when I’m in a mood. He doesn’t judge. He listens. He encourages me to get better. He has had such a positive impact on my life, my health, and my happiness along this journey. I am in awe of his patience, supportiveness, and kindness. I appreciate him more than he will ever know.

“I wouldn’t tell anyone you have it. They’ll judge you and treat you differently.” “I wouldn’t tell your boss. It could affect your job.”

Sadly, this is often true. I’ve experienced it first hand and usually the ones who give this response are others that have dealt with the repercussions of disclosing their mental illness. I’ve done this many, many times. I’m quite good at it. I push through it. I smile when I am miserable. I slink off somewhere to manage an anxiety attack. I don’t talk to anyone when I am depressed.

When I reveal it, it is often not met kindly. However, that’s the reason I have decided to talk about it even more. The stigma is there because most keep quiet. This is what emboldens me to share my experiences. You never know who is suffering mentally. You can say you have a physical disease and most often, you are treated with concern or empathy. If you mention a mental disorder, the subject gets changed or the conversation get quiet. It’s an isolating experience.

Bipolar disorder doesn’t define me. There are also many good qualities that I have. I am passionate. I am adventurous. I am inquisitive. I am empathic. I am creative. Most importantly, I am strong.

https://www.nami.org/Personal-Stories/How-Invalidating-My-Bipolar-Disorder-Invalidates-M#

Less Sunlight Means More Blues For Some

Global

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that recurs regularly at certain times of the year, usually beginning in late fall or winter and lasting into spring. While the reported incidence of SAD in the general population is four to 10 percent, some studies suggest that up to 20 percent of people in the United States may be affected by a mild form of the disorder. The disease was officially named in the early 1980s, but seasonal depression has been described as early as the days of Hippocrates.

The symptoms of SAD include depressed mood, loss of energy, increased sleep, anxiety, irritability and difficulty concentrating. Many also experience a change in appetite, particularly a craving for carbohydrates, which can lead to weight gain. Some people report a heavy feeling in their arms and legs.

Scientists believe SAD is caused by a biochemical change in the brain, triggered by shorter days and reduced sunlight during the winter. In particular, two chemicals in the brain, serotonin and melatonin, have been linked to changes in mood, energy, and sleep patterns. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression. Serotonin production is activated by sunlight, so less sunlight in winter could lower serotonin levels, leading to depression. Melatonin regulates sleep and is produced in greater quantities in darkness. Higher melatonin levels could cause sleepiness and lethargy as the days get shorter. The combination of the changes in the levels of serotonin and melatonin could contribute to SAD.

There are various risk factors for the development of SAD. Females are up to four times more likely to be affected than males. Although SAD can affect children, it is reported mostly in people between the ages of 18 and 30, with incidences decreasing with age. Many have a family history of mental illness. Studies have shown that living farther away from the equator increases the occurrence of SAD. Those already experiencing clinical depression or bipolar disorder may see a worsening of their symptoms in winter.

Treatments for SAD include traditional psychotherapy and antidepressant medications. In addition, light therapy, a daily 30-minute exposure to a light box that simulates high-intensity sunlight, has shown promise in treating SAD.  Interestingly, the ancient Greeks knew about the power of sunlight. Back in the second century, the physician Aretaeus instructed, “Lethargics are to be laid in the light, and exposed to the rays of the sun for the disease is gloom.”

One theory suggests that SAD is an evolutionary adaptation in humans, similar to hibernation in animals. As food gets scarcer and the weather gets colder, animals adapt by storing fat and reducing caloric output. Applied to humans, this could explain the carbohydrate cravings, increased sleep and reduction in energy levels. It could also play a role in reproduction, where it is more beneficial for a female of childbearing age to conserve resources.

While these naturally occurring body changes may have helped our ancestors survive, depression in any form can be serious. Anyone affected by significant symptoms of depression should consult a physician.

Author: Hisaho Blair – 1/22/2013

How Do We Get The Men Into Mental Health?

Note: This blog is presented as a cross-collaboration between NAMI and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, whose mission is to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide. It originally appeared on the AFSP Lifesavers Blog.

Dude. Dudes. It’s time for some real talk. Let’s get real here and look at the numbers. According to the latest figures from the Center for Disease Control, men are responsible for 76.92 percent of all completed suicides. Basically, about four out of every five completed suicides is a guy.

Yet here in South Carolina, where I’m on the local state board for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, I notice that every time we do a public mental health awareness program, about 80 percent of the attendees are women. A lot of these women show up because they’ve lost a loved one to suicide, and much of the time, the loved one they’ve lost was a man.

The numbers tell us a lot of men out there are suffering…but most men aren’t showing up to get help, raise awareness, or help encourage their fellow bros to talk about what they’re going through.

I’d like to ask all the women reading this blog post to leave the room for a minute.

Are they gone? Cool. Dudes, it’s just us now. Let’s talk.

I’ll start.

I lost two brothers to suicide. That’s right. Two. 11 years apart. Mark and Matthew. After the second one, I found myself in a very dark place. Sobriety, counseling, and time have helped me immensely, and in 2010 I started to volunteer for AFSP, and this has accelerated my recovery even further. It has taken me years to get to this point, but when you start helping other survivors of suicide loss and start focusing on preventing future occurrences of completed suicides, you ultimately end up helping yourself. My work with AFSP has benefited me greatly on a personal level, but I am still very bothered by what is happening with men and suicide.

So, I’m going to turn this around on you now, and ask for your help. First, a couple questions:

  • Why is the number for male suicide so high?
  • How do we lower it?

I personally think the first step is for us dudes to become more comfortable talking about it. How can we get our fellow men to open up? First of all, let’s realize that when we show vulnerability, we are actually showing strength. We need to focus on forming some really tight connections with each other. Once those are in place, we need to get comfortable sharing real life situations, knowing full well that two (or more) brains are better than one. How do we get our other dude buddies to feel comfortable doing this?

For me, I am involved in a faith-based, men’s-only group that meets every Friday. We in the group have grown together to a place where we are quite comfortable admitting to each other when we’re screw ups, or when we’re worried about something…but that has taken some time. That’s just one example. I saw recently that the construction industry is including mental health into their meetings, and the NCAA is addressing mental health issues through their Sport Science Institute. Progress!

Maybe another tactic is to keep things light. One thing I’m thinking about doing is hosting a men’s only comedy night with a mental health theme. Laughter helps people feel relaxed. Maybe if we guys can sit around, talk about feelings – I know, a lot of us hate that word—in a light way, it can help us become more comfortable opening up.

Another thought I had in terms of encouraging our fellow men to join our efforts in suicide prevention is to not make it too time consuming. Men tend to volunteer in spurts. We’ll do a golf outing, but mention a three-year commitment to a board and most of us are out the door. It’s important to remember that we can all get involved within the constraints of our own personal comfort zone. Every little bit helps. Dip your toe in the pool. The water’s warm.

No matter what strategies we use, the overall message is simple: mental health and suicide are okay to talk about, and we all matter. Talk Saves Lives.

So, what are your thoughts? If you’re a guy and have been impacted by mental health conditions or possibly a suicide attempt or a loss, reach out for help, or come help us at AFSP. Get off your duff and find your local chapter and volunteer for something — anything! Even just making a point to talk matter-of-factly about mental health and feelings (jeez, that word again!) with your friends makes a difference, because it lets them know you’re a safe person to talk to when they have something to say.

Women – I can see you’ve stepped back in, now, that’s okay – do what you can to drag the men in your life to a community walk, a survivor’s meeting, or somewhere you feel they can benefit from, but might not feel comfortable going to themselves. Many of us will not do it without your help.

Finally, think about ways we can better reach men about suicide prevention, and share your ideas. Come at us with all you’ve got. If we want to lower the suicide rate 20 percent by 2025, we’ve got to put the men back into mental health.

By Dennis Gillan | Sep. 08, 2017

The Importance Of Maintaining Mental Health In College

Did you know that colleges and universities are more aware of college students’ mental health needs now than ever before? Thanks to current research findings, they are doing a much better job understanding the link between mental health and academic success.

The American College Health Association informs colleges (and all of us) that mental health needs are almost directly related to measures of academic success. Their 2015 survey found that students who reported psychological distress also reported receiving lower grades on exams or important projects; receiving lower grades in courses; receiving an “incomplete” or dropping courses altogether; or experiencing a significant disruption in thesis, dissertation, research or practicum work.

Thus: Students should place a priority on maintaining their mental health while in college. This can be challenging while also becoming a successful student. So, how can you manage this balance? Here are some tips:

Engage In A Self-Assessment Process

Getting to know yourself is foundational to your success. Being self-aware will not only help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, but it can also help you identify which learning strategies and mental health coping strategies are most effective for you. Your college’s counseling center might have resources and individuals to help you perform a fuller, more in-depth assessment, if you’d like help.

Develop A Support Network

Form a group of friends. Having people you can count on to talk to and spend time with can make a huge difference on your college experience. If you’re going through a hard time and don’t feel comfortable talking to your friends about it, seek help professional help. Your school likely has a counseling center for that purpose. And it’s essential to keep all your doctor and therapy appointments. It’s also important to have support academically if you need it. Go to your school’s tutoring center and remember: College faculty and staff are there to help you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or request extra help if you need it.

Get Organized

Being organized reduces stress and improves performance. At the beginning of each semester, set up a student success notebook with all your course syllabi, needed books, assignments and tests highlighted. If you get organized at the beginning of the semester, it will help you to always have important information at your fingertips. There will be little chance of losing key information and becoming overwhelmed with confusion about what you should be doing.

Take Care Of Your Physical Health

Eat regular meals (this is especially true before you go to class or take a test!), exercise and get plenty of sleep. Some activities like meditation and yoga will also help with stress. Speak with your counselor or therapist about when to take any medication you may be on to best support learning and healthy sleep.

Master Time Management

Class activities, tests and quizzes, homework and social commitments—even the everyday pressures of life—can lead to time management overload. And when time management skills are pushed to their limits, stress levels can rise to unhealthy levels. Procrastination creates major, unnecessary stress. So: Be on time to class. Turn in assignments on time. Set up a study schedule and stick to it. And make sure you balance your work schedule with time for leisure.

As you head off to college, embrace a success-oriented mindset with the goal of shaping your life and making a difference in the world around you. Have confidence in your ability to succeed. Remember to always value yourself. Treat yourself with kindness and respect and avoid being overly self-critical. Let others know if you need help. Develop an understanding of the resources you need and the resources available to you. These include not just what your college offers, but organizations like NAMI, The JED Foundation and The Steve Fund. There are millions of like-minded individuals rooting for your success.

You will gain self-esteem, empowerment and motivation to keep going with each success. It doesn’t matter if those successes are big or small—you will find that your successes will help you define your path.

Jay Feldman has a doctoral degree in Psychology and has pursued research as a professional focus. He is currently a Senior Research Associate at RTI, International.

Deborah Tull has a doctoral degree in Psychology and has pursued research and college and university mental health program development as a professional focus.

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/September-2017/The-Importance-of-Maintaining-Mental-Health-in-Col