Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Sometimes this is actually one of the hardest things to do, especially if you’re really struggling. (This is why we put this tip as #1!) There are all kinds of negative (and false) messages out there: it’s “weak” to ask for help; you should just “suck it up” and “push through,” and asking for help is “complaining,” but the opposite is true. It actually takes enormous strength to reach out and say: “I’m not okay, and I need help.”
Think about it this way: if you broke your arm, would you try and fix it yourself? Absolutely not! In the same way, you need to reach out for help with your mental health if you’re struggling.
Here are some great resources that can help if you’re struggling:
We Matter: https://wemattercampaign.org/
The Hope for Wellness Help Line: 1-855-242-3310 (hopeforwellness.ca)
The National Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line: 1-888-925-4419
Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 (or text CONNECT to 686868)
Native Youth Crisis Line: 1-877-209-1266
LGBT Youth Line: 1-800-268-9688, text: 647-694-4275
Keep connected to those you love
This can definitely be challenging if you’re living away from home while you’re studying, but it’s very important for your mental wellness. Texting and FaceTime are okay, but no permanent substitute for real in-person get-togethers. Do the best that you can to have regular check-ins with your family and friends; very often, they’ll be able to tell if something’s wrong and will be able to help you stay healthy (or get help). Calling someone is very 20th century, but sometimes just hearing the sound of a loved one’s voice is enough to keep you going.
The benefits of being outside – in nature if possible, but just outside – for your mental health are well-proven. If you can get out on the land, that’s the best strategy to start your healing…but if you can’t, just go for a walk or do some kind of physical activity that you enjoy outside. Even if it seems like the hardest thing in the world to get off your couch or bed and put on your shoes, it will have an immediate impact. If you regularly participate in ceremony, try to make it happen more often – especially during times when you’re especially stressed.
Schedule time for the things you love
Whether it’s playing basketball or watching cheesy comedies or beading or going to live shows, you need to make time for the things that you love. It’s just as important to schedule these things as it is for you to have a regular sleeping/eating/class/studying routine, because if you don’t, it’s all too easy to forget about them…and when you forget about those things, you forget about important self-care.
Find supports that work for you
You might find that using phone-based support systems doesn’t really work for you, but an app that connects you with web-based care providers is perfect. Or, conversely, you might prefer regular in-person sessions with a therapist, Elder, or counsellor to keep you healthy. The pandemic pushed a lot of care providers online, so the range of distance-based options for health support is actually much greater than it was only a few years ago. The key is finding what works for you and making a commitment to it – and to yourself!
Take it one day at a time
It’s all too easy to freak out about the future – what will happen to my marks if I fail this midterm? will I have time to write both essays? what happens if I can’t find a part-time job?