Many people think of stress as the factors that affect their day-to-day lives, like a busy schedule, pile of assignments, or too many commitments. However, it still exists when these stressors pass, so it’s important to exercise your mental health and put preventative measures in place before challenges arise. With the right resources, tools, and advice, we want to help you cope with stress year-round, and not just during busy seasons.
We are proud to host, support, and fund Built To Last, a student-run support organization, right here on campus as a free resource for our Bennett Belles to access. We spoke with the founder and president, Ja’nylah Johnson, about stress management and how she navigated a difficult time in her own life before starting this initiative.
“I decided to leave Bennett halfway through my first semester because I was overwhelmed, I felt alone and I was a first generation college student, so my family couldn’t support me the way I needed, especially not all the way from California,” said Ja’Nylah. “Luckily, Professor Bookman suggested a leave of absence so I could continue my studies. When I realized going home wasn’t the answer, I returned to Bennett and was warmly welcomed back. I had no idea I meant that much to people, and quickly realized the power of community.”
Following her return, Ja’Nylah started our on-campus organization in 2019 to provide a safe space for women of color and equip them with the tools and resources they need to thrive in times of turbulence. This support group is well known across campus, and provides all Bennett Belles the opportunity to express their true mental and emotional state — free of consequence.
You’re probably already familiar with many Built To Last events, like Conversations with Santa, Dancing In Heels, and countless partnerships with the counseling center. Next, we’re working with Ja’Nylah and her executive team to create sensory spaces around campus, like meditation rooms, where Belles can go to relax, decompress, debrief and rejuvenate (instead of taking their worries back to their dorm rooms alone). The first room — opening soon — will have an outdoor theme, so stay tuned Belles!
After our conversation with Ja’Nylah, we felt inspired to compile our thoughts and give you a tangible list of mental health and stress management tips to help you through everything from midterms, finals and everyday life.
5 Ways To Manage Stress & Maintain Good Mental Health
Stress in our lives is inevitable, and it’s not always bad. It’s an important response from our body to keep us alive. However, it’s when this stress sticks around longer and longer, potentially becoming chronic, that it starts to be a problem.
Here are 5 ways you can manage stress and start improving your mental health today.
1. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is all about awareness. When stress overtakes your body, your hormones go crazy and you likely are frantic or numb, unsure of what to do next because your body is just trying to keep you alive. In order to practice mindfulness, you first need to come back into your present body so you can navigate stress appropriately.
For example, your morning routine might look like waking up with your alarm, speed showering, quickly making a lunch, and rushing out the door to make it on time. Now this will look different for everyone, but ask yourself: is this the tone you want to set for your day? By practicing mindfulness, you may notice that this routine leaves you frantic and stressed from the moment you wake up.
So when you have a lot going on, whether that’s midterms, finals, extracurriculars, or a busy schedule, remind yourself that you’re human, and that you can exist calmly in whatever state you choose to be in — all by being mindful.
2. Be Intentional
Coming hand-in-hand with mindfulness, is intentionality. What does being intentional look like? If we use the morning routine example again, and you realize how stressful your morning are, perhaps you try setting your alarm an hour earlier, take some time to reflect or journal, and start the day slowly with a warm cup. This routine can and will look different for everyone, so experiment and see what works for you.
Being intentional is often about taking a step back, because it’s easy to get caught up in the past or distant future. Life is all about progression, enhancement and development, so it’s ok to make mistakes — be gentle with yourself. We all know perfectionism is not real, and it’s about more than simply getting the work done. As Ja’Nylah says, “If your ‘why’ isn’t in alignment with your progress, you will never feel fulfilled.”
So take the time to move intentionally throughout your day, whether that’s setting positive reminders on your phone, creating helpful lists or planning out your week ahead so you don’t overload yourself.
3. Understand Your Capacity
Being intentional also means that you understand what is feasible for you to take on right now. Requests, tasks, jobs, chores — they all require time, and your time is limited. Just because you have to do something, doesn’t mean it has to fit into your schedule at this very moment. It’s easy to create unrealistic expectations, so understanding what you can take on and when is so important for your mental health.
The beauty of it is, everyone’s capacity is different — and that’s ok. So try taking on more or less, and seeing how you feel. It’s important that you always put yourself first, so treat it like a temperature gauge and see what works best for you and your schedule.
4. Set Proper Boundaries
Once you understand your capacity, now you can set boundaries so you don’t take on too much. We all know how easy it is to say yes, but it’s just as important to say no. It may take time and practice getting comfortable saying no, but you’re only doing a disservice to yourself by taking on more than you can handle and trying to live up to someone else’s expectations.
Your body is actually great at telling you how much you can handle, so work on listening to it. Perhaps you get headaches or eye twitches; a sore neck or upset stomach; breakouts or insomnia. Once you become more intune with your body, you’ll know where you need to draw the line. So give yourself space throughout the day and week to observe your body and it’s response to your schedule.
However, be patient with yourself, because this takes time. Tasks and requests will always demand your time, so be honest with yourself about what you can reasonably take on. Everyone has to set their own boundaries because you can’t do life alone.
5. Find A Support System
That leads us into our final recommendation: Lean on others for support. You started a new chapter in your life by coming to Bennett, and we’re so happy to have you here — past, present, and future. While your friends back home or your close family members mean well, they may not be able to support you the way you need right now, even with the best intentions.
That’s why we’re proud to support organizations like Built To Last here on campus, and host regular events and activities here at Bennett to keep our Belles engaged. People won’t know what’s going on in your head or in your life if you don’t tell them, so reach out to your circle when you need help.
Better yet, start delegating and sharing the load. You don’t need to do everything yourself (even though it may feel easier in the moment). Trust your Belles, your professors, your Bennett connections, and our leadership team, because we’re here to support you every step of the way. If you can lean on and trust others when you need help, you can then, in turn, support others when your cup is full.
In addition to our on-campus offerings, here are a few more resources you can check out in regards to mental health and stress management.
- An innovative non-profit dedicated to helping people of color achieve optimal mental health, reduce stigma and raise awareness through dialogue, learning, and the understanding that everyone deserves care and support.
- An organization that works with colleges, universities, non-profits, researchers, mental health experts, families, and young people to promote programs and strategies that build understanding and assistance for the mental and emotional health of the nation’s young people of color.