The Daily Gamecock

Column: Scheduling time for yourself can help protect your mental health this semester

As the new year starts and syllabus week ends, finding time for yourself and prioritizing your mental health should be on everyone's mind this semester. 

While it may be hard to achieve, there are ways to remain mentally healthy, keep up with school work and tend to everything else a student has to do. Starting the semester by utilizing tools to keep organized and to protect your mental health will help when your workload increases later in the spring. 

Throughout the semester, it's sometimes easy to forget assignments and test due dates, which can cause a lot of stress. Using a planner can help students organize their week, not just assignments — but also time for themselves to relax. While you take that time for yourself, try not to worry too much about your other responsibilities. 

Ruthanne Hughes is a linguistics instructor at USC who said she goes out of her way to make connections with her students. She is very adamant about her own and her student's mental health and said she makes sure to prioritize time away from school.

"Because when you're in school, there's not really clear boundaries between work and other life, and the stress from work can just bleed everywhere," Hughes said.

Finding time for yourself is just one piece of the puzzle. What you do with that time is equally important. The easiest option whenever you have downtime can be to lay in bed. Sometimes something as simple as that can be what your body needs. Fourth-year visual communications major Abby Dodson said she loves a good nap. 

"I feel like maybe just catching up on sleep. I know a lot of my friends and students I've met around here don't sleep a whole lot," Dodson said. 

There are also tons of other things to do with your free time that can get you up and out. Program Coordinator for Mental Health Initiatives, Kate Weaver, suggested finding a hobby outside of school to decompress. 

"Maybe it's trying something new. On social media, you get ads for cool things, and you want to try that but never get around to it," Weaver said. 

There are many things to do around Columbia to get your mind off of school and to get outside. Take an adventure down to Soda City Market, or for MLK weekend, take a day trip to one of the many close destinations. Our day trips-themed special print edition has lots of inspiration. 

The biggest thing to look out for is making sure you reach out for help when you need it. It can be easy to not realize you're not doing mentally well until burnout or stress is overwhelming. 

Weaver said students should check in with themselves throughout the semester so they never reach that point where it feels impossible to do everything. 

"A lot of times, we kind of think of mental health, but not until it starts to be an issue that we feel really stressed and overwhelmed. So, mental health is kind of something we need to maintain regardless if you have a mental health condition or don't," Weaver said.

The university offers many counseling services to students if they feel like they need to talk to anyone. Therapy is such a good tool to help students maintain their mental health throughout the semester. 

It's important to remember that you don't have to wait until your mental health is bad to seek out help. Actively supporting your mental health can help you not reach the point where it feels impossible to do everything. Students are allowed up to 10 free sessions with university counselors before they are charged. 

School is hard. There's no getting around that, especially with the added pressure of COVID-19 looming in the background. It can be hard to find that inner peace, so finding a midpoint between school and your life outside of school is essential. 

"Practicing balance, so not putting so much on your plate, and making time for all those aspects of yourself. So like, yourself outside of being a student," Weaver said.

There will be times that staying up until two in the morning to finish a research paper due at the beginning of class is just what you have to do, but it shouldn't be every night. Knowing your limits and drawing boundaries for what you can give to your schoolwork is a healthy practice.