The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

Spring Cleaning: Let’s Start with Mental Health

Jamie Shelton

Life can be difficult: in a number of ways, for a variety of reasons. The same is true of our mental health. Here are some friendly reminders and strategies to help you stay healthy this spring!

First of all, it is entirely normal for mental health to fluctuate. More people struggle with their mental health than you might think. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 22.8% of all U.S. adults have a mental illness. This number is even higher among young adults aged 18-25 years at 33.7%. Remember, no one is alone in this.

Symptoms of mental health struggles vary greatly in presentation. These symptoms can indicate periods of stress and necessary support, so they’re good to keep in mind when thinking about your loved ones or yourself. Some people have significant tiredness, trouble concentrating and extreme mood swings. Others socially isolate, experience major changes in eating habits or sex drive and can’t handle daily stress. Common emotional struggles include extreme sadness, anger, anxiety or guilt. Additionally, some suffer from problems with drug (or alcohol) abuse, hallucinations or suicidal thinking.

Naturally, we all have bad days, but working to make sure that these bad days aren’t the norm is why it’s important to prioritize mental health. 

Here are 5 tips to help:

  1. Physical health is important. Sleep, nutrition, sunlight and exercise are all fundamental for reducing stress and promoting overall well-being. Maintaining physical health can prevent the development of mental illness or help treat it. Either way, it’s a win! Check out the infographic on health standards below.
Infographic with minimum health standards for exercise, sunlight, sleep, and nutrition according to current academic literature on sunlight and general United States government health guidelines.
(Jamie Shelton)

Enjoy the spring sun on campus with some of these activities:

Go for a walk around the Puddle, hang out on the quad, stop by Underhill or Merrill, join an intramural sport or play a pick-up game (basketball, soccer, ultimate, etc.).

 Infographic with minimum health standards for exercise, sunlight, sleep, and nutrition according to current academic literature on sunlight and general United States government health guidelines. (Jamie Shelton)

  1. Fun and social time are really influential. Hanging out with friends — having quality social time together — is incredibly beneficial to improving your health. Social connectedness, having close meaningful relationships and a sense of support and belonging, increases your health, lifespan and happiness — and can prevent serious disease and illness as well as promoting other health factors.

Outside of spending time with friends, you can connect with your community. Try joining a new club or getting more involved in the ones you already attend. Alternatively, visit the Harward Center or CommunityPulse to get involved in the Lewiston/Auburn area.

Don’t forget hobbies: make time for the things you love, whether that’s drawing, running or playing card games. Even if you feel ‘meh’ about it in the moment, it can help you get back into the swing of things and will make you feel better after the fact.

  1. Watch your thoughts. Sometimes the way we’re thinking about ourselves and the world around us is the problem. When you notice yourself thinking something negative, try to fact-check. Often, we only register the negative parts of a situation, we assume things about a situation that aren’t true, or we make the problem out to be much larger than it actually is. By cutting down the monster to size, we can reduce our own fears around a subject and be more active and aware of the world around us. Some common patterns of unhelpful thinking include:
  • Mental Filter: focusing on only one aspect of a situation (often negative), while overlooking others. Example: ignoring positive feedback on an assignment. 
  • “Catastrophizing”: Exaggerating a situation in the negative. Example: “Everyone hates me!”
  • Labeling: Using sweeping, negative statements to describe yourself or others. Examples: I’m not a math person. I’m just stupid.  
  • Overgeneralizing: Interpreting a single, negative event as the norm, or enduring pattern. Example: “I always mess up in that class!”
  • Jumping to Conclusions: Assuming we will know what will happen without evidence to support. Two types: mind reading (assuming we know what someone else is thinking or what their rationale is) and predictive thinking (predicting outcomes, usually overestimating negative emotions or experiences). Example: “My friend didn’t put an exclamation mark at the end of their text, that must mean they are really mad at me.”
  1. Check in with your friends! Your friends, while they should not be your only support, are a really great support system to have and use. They know you, they care about you, and odds are that a small thing for them can help you a lot. It can be easier than you’d think to let a friend know you’re struggling if you have the right words. Try scripting out your words first if you’re having trouble. You’d be surprised by how much people are willing to help out, even just a little, if you ask.

Some examples:

  • Hey, I’ve been having a tough time since my dog died, can we hang out extra this week?
  • I’m really stressed about this exam, and it stresses me out more when you talk about it. Can we just not talk about it right now?
  • I’m absolutely exhausted, I didn’t sleep well last night. I’m going to bed early tonight, but I just wanted to give you a heads up that I’m not at my best today, I might zone out or sound bored. I just want you to know it’s not you.
  1. Don’t forget official mental health support structures! While it can sometimes be intimidating to take the first step, CAPS is super easy to make an appointment with and there are lots of confidential resources on campus if you just need to talk to someone.  

An example email might look like:


I’ve been struggling [optional: with class, with depression, since my dog’s death, etc.] recently. Can I make an appointment for sometime this week? I’m free Wednesday and Thursday after 2 p.m..


Your Name Here

If that’s not for you, CAPS has a whole series of wellbeing workshops where you can walk in without registration and just learn. They also have a whole set of online resources you can explore at any time for a variety of topics.

Most of all, have compassion for yourself. Mental health is hard to manage and can be harder to figure out. But you’re not alone and, as much as it might suck right now, it gets better. Sometimes, you only hit a wall because you needed to lean on it for a little while. Remember to take breaks, even if it’s just to sit in the sun or to enjoy the quad!

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