Dealing With Mental Health: Counselors’ Advice Pt. 2

Especially during the pandemic, student mental health has become a matter of increasing concern. To better understand and provide helpful strategies to deal with mental health issues among the IMSA student body, the Acronym and StudCo have collaborated with IMSA’s counselors Kevin Kusy and Takeisha Rheams. Both counselors responded to individual students’ questions regarding mental health and/or improving behavior. It is important to note that every IMSA student is different and handles obstacles in different ways. The advice provided by the counselors is meant to offer potential strategies in dealing with common problems that IMSA students are having while learning from home.

Before quarantine, I used to practice self-love and feel good about myself but now, I sort of relapsed into being insecure. I don’t know how to regain my confidence again. How I consistently love myself?

Uncertainty in the world or in our experiences can cause us to have uncertain feelings about ourselves. Concerns over health, safety, food, housing, and many other environmental factors can create a necessity to focus on basic needs rather than being fulfilled. Extreme worries or fears caused by a lack of basic needs can manifest into insecurities and a decrease in self-care, and thus, less self-love. If possible, talking to a counselor to re-managing negative establish previous coping skills or developing new skills to adapt to newer conditions can certainly be a benefit. As with any other skill, dealing with negative thoughts effectively takes practice, so it is important to stay persistent despite potential upsets.

What’s the best way to handle paralyzing anxiety?

Ideally, anxiety does not get to a paralyzing point. Anything that is paralyzing is almost always too overwhelming to overcome with basic coping skills and necessitates more extreme intervention. If you are experiencing paralyzing anxiety, depression, anger, or paralyzing anything, regularly, please seek professional help. However, if this is not a regular occurrence, what Kevin and Takeisha recommend is attempting to recognize how this anxiety builds: for instance, what thoughts start to happen or what situations bring on this anxiety? Ideally, you can develop skills to counteract anxiety in the early stages of the process, before it becomes too much. The goal is to build skills and techniques that allow you to gain more control over the circumstances in order to make choices that help to reduce and not escalate anxiety. Many people work in this in counseling, as this allows for accessible support and helps you to remain accountable.

I cannot stop procrastinating with my homework online and I really hate my habit… but I can’t stop. Do you have any advice?

For many people, feeling disconnected from people or things of importance can drain motivation, Overcoming this disconnection, confusion, worry, or even dread is to reset your goals for right now. Often, we have expectations that we have set for ourselves around what we want to accomplish over a specific time. Right now, it is not possible to meet or achieve some of those goals, so ask yourself how you can work to cope and accept that. This does not mean you like it or agree with it, but working to find some level of peace with it will better allow you to create new goals or expectations around the current circumstances. After readjusting some of your goals, how can you structure your daily tasks to keep you on target? What is it that you can realistically do each day and what is not possible? If the work is excessive or you need additional support, consider who and how should talk about this struggle with others. Part of the toxic culture that we want to eliminate is around poor sleep hygiene, as poor sleep leads to poor achievement outcomes. And finally, consider how you emphasize regular self-care habits each day? Many students believe that sleeping, counseling, journaling, exercising, or even eating is pointless because it is not productive. The development mindset is that if it is not related to academics or getting into college, it is pointless. Decompression and downtime to relax, however, is productive. It allows us to recharge and re-engage with energy and drive. Changing this perspective is not something that other people can do for you, so it is often something that people have to actively work on in their daily lives.

This is kind of weird, but I was talking to some of my friends and we noticed that a lot of us do this thing where we pull on our hair or pluck it when we get stressed, and I know trichotillomania is a thing, so where is that line between fine and not fine?

Trichotillomania is a clinical diagnosis that is usually driven by anxiety and falls under obsessive-compulsive disorders. Normally, individuals struggling with this issue have strong urges and desires to pull out body hair, which can be all over but for many is scalp-focused, in order to feel relief. It can also be caused by hormonal changes or attention issues. This behavior is distinctively different from casual grooming, where individuals begin to engage in hair-pulling behaviors to unsuccessfully reduce long-term stress or anxiety. For many, bald patches of hair may develop on the head or individuals develop body sores or lack hair regeneration. Those engaging in the behaviors can tend to then feel shame for what they are doing and then potential disgust for their body image, so it can turn into isolation, depression, and apathy. Similar to other addictive-based behavior, unsuccessful attempts to stop yourself from doing the behavior is probably a big sign it may be an issue for you. If you notice yourself falling into that cycle, please contact someone immediately. Similar to any other potential OCD-based behavior, it becomes more challenging to stop the longer the habit has been established.

About the Author

Shehzad Mansoor Bajowala
Shehzad Mansoor Bajowala (class of 2022) has always been passionate about style, particularly fashion and skincare. He has noticed that IMSA students are not necessarily the most fashion forward or perfectly groomed; and therefore, attempts to take on the role of providing affordable and effective skincare and fashion tips for students (and staff) on a budget. In addition to spreading tips, Shehzad wants to educate the student body on some of the dangers of both the fashion and skincare industry and what can be done to alleviate the harm that both industries cause.

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