*This piece was published in The Bald Spot, which is the paper’s satirical/humor section.*
Let’s talk about Mental Health.
I had to break through thousands of layers of Stigma just to say those five daring words. That’s right: There is a lot of Stigma surrounding Mental Health. Nobody knows where it came from. But thanks to the brave efforts of activists who fought to make Mental Health trendy on social media, I see now that we must have these Difficult Conversations. That is to say, a Difficult Conversation in which I count down the top five best Mental Health practices of all time.
You may not be aware of meditation because it was only invented within the last ten years. It’s the product of skilled entrepreneurs and tech pioneers. But what *is* meditation, exactly? Before we answer that question, we have to define “Mindfulness.” “Mindfulness” is something that occurs when we are simultaneously at peace with ourselves and aware of our thoughts, both judging and accepting them. It is brought to us through our phones on the disembodied voice of someone we have never met. Studies show that just ten minutes of Mindfulness a day make you between 10% and 60% more productive, and productivity is the highest form of peace. Why aren’t we selling this stuff by the gallon?!
4: Schedule a SHAC appointment
While Mental Health is strictly the individual’s responsibility, sometimes there’s nothing more helpful than speaking to a kind and accepting authority figure several times your age who can hospitalize you if you get out of line. Carleton College’s Office of Student Health and Counseling understands this and has supplemented its free glow-in-the-dark condoms with a team of three full-time counselors eager to address the entire campus’s needs. Recognizing that variety is the spice of life, SHAC has ensured that the counselors’ schedules are completely different each week, so you’ll never see the same person twice or at the same time of day. Of course, you can also hire an outside therapist for a wholesome weekly Zoom call*. If they didn’t care, they wouldn’t nod so much!
3: Limit your screen time
It’s 2021, and technology has granted us the ability to have Difficult Conversations about Mental Health any time, any place. But that which giveth also taketh away. The light emitted from screens can cause eyestrain and sleep disruption, and sitting for long periods can cause depression. It’s best to only use screens for unavoidable tasks such as writing essays, doing quizzes and exams, checking and responding to emails regularly, filling out forms, performing research, marking your calendar, doing readings, studying, taking notes, Zoom calls, and reading articles like this one. Scientists recommend two hours of screen time or less each day, so six to eight hours is ideal.
2: Spend time outside
Though humans are creatures of the office first and foremost, there’s nothing wrong with some outdoor time in moderation. Thankfully, Carleton College is home to a lush, wide-open campus with an arboretum ripe for walking in. If you get your work done fast enough, you’ll have enough time for two or three thirty-minute walks each week. Make sure to smell the roses–but don’t stop to smell them, because you have three readings and an essay due tonight!
1: Practice self-care
All the tips I’ve just given you are crucial bullets in the gun you’ll be aiming at Mental Illness. But they take time that could be spent catching up on your ten hours of work per day. Self-care, in contrast, only takes a moment and always yields a tangible reward–both for yourself and for the economy.
You can fight off that early-morning sourness with a sweet and refreshing Coca-Cola or Pepsi-Cola soft drink, available from any campus vending machine and chilled to crisp perfection. Perhaps a nice Snickers bar would stave off mood-killing hunger? Of course, our self-care doesn’t have to be limited to perishable items. Our brains are programmed to give us a blast of dopamine every time we acquire a new object, so let’s take advantage!
Go ahead and buy that jacket you saw in the clothing aisle. You’re worth it, and so is Target. Decorations provide stimulation and distraction. Oh, and have you ever seen a depressed person with LED strip lights in their room? I don’t think so. For those of us too burdened to go outside, Amazon—the nation’s largest Mental Health provider—delivers straight to our doorstep. So you have no excuse. Get buying.
As I said before, no one knows why there is so much Stigma surrounding Mental Health or where that Stigma comes from. Maybe someday, scientists will figure it out. But until then, I hope this Difficult Conversation has helped you untangle the mysteries of Mental Health. If you don’t feel better now, it’s no one’s fault but yours.
Join me next time for the top ten best dieting tips to help you get the killer body
*if you have insurance, and they’re authorized to practice in Minnesota