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Got yourself in a pickle? 5 ways to unpickle your brain

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

There is a widespread mental health crisis going on at college campuses across the country. A study of 90,000 students across 133 U.S. college campuses found that a majority of college students (60%) meet the criteria for at least one mental health problem, which is a 50% increase from 2013. The ongoing mental health epidemic has impacted students' confidence in persevering in academic studies. A recent study showed that 4 in 10 college students have considered withdrawing from their studies due to emotional stress. With an ever-increasing amount of mental health issues arising amongst the student body across the country, our goal is to inform students about various ways to manage and overcome the stressors of collegiate living.

5 easy tactics to reset your mind when overwhelmed with the stress of college:

1. Feeling hungry, stressed, or overwhelmed? Take a snack break!

If you are feeling hungry, stressed, or overwhelmed snacking is an easy tactic to combat these feelings. It is a great way to reset your mind and body when you’re in a pickle. Take a break from what you are doing and prioritize your body with a quick snack. Maybe eat some pickled chips or chow down on an apple. Snacking is not only tasty, it has many scientifically proven health benefits. It can allow the snacker to curb their appetite between meals while also getting an energy boost. Healthy snacks like fruits, vegetables, or nuts fuel the body with extra nutrients students need to help them maintain their busy lifestyles. Healthy snacking is especially important after exercise to “help replenish stored energy and speed up muscle recovery” (Martha Gonzalez RD). Before you continue reading, check in with your hunger queues. Now would be the perfect time to enjoy a snack.

2. Write it Down or Talk it Out

A simple and practical approach to battling mental health issues is to ‘Write it down’, or in other words, keep a consistent journal. Keeping a journal can lead to improved mood and overall mental health while decreasing symptoms of anxiety and depression. With that being said, a good way to make sure students keep up with their journal entries is to make it a part of their daily routine. One of the best ways to encourage constant engagement is to pair journaling with an activity that you already enjoy. For example, if you normally drink coffee in the morning, try to supplement that activity with journaling. Through keeping a consistent journal, students will be able to accept rather than judge their mental experiences, which ultimately results in fewer negative emotions in response to stressors in the academic ecosystem.

Another positive way in which students can combat the effects of mental health-related issues is through talking about it. This can be with a close friend, a family member, or anyone who is sympathetic and understanding. Studies have shown that talking about mental health with someone sympathetic can substantially increase mood and lower stress levels. Many students may hide their mental illnesses to avoid burdening others, but in reality, their loved ones are more than willing to be a listening ear and walk them through whatever they are going through. Participants of a study also described that sharing their mental health issues helped them with their self-acceptance and increased their feeling of connectedness with others.

3. Free Your Mind by Getting Active (with Pickleball!)

One of the best ways to help reduce stress is being active and getting proper exercise. Getting exercise helps release “feel good” chemicals in your brain and can help improve your mood (Exercise and Mental Health). This doesn’t mean you need to go out and buy a gym membership. There are lots of non-traditional activities, such as pickleball, that you can try instead. Pickleball is becoming an increasingly popular sport that is perfect for all ages. Whether you are an experienced player or have never picked up a paddle, pickleball is a fun way to take a mental break from the stress of your everyday life while getting in your daily exercise.

4. Unlocking Creativity: Using Art and Entertainment to Break Free from Mental Rut

Some of the most profound ideas and inspirations emerge when we turn inward for reflection. Art serves as a beacon of hope during those moments when we find ourselves adrift and overwhelmed by mental clutter. When we get anxious and lose control over our minds, seeking a reset through art can prove to be a source of inspiration. Be it a movie, book, or painting. We engage with these art forms and imprint them with our own thoughts and emotions. It’s with these intimate connections that form our most brilliant ideas and profound inspirations, emanating from our own thoughts and emotions.

In the words of the visionary filmmaker David Lynch, "Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you seek to reel in the big fish, you must venture deeper. In the profound depths, ideas are more potent, more pristine, and delightfully abstract. They are colossal and exquisitely beautiful." Embracing the world of art and entertainment allows us to plunge into those profound depths, enabling us to unearth the magnificent treasures that lie within our own minds.

5. Unplug to Unpack

Digital stimulation consumes Gen Z’s day-to-day lives. According to the New York Times, “smartphone and tablet screens set off brain receptors that are designed to keep you awake and interfere with circadian sleep patterns” Beyond physical exhaustion of blue light headaches or eye fatigue, subconscious comparison and anxiety can seep into our brains and create an overwhelmed mindset. Being mindful of taking a digital device break daily can help combat this personal pickle. Opportunities to unplug and unpack are at the tip of our fingertips, here are some ways to take a digital detox and in return, relax your anxieties.

→ Get outside: Fresh air does wonders for a mental reset. Grab a friend or pop on a podcast and take a walk around your neighborhood. Other outdoor activities include reading at a park, frisbee, golf, or a nice bike ride.

→ Crack a book: Take back the joy of reading by finding a book you ENJOY and get excited to reopen. Magazines, comics, or short stories are other options if an entire novel sounds daunting. Stories can transform you into a different reality and give your brain a break from the stresses of reality.

→ Find a new hobby: Learn a new recipe (how to pickle your favorite type of veggie), learn to craft, or take up crosswords. Pro tip: an easy way to make a hobby stick is by doing it with a friend!

→ Have device-free meals: An easy way to cut down on device time during your day is to plug in your phone away from you during Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. Not only will you enjoy your meal more, but it will present opportunities for conversation and reflection that your device would have stolen otherwise.

Sources Cited:

Blanchard Valley Health System. (n.d.). The benefits to healthy snacks. Blanchard Valley Health System.

Bfi. “David Lynch Quotes.” BFI, January 20, 2014.

Zaki, J. (2022, January 31). Five Reasons to Share Your Mental Health Struggles. Greater Good Magazine.

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