As some students head back to school, I thought it was an opportune time to share some interventions I use with students in my clinical practice. It is an eclectic pull of resources to help reduce anxiety and depression while increasing focus and feelings of well-being. This is a three-part series.
The foundations are the first group of interventions. They are critical components for physical and mental health and are super basic. It is the “go to” stuff we teach kids when they are little. I cover these three pillars of good mental health with every client I see – for good reason. Most are not meeting these fundamental needs in one or more areas. I provide psychoeducation on the foundations because when these behaviors are stabilized, other systems can restore, and one begins to feel better…
1) Food – Food is fuel. As my graduate instructor shared, “A hungry body is an anxious body.” The body needs nourishment to function correctly. If your student is eating carbs and caffeine as their mainstay, they will be more likely to feel anxious and then sluggish. There are a ton of resources on this topic, so this is just a reminder. One assignment I give to clients is to ask themselves before consuming any item, “Does this (fill in the blank…chips, crackers, coffee, ice cream, etc.) nourish my body?” If the answer is no, then find something else to eat or drink. Don’t get me wrong; sometimes, I think a lovely bowl of ice cream or a latte is nourishing. The message here is to make sure to get enough high-quality nutrients into the body and consume comfort food mindfully.
2) Sleep – Sleep is super essential for good functioning. I spend a lot of time teaching young people good sleep hygiene, include limiting stimulants close to bedtime, honoring natural circadian rhythms, and protecting sleep. Many of my clients, not just the young, completely ignore their natural sleep cycles. When questioned, “When do you feel naturally sleepy?” many report 10:00 pm or 11:00 pm which they then push through to complete homework, play video games, chat with friends or watch Netflix. They are then wide awake until 2:00 am and are exhausted when they have wake at 6:00 am. The best two interventions I have found are:
– Limit simulation one hour before bed, turn down the lights, read a book, stretch.
– Be ready for bed before you get sleepy. If you are typically sleepy at 11:00 pm, then be prepared to be asleep at that time. Be in bed by 10:45 pm.
3) Movement – Studies show exercise is as efficacious in reducing depression and anxiety in patients as prescription medication. Again, this is not new information, just a reminder to get moving. I believe in the healing properties of nature. Get outside, take a walk or go for a bike ride.
Part II: Self-care, Attachment, Productivity
Part III: Therapy, Nutrigenomics, Bodywork, Bilateral beats