I promised you my 8-Fold Path to Staying Stable and completing your degree. Not everything may work for you. It is up to you do tailor it and design your own road map.
*Stigma: Combatting stigma or discrimination requires education of yourself first. Then, you must educate others. Give them pamphlets from NAMI or Active Minds or invite them to an Active Minds event on campus. Open the dialogue with your roommate and friends. First check their feelings out about the issue. Then, if comfortable with what they say, disclose yourself. Explain what it’s like for you and how they might help. You might even get a reaction like someone in their family has a mental illness.
Disclosing to professors is tricky. You want to get the fair advantage and not seem like you want more from the professor than other students. At the same time, you want to make them aware of your disability and how it impacts your schoolwork. The Americans with Disabilities Act ADA will protect you and support you when talking with professors. The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law has put out a guidebook on the law for college students. You will want to be direct and not get into too much details of your illness. Just explain how your disability affects your schoolwork. If asking for an accommodation, be polite and be prepared to compromise.
- Eat Well: You will want to eat a variety of foods. What works for me is a low carb, low sugar diet high in greens and lean protein. Limit junk food. Find a balance of foods that fuel you and make that your daily routine. Drinking green juice is a good replacement for coffee. Coffee is a stimulant and will make you wired. Limit it to one cup a day, if any. Watch your sugar intake. Sugar is the poor man’s cocaine as a therapist once told me. Everything has sugar in it so this one is tricky. If you stick to a diet of fruit and vegetables, lean protein, nuts and seeds, you will be fine.
- Abstinence from Alcohol and Drugs is Best: If you take psychotrophic medication, it is best to stay away from substances that alter your mind state. Alcohol, weed, opioids, cocaine, LSD etc…will alter your mind and make your symptoms worse.
- Hitting the Books: If you are like me and focusing is a problem, study in a quiet place like a library that is well-lit. Highlight important passages, then summarize them in a notebook. Read slowly and summarize after each section break. Study best during the day after class when you are fresh. Try not to pull all-nighters. Having a planner and a daily schedule will allow you to carve out study time so you won’t have to cram.
- Dating: There is only one rule for dating: Disclose early on so you can gage their reaction. If he gives you the “good in bed” response, Run. Stick with people that lift you up. If you sense signs of danger in a relationship, don’t be afraid to call a Domestic Violence crisis line for help on how to get out of it.
- Exercise: It is important to find some form of movement you love doing and do it daily or a few times a week. Running, Rowing, Weight Lifting, Yoga, Dance, Swimming are just to name a few. Try and do cardio and strength training and remember to do your stretching first.
- Friendships: Like dating, stick around the people who lift you up. Listen hard and share the conversation. Remember a good friend is a good listener first. Write encouragement notes to them. Send care packages. Remember birthdays.
- Meditation: Connecting to a higher purpose or the universe is good for the soul. Meditation is incredibly calming and a good tool in your wellness basket. If agitated, don’t do sitting meditation. It can make you worse sitting in your anxiety. Try walking meditation or call your therapist instead.