Healthy Habits to Implement in 2021

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January is a great time to set goals for the year and develop habits that will allow you to live a happier, healthier life. Taking steps to focus on your mental and physical health will help you in all areas of your life, including your education! It can be difficult to give your energy to school work when you’re feeling physically sick or mentally drained. Check out a few healthy habits you can implement in 2021:

Prioritize Sleep

Do you know how much sleep you should be getting every night? It differs in each age group, and sleep deprivation can have a negative impact on your productivity and energy levels. According to the National Sleep Foundation, ages 14-17 should be getting 8-10 hours of sleep a night, and ages 6-13 should get 9-11 hours of sleep each night. In addition to improving focus and energy throughout the day, getting enough sleep will also help with improving and maintaining muscle memory—which is a bonus for study sessions! If you have trouble falling asleep, try winding down an hour before you want to sleep by shutting down electronic devices and reading a book or journaling.

Move for 30 Minutes a Day

Being an online student means getting to complete classwork from the comfort of your bed, which is the best. But you can’t forget to get up every once in a while! Exercising for even 30 minutes a day can have a positive impact on your physical and mental health, and taking breaks can help you refocus on the task at hand. Check out a yoga workout on YouTube, start your day with a jog around your neighborhood, or take your dog on an extra-long walk to get your body moving.

Practice Gratitude

It’s no secret that the last several months have been challenging, and it can be easy to focus on the negative. However, dwelling on the things we can’t control can be daunting, not to mention detrimental to our mental health. One of the best healthy habits you can implement this year is practicing gratitude, which can be as easy as writing down what you’re grateful for every day or choosing a positive affirmation to be your daily mantra. Finding even a few positive things to give thanks for will keep you motivated and help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Get Organized

The easiest way to declutter your mind and space is to utilize organizational tools. Not only will you feel more productive, but you’ll also be able to make more time for yourself and the things you love to do. Start by getting a planner or downloading a planner app, such as Calendly or iStudiez, and use it to keep track of assignments, deadlines, and meetings. At the beginning of each week, write down everything that needs to be done and break it up into smaller goals that can be tackled each day. Completing bite-sized goals on a daily basis will help you avoid burnout and give you time to do other things, too!

 

Check out these other posts for other healthy habits and tools to add to your routine this year:

 

Managing Mental Health As An Online Learner

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With a year as unprecedented as this one, it’s important to remember that prioritizing mental health is imperative for everyone—but especially students. Many of you have made the switch to online learning this year, which is both exciting and overwhelming, especially given the circumstances. Transitioning can be tough, but you aren’t alone. Here are some ways to manage your mental health:

Communicate with your loved ones

As humans, we often have a hard time opening up while simultaneously being hard on ourselves. If we let things fester for too long, it can be detrimental to our mental health and affect our everyday lives. That’s why it’s important to keep your loved ones close and to communicate with them about how you’re feeling. They can offer support, help identify the cause of how you’re feeling, and assist in finding resources that will get you back on track. If you’re nervous to start the conversation, try writing down everything you’re feeling so you have an idea of what you want to say.

Stay active

It’s no secret your physical and mental health are connected! If you’re feeling low, one of the best things you can do is throw on your favorite activewear and get moving. Whether you go for a walk, take a virtual yoga class outside, or bike around your neighborhood, at least 30 minutes of exercise a day will improve your mood and provide a much-needed screen break for your eyes. Some schools, including ASU Prep Digital, even have fitness clubs, which promote maintaining a healthy lifestyle while bonding with your peers.

Sign up for therapy

While there are quite a few misconceptions surrounding therapy, the truth is that therapy is a great way to check-in with your mental health, work through any problems, and learn how to cope with and overcome the stresses of life. With half of all mental conditions starting by age 14, tools like therapy can help you address things such as anxiety and depression early on. In the age of COVID, many people are turning to online services such as Better Help and Talkspace, which offer virtual counseling in the form of video chats, phone calls, and instant messaging. There is no shame in getting help and therapy is beneficial whether you’re going through a difficult time or not.

 

Looking for resources or additional information on how to manage your mental health? Check out these posts:

Can Students With Social Anxiety Benefit From Online School?

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High school is an exciting time in a young person’s life. Between making friends, discovering new passions, and thinking ahead to future majors and careers, high school is where many students begin to find themselves. But for those with social anxiety, this experience can feel less than desirable.

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) affects approximately 15 million Americans and is the second most commonly diagnosed form of anxiety in the country. Many symptoms begin to surface around age 13, just as students are making the transition from middle school to high school. This means students dealing with feelings of self-consciousness and anxiety will have a harder time adjusting and feeling comfortable.

How can we help?

Many of these symptoms make it difficult for students to perform well in their classes. Some may experience an inability to focus, feel physically sick, or fear going to school.

Education is not ‘one size fits all.’ There are alternatives to traditional school whether a child is struggling academically, physically, or mentally. For students who experience social anxiety, online school may be a viable option.

Online learning gives students the freedom to work on their own time, at their own pace. For students with social anxiety who struggle doing simple tasks, this is especially helpful because they can slow down without feeling like they’re trailing behind their classmates. And for students who get anxious being in a crowd, online school eliminates having to sit in a classroom full of people, making it easier for them to concentrate on their schoolwork.

 

We understand high school can be tough to navigate, and even more so if you’re living with a mental illness. While online school won’t provide a quick fix and should not be used in lieu of professional help, we strive to provide the best learning experience for all of our students, offering support and resources every step of the way no matter what they’re going through.

Interested in learning more about how online school can be a great option for students who may be struggling socially? Check out these blog posts:

Curious if our program is right for your child? Check out our FAQs and learn more about enrollment here.

Learn the Power of Using Fitness, Food, and Education to Keep Your Mind Healthy

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For those who experience mental illness on a daily basis, it’s no secret that the toll it takes on you can be detrimental. Margaret Koukos, a 16-year-old junior, understands this all too well.

“I’ve always had bad anxiety, but it peaked in 2017 during my sophomore year of high school,” she said. “My doctor had me on mood stabilizers and antidepressants, but it felt like they were hurting me more than helping me.”

Determined to improve her situation, Margaret set out to find ways to feel healthier, both mentally and physically.

“I began practicing yoga in the beginning of 2018, when a trainer at my gym encouraged me to try a class after seeing how much anxiety was consuming me,” she said. “I didn’t instantly fall in love with it, but it grew on me. I started to feel a sense of calm and I knew from that moment that I had to stick with it.”

After realizing the impact of a single lifestyle change, Margaret decided to find other parts of her life she could improve that would benefit her mental health in a positive way.

“My eating impacts everything—how I feel, how I think, my workouts, and my mood,” she said. “I notice when I eat food that inflames me, like gluten, soy and dairy, I get a lot of anxiety. I try to keep a diet that consists of meat, fish, veggies, fruit and an occasional bag of kettle chips or chocolate!”

She also wanted to find an alternative to the brick-and-mortar style of education she was used to, which led her to online schooling.

“I knew life wasn’t meant to consist of days where we countdown the hours until they’re over,” she said. “A typical day for me began at 5am with a workout or a yoga class, followed by eight hours at school where I felt like I couldn’t focus, then coming home and trying to take care of a puppy, my family and, most of all, myself.”

Margaret realized she needed to change her day-to-day routine in order to bring some stability to her life, and online school offered her the balance she needed.

“It has allowed me to focus on school, but also focus on and be present with myself when I need to,” she said. “Thanks to online learning, I am able to take care of myself better, eat healthier, workout/do yoga when I want to and travel! The amount of flexibility is amazing and definitely relieves stress for me because I know that there is time for everything now.”

Margaret has not only discovered her recipe for happiness, but also a newfound love for yoga and its benefits. She strives to share what she has learned with anyone who wants to introduce yoga into their lifestyle.

“As my yoga teacher says, ‘there’s no right or wrong way to do yoga,’ which is so true,” she said. “Everybody is different. I’ve had some days where I’m not missing a beat in a flow sequence and others where something is hurting so bad I’ve wanted to quit in that very minute. I think no matter what, you just have to stick with it because it will be worth it in the end.”

Margaret already has her eyes set on the future and is looking forward to helping others find their balance, both in yoga and in life.

“I want to get my 200hr RYT, which means I will have spent 200 hours studying yoga and can teach classes,” she said.

Once she graduates from ASU Prep Digital, Margaret plans on attending ASU Online and earning a B.S. in Integrative Health while working toward becoming a yoga instructor.

 

 

If you want to learn more about Margaret or follow her journey, check out her blog here.

For more information on the connection between fitness and mental health, check out Mental Health America.

Five Ways to Fight the Stigma Around Mental Illness

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One of the most important parts of Mental Health Awareness Month is working to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. With 1 in 5 adults in the United States living with a mental illness, and half of all chronic mental illnesses beginning by age 14, it’s important we offer support and guidance in place of judgement and negativity.* If you or a loved one are living with a mental illness, take a look at five ways in which you can help fight both external and internal stigmas:

 

Talk openly about mental health.

An important step in ending the stigma surrounding mental illness is openly talking about it. Those living with mental illness shouldn’t be shamed into silence, especially when mental illnesses are so prevalent. Talking about things like symptoms, warning signs, and treatments can be beneficial to not just those who don’t experience mental illness, but also to those who do. Sharing your experience will help normalize mental health and mental conditions.

 

Educate yourself and those around you.

Many stigmas surrounding mental health and mental illness often stem from misinformation. One of the best ways to fight, and end, the stigma is to simply educate yourself and anyone else who may be misinformed. There are plenty of resources that provide detailed infographics that break down the impact and prevalence of mental illnesses.

 

Be conscious of your language.

The way you speak about mental illness is important. Using words and phrases like ‘crazy’ and ‘mentally ill’ can be extremely harmful and further deepen discrimination against those who live with a mental illness. It’s also demeaning to use a person’s mental illness as an adjective to describe them, such as ‘she’s bipolar’ or ‘he’s schizophrenic.’ They are more than their mental illness and should be treated as such, which is why using person-centered language is a good rule of thumb to follow.

 

Build the bridge between mental and physical health.

When you experience a physical health problem, you are immediately encouraged to get it checked out. Why should your mental health be any different? When we put physical and mental health up against each other, we insinuate that one is more important than the other. Your mental and physical health are more connected than you think and should be treated, and spoken about, in an equal manner.

 

Overcome shame by choosing empowerment.

It’s easy to let society dictate how you view yourself, especially when it feels like no one really understands what you’re going through. As difficult as it may be, choosing to empower yourself instead of living in shame will not only help fight against the stigma, but also improve your self-perception and feelings of self-worth. You deserve to tell your own story. And own it.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about the stigma surrounding mental illness and how you can help fight against it, check out these resources:

* Information provided by The National Alliance on Mental Illness

Four Common Misconceptions About Mental Illness

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While the discussion around mental health has improved in recent years, there is still a lot of work to be done. Misconceptions, often based on misinformation, are one of the biggest problems contributing to the uphill battle in the fight to normalize discussions about mental health. Here are four common misconceptions about mental illness and why they aren’t true:

 

Misconception #1: Mental illnesses aren’t real.

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘it’s all in your head’ associated with mental illness? This misconception is one of the most harmful because it implies that the symptoms surrounding mental illnesses are not valid, which makes those who are living with one feel like they don’t matter. The same way medical conditions such as diabetes and cancer are real, anxiety and depression are real and should be treated with the same level of importance and respect.

 

Misconception #2: Youth can’t experience mental illness.

Sadly, children and young adults are just as susceptible to mental health conditions as adults. In fact, 1 in 5 children aged 13 to 18 has, or will have, a mental illness, and 50% of all lifetime cases begin by age 14.* It’s important that we start mental health discussions early on to introduce symptoms, warning signs, and resources. Growing up comes with its ups and downs and it’s important that we teach children how to recognize when something is more serious.

 

Misconception #3: Mental illness is a sign of weakness.

The same way physical illness is often times out of your control and based on environmental and biological factors, so is mental illness. While traumatic events and certain situations can make someone more prone to developing a mental condition, this does not make them weak—it makes them human. We need to be understanding and assure them that they are not weak, especially if they want to seek out treatment options.

 

Misconception #4: People living with a mental illness will never get better.

Now more than ever, there’s an abundance of resources and treatment options available for those who live with a mental health condition and want to improve their quality of life. Everyone’s journey is different, so what works for one person may not work for someone else. However, it’s important to be supportive because the recovery/healing process may not be linear, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about common misconceptions and how they’re being debunked every day, check out these resources:

*Information provided by The National Alliance on Mental Illness

Five Effective Ways to Cope With Stress

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Stress is a natural part of life. We experience it when we are feeling overwhelmed or when we’re dealing with new or unexpected obstacles. This is especially true when you’re navigating your teen years, trying to discover who you are and where you fit in the world.

While stress can sometimes be beneficial in pushing us through difficult situations and making us stronger, there are times when it takes a detrimental toll on both our mental and physical health.

Some common signs of stress negatively affecting you are:

  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Experiencing frequent headaches
  • Changes in appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating

While you may not be able to completely rid yourself of stress, there are ways to cope with it that enable you to continue moving forward without feeling like the weight of the world rests on your shoulders. Here are five effective ways to manage your stress:

Get more sleep.

It’s no secret that you function better when you get enough rest. According to the National Sleep Foundation, you should be getting anywhere from 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night. While it may be tempting to hit ‘yes’ when Netflix asks if you’re still watching or launch into a full-on meme war with your friends, consider reducing your screen time in exchange for more dream time.

Exercise.

When people tell you just 30 minutes a day of exercise makes a difference, they’re not lying! Getting active will greatly improve your mental and physical health, and the gym isn’t the only place you can get a good workout in. Try taking a dance or kickboxing class, or looking up YouTube videos you can follow along at home. One of our students discovered the power of yoga and shared how it has had a positive impact on her mental and physical well-being.

Eat healthier.

What you put into your body affects your mental health just as much as your physical health. Pay attention to what you eat and how it makes you feel. Do you experience more stress when eating processed foods? Are you jittery and anxious when you consume caffeine? Try cutting out foods and drinks that negatively impact your mood and fill your diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and water.

Invest time in your hobbies.

Sometimes you just need a break after the hustle and bustle of a long day or week, and this is where your hobbies come to the rescue. Make time to do the things you love because not only will it relieve stress, but it will also prevent you from completely burning out.

Open up.

Sometimes the best thing you can do to avoid feeling extremely overwhelmed is to talk about how you’re feeling. Stress can be a heavy burden to carry, especially if it’s stemming from or causing other feelings, such as loneliness or a sense of inadequacy. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to a professional, open up to a parent, a friend, or even a teacher you trust. There will always be someone who is willing to listen, but the first step is asking for help.

 

Check out the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health America for more information on stress and how to manage it effectively.