By Edris F.

Stress, anxiety, anger, failure, exhaustion, and despondence. These are some of the many feelings we as students have experienced at some points in our lives. Sometimes, our emotions can consume the little that is left of our fuel and leave us in an abyss of darkness. Mental health is indeed a topic that can be difficult to discuss, and difficult to open up about, but it shouldn’t always be that way. Arguably, mental health is just as important as physical health, and the connection between mental health and physical health has never been more evident. Chronic stress, for example, has many negative effects on your body, namely weakening your  immune system, increasing your risk of cancer, and increasing your risk of heart disease, just to name a few. Healthy coping mechanisms, such as exercising, journaling, partaking in hobbies, and breathing, are crucial when dealing with the highs and lows of your days. In this article, I will be explaining research-based methods that have helped me manage my intense emotions, as well as the role mental health plays in STEM fields. 

Exercise

What do I do when I’m feeling intense emotions, like anger or stress? I exercise! Research has shown that exercise increases mood, improves sleep, relieves stress, increases energy, and much more! I’ve noticed that my intense emotions, such as anger and stress, actually improves my exercise performance! Further research has shown that anger increases the strength of a kick by about 20% compared to a kick in a calm state. This finding indicates that when we are angry, we increase in physical strength because our bodies have prepared for action through the sympathetic nervous system activation. Instead of destructive behaviours such as breaking objects or harming yourself and others, you can channel this angry energy into a behaviour that actually improves your health: exercising. Go for a run. Have a nice workout sesh. Even going for a 30 minute walk can improve your mental and physical health! 

Hobbies during difficult times

Sometimes I experience burn-out or feel overwhelmed, and that’s okay. When I’m feeling that way, I like to take a break from my work, leave my study area, and do something that makes me feel better. Personally, I go in my backyard to spend time with nature, while other times I watch a funny video on YouTube to cheer me up. Once I feel better, I get back to work! The Australian Government’s Department of Health states that people with hobbies are less likely to suffer from low moods, stress, and depression. Hobbies can help you manage the highs and lows of your life and get you through tough times. Overall, do what you enjoy!

 

Breathing

Yes, breathe. Take a deep breath in. As funny as it may sound, deep breathing exercises can help you calm down and relax in times of panic, stress, and distress. You can find a variety of reliable, research-based breathing exercises here.

 

Sit with your emotions. Experience them.

Last but not least, acknowledge your emotions and try to understand how and why you feel the way you do. Do not beat yourself up for feeling a certain way that, sometimes, you can’t describe or even understand. During times when you feel overwhelmed: sit down. Breathe. Think of the present moment, think about how you feel right now and what’s bothering you. It’s okay if you still don’t know what’s bothering you, and it may help to talk out your feelings with a professional.

 

Seeking professional mental health aide 

As I mentioned before, sometimes it’s best to talk your feelings out with a mental health professional. I am in no way a mental health professional, so the above methods that have worked for me may not necessarily work for you; everyone’s mind is unique. It’s important to understand that there is no shame in how you feel. A mental health professional can help you develop healthy coping mechanisms and behaviours. Speak to your primary care provider about how you feel, and they can refer you to the appropriate mental health resources that best suit you. 

 

This article touched on some emotional topics. Here are some resources if you are in need of support: 

Ontario crisis lines: 

https://www.chs.ca/page/distress-centres-and-crisis-lines-ontario?gclid=CjwKCAjw64eJBhAGEiwABr9o2C89oCyQHksRZroXRk2ivypK5LVldWUjRfqkznaiTeFbJVX11Ij96BoCtGsQAvD_BwE

Kids help phone for youth: To start using the texting service, text CONNECT to 686868. https://kidshelpphone.ca/need-help-now-text-us/

How mental health relates to STEM

You might be wondering, how does mental health even relate to STEM? Well, academic studies in STEM can be stressful at times. It is important to take care of yourself and your mental health in order to thrive in your STEM-related studies and as a future professional in your field of study. Scientists need immense amounts of mental stamina to carry out their studies: trial and error, failures, and grant rejects are all possible mental and physical obstacles scientists must learn to deal with. Learning how to deal with emotions and stressful situations in a healthy manner at an early stage in our career path can really help us thrive in the long-term, both professionally and socially. 

With mental health, physical health, and academic health in balance, the future of STEM will be bright. 

About the Author:

Edris is studying at the University of Toronto with a love for nature and a passion for life, health, and environmental sciences. During his free time you can catch him reading non-fiction, spending time with his bird, or going on long hikes by the Rouge River. Edris firmly believes that everyone has the ability to grow and to become the best version of themselves; he hopes that his writing will help youth in their journeys of self-discovery.