As part of National Mental Health Month, Deborah Edelman-Blank, Psy.D., a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and counselor within Educational Support Services here at DMU, has come up with a top ten list for students to help them on their path to mental health and wellness
You are not your class rank/GPA. Striving for excellence in your academic and professional pursuits is an admirable quality. Pursuing excellence may lead you to study harder and longer and increase your academic performance. When excellence becomes perfectionism, however, your self-esteem will depend on your exam grades, you invite depression and anxiety, and your personal relationships will suffer.
Breaks are productive. Breaks from studying are not “unproductive” or “wasted” time. Your brain actually needs the break to maintain its ability to process and store information efficiently. By the way, breaks where you do-something-else-but-feel-guilty-for-not-studying-the-whole-time are not true breaks.
Play nice. Inevitably there will be people who have a particular talent at annoying the [insert four letter word here] out of you. Do not fool yourself into thinking that there will be a time in your life when you don’t have to interact with these people. They may be friends or family or professors or preceptors or supervisors or patients. Treat everyone (without exception) with respect, regardless of your opinions or judgments. This is a skill successful professionals in all fields must have.
Your body is talking to you. Listen. If you are having symptoms such as headaches, stomach upset, dizziness, change in appetite, body aches and pains, hair loss, frequent colds, it could be your body trying to give you a wakeup call. Don’t ignore your symptoms. Rule out any underlying medical condition by seeing your health care provider. If medically you are fine, take the not-so-subtle hint your body is giving you to take care of yourself better.
Maintain your dignity. The temptation to “cut corners” can be enormous in graduate school. A friend offers you an Adderall tablet to take the day before an exam to help you study. What’s the harm in that (besides the obvious medical risks)? You miss an exam because you overslept but you lie to the professor and say you had a family emergency. Why not? Because you deserve better. On graduation day, you deserve to hold you head high and feel proud not just of getting the diploma, but how you got the diploma. Be the best version of yourself. Don’t toss aside your ethics just because you may not get caught.
Disappointing others is often good. Doing what is best for you can have the side effect of causing someone else emotional pain. This is often something kind people struggle to do. However, the other person will get over it. You cannot hold yourself hostage in the name of protecting the feelings of another. Life is full of disappointments. You will not be the first person to disappoint an individual, nor the last.
Make mistakes and admit them. If you have overcommitted yourself and you need more time to study, admit your mistake, apologize sincerely, and change something. Withdraw from an activity, cancel plans, postpone an event, take a break from tutoring. I’ve seen numerous students with excellent intentions go quite loopy because they are trying to do too much.
You are no imposter. DMU did not make a mistake when they admitted you. They didn’t mix up your application with someone else’s. Luck doesn’t explain your success, nor does the good will of your professors. You are here because you deserve to be. You got the grades you deserved to get. You are going on rotation because you are ready to go.
Friends are not optional. The students I see in counseling that struggle most are usually the ones who confide in no one, either because of lack of friends or for fear of “burdening” their friends. If I could give every student only one piece of advice on what it takes to be successful at DMU, it would be to find one or two close friends and get through this experience together. The amount of stress and pressure in graduate school can be so overwhelming that having emotional support is absolutely crucial to your success.
Ask for what you need. Do not expect someone else to know what you need. If you need empathy when you are upset and all you get is advice, don’t be afraid to provide instructions to the person trying to help you. Don’t be afraid to ask professors for help with courses. Don’t be afraid of asking for a leave of absence if you are struggling so much you can’t function. And, pretty-please-with-cherries-on-top, don’t be afraid to meet with one of us in Educational Support Services if you need some help. We are here for you. We want to help you. And, believe it or not, we really and truly love our jobs.
Currently enrolled DMU students wishing to meet with a Counselor, e-mail email@example.com to schedule an appointment.