OPINION: Mental Makeup: What does being ‘healthy’ really mean?

By Zara Farouk, Columnist

We’ve all been there: it’s 8:45, your eyes are half sealed shut, it’s cold and the last thing you need is the added pressure of looking a certain way. The world we live in today pressurizes men and women to look a certain way in order to ‘fit in’ to socially constructed ideals that are hugely unrealistic.  In the process of achieving standards dictated by society, we often neglect one key element: mental health. College is stressful enough and we need to use this time to soul search, grow and learn without the pressure of conforming. Each of us face our own struggles, unknown to the next person. We need to be kind to ourselves and those around us.  

What most of us need to be reminded of is how we choose to present ourselves is entirely based on what makes YOU happy. Mental health is so often neglected as we expect people to look good rather than feel good. Some choose to prioritize comfort, while others prioritize style, but neither way is right or wrong and that should always be up for you to decide. Next time you scroll through your feed on Instagram and close the app feeling defeated that you haven’t been on holiday and don’t look like a certain figure, remind yourself that nothing you see is true reality. We should make our own ideals and conform to what makes us happy.  

Each of us holds our own version of how to best to start and end our days. My own belief is that your day is a reflection of how you start it. For some it might be the smallest of habits such as taking care of your bedroom, having a shower and brushing your teeth. Whatever it might be,  you should do what offers you a sense of mental peace.

Look around the next time you attend a lecture. Each individual is a representation of the diversity in our world today. Some choose to express themselves verbally and some express themselves through their clothing, and neither is superior to the other. As students in a generation that will impact what our world will be in the coming years, our goal should be to foster an environment where we should simply live and let live.  

In my belief, to care for others you need to start with yourself. Although mental health awareness has improved in the last decade, we can still do more.The power of human support and presence might seem minimal but makes a world of a difference to the friend you didn’t know was struggling. If you are reading this, remember we are all driven, ambitious and motivated young minds that have so much going and the time has come to build each other up and stop tearing each other down.

So my advice for those of you who don’t usually pay attention to “mental health” is to sleep a little earlier, plan out your day ahead and set the alarm. Give yourself a morning of pure bliss and make yourself mentally happy by taking care of yourself. I recommend choosing your attire the night before and giving yourself a mental briefing of which direction your day will be going. If sweats make you feel sloppy, throw on a pair of jeans, a fresh sweater and a clean pair of shoes. Or conversely, if jeans make you uncomfortable, throw on your favorite outfit and take charge of your day how you want to.  The simplest efforts go a long way. I understand that when you’ve pulled your second all-nighter in a row, the absolute last thing you care about is your reflection. But my point is that in life, we need to tend to our physical needs: dressing to reflect who we are, being physically active and giving our bodies that time and attention to create the right energy for mental sanity. I fully advocate the notion that mental health must be in check to take care of our physical well-being. No one wants a six pack while being down and under, right?

As students in such fast-paced environment involving job and school stress, we need to make sure that our needs are always taken care of and we don’t neglect ourselves.  Next time you catch a few extra minutes in the morning, treat yourself to a morning of leisure and pampering and I guarantee that your day will be that much brighter.  

Graphic by Billy Ferguson