Practicing good mental hygiene is just as important as practicing good physical hygiene. But although many of us were taught as children to brush our teeth and wash our armpits, we may not have been taught how to regulate our nervous systems and clear toxic thoughts or pent-up emotions.

Students are facing new and unusual stressors this year as the educational environment changes rapidly and the usual social outlets are altered or discontinued. Anxiety and depression are on the rise, with more than 50 percent of students saying they need mental health services since schools closed.

Here are five of the most effective mental hygiene practices for students that will help keep the nervous system regulated and mood stable:

  • Self expression. Journaling, venting to a trusted friend, or talking with a therapist can help clear built-up tension and anxiety. Emotional expression is cathartic in and of itself, and makes finding solutions to problems easier as well.
  • Mindfulness and meditation. These spiritual practices improve self-awareness and acceptance, which can calm the nervous system and improve mood. In Buddhist philosophy, resistance leads to suffering. Mindfulness and meditation can help us let go of resistance and come to peace with the reality of a situation.
  • Self-compassion. The practice of self-compassion helps us release judgements and see the beauty in all of our decisions. This can transform counter-productive anger and self-criticism into kindness and healthy action.
  • Healthy boundaries. Boundaries are an important way to maintain mental health. Whether the boundaries are physical, emotional or relational, they help clearly define priorities and a sense of self.
  • Physical health. Physical health and mental health are closely related. By exercising regularly, developing a consistent sleep schedule, getting fresh air, and avoiding sugar and caffeine, students will feel better in body and spirit.