Using a gap year as a mental health year

March 22, 2017
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Different people take different gap years – some party their way around Europe, others backpack across Asia, and tons will simply relax before starting uni or work full-time. But, what about taking a gap-year for your mental health?

Your mind is the best thing about you, so it’s important to look after it. If you’re struggling, don’t ignore it. And, if you need a year to sort it, take that time.

University, work, partying – it will all be there when you’re ready.  

Everyone’s mental health is different, and this list is comprised from personal experience and the experience of friends. It won’t speak for everyone, but it might be inspiration to find what works for you.

Learn about yourself

Figuring yourself out isn’t easy. To be frank, it’s probably a lifetime process. But, to help get in touch with who you are and what you like, a gap year could be the answer. Finding hobbies and interests to keep you busy and happy are a real tick in balancing your mental health. Maybe you’ll discover you love to paint? Or sing? Or garden? Having the time to figure this out could be beneficial for life. Whatever it may be, once you find it, never stop.

Work at your own pace – you’ve got the time

It’s important to note that sometimes. mental health issues are what stop you from getting up and figuring these interests out. There’s nothing more frustrating then someone saying “Go do some exercise, you might like it!” when the thought of getting out of bed is crippling. Work at your own pace, and once you’re up for it, find those things you love to do.

Form positive habits

Some people’s gap years will follow the most stressful periods of their lives. For example – year 12 really did a number on me. The pressures of doing well made me so anxious that I felt I was drowning. In times like this, you might find yourself slipping out of the routines that make you thrive. Your room becomes messier, you stop eating well and the thought of fitting a workout in is completely unobtainable. Take your newfound time and chip away at re-introducing or completely introducing some new good habits. As a girl at a pub once said to me (a good source), “A clean room emulates a clean mind!”

Socialise

For some people, times of intense anxiety or depression will lead to some serious isolation. It sucks when your friends are asking you to hang out and you catch yourself conjuring up a shitty lie as to why you can’t make it. Your gap year will hopefully decrease times like these, giving you more time and less stress to say yes to those picnics, brunches and all-night dance parties. Friends and family are amazing when you’re down, but they’re better when you’re up.

Importantly, you deserve it

A major step in recovery is valuing your self enough to do something like this. To say, “OK I’m not coping, and I’m giving myself a good amount of time to fix it”. And hey, maybe you won’t “fix it”. But, hopefully you’ll learn some ways to deal with what you’re going through. Your gap year may be a once off or maybe you’ll have a few – but time is unimportant when dealing with your mental health. 

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If you or someone you know is having a hard time dealing with uni stress, you can find help by seeking advice from a counsellor or calling Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Tahlia Svingos

Tahlia is a media/journo student from the University of Adelaide. She probably wrote this in the bath.

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