Leisure, academics, and mental health

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

In a national survey of over 31 thousand college students, about 31% of college students report stress impacting their academics, followed by anxiety (25%), and depression (16%). (1).

Excessive stress can also lead to depression and anxiety (2).

Leisure activities can play a role in stress management which can help with academics and with mental health.

What is leisure?

One definition of leisure activity is pleasurable activities that individuals engage in voluntarily when they are free from the demands of work or other responsibilities (3).

Are there studies on leisure activities and wellbeing?

A study by Trainor and colleagues looked at leisure activities and psychological well being (4).

Who was studied?

947 students were asked about social, non-social and unstructured leisure activities as well as measures of personality.

What were the results?
spare-time use may be related to well-being only insofar as individuals who are psychologically healthy tend to be involved in structured, supervised, goal oriented, leisure activities, such as sports with others and playing music with healthy peers (4).

What are some caveats?

This is a small cross sectional study which can tell us about association but not cause and effect.

The study was published in 2012, and newer leisure activities have become common, which may or may not be healthy (social media, online-gaming, active video gaming, interactive phone apps, etc).

What are some examples of healthy leisure activities (5)?

  • Spending quiet time alone
  • Visiting others
  • Eating with others
  • Doing fun things with others
  • Clubs/fellowship, and religious group participation
  • Vacationing
  • Communing with nature
  • Playing or watching sports
  • Hobbies

Also consider:

  • Working out or taking exercise classes
  • Meditating
  • Volunteering
  • Participating in an activities based student organization
  • Journaling
  • Drawing/coloring/painting

Anything else that can help?

In addition to leisure activities, the following activities can also help with physical and emotional health:

  • Healthy lifestyle habits(healthy eating habits, healthy exercise, relaxation skills, healthy

sleep habits, etc.) (5)

  • Avoiding harmful habits(smoking, drug use, excessive alcohol, etc) (5)
  • This balance might vary from person to person.

Different people might benefit from different types of play during leisure time. What type of play is best for you?

Are there any campus resources on play?

Any other useful resources on campus?

Learn more about play:

https://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2017/09/22/mental-health-benefits-of-leisure-activities/

https://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2016/09/28/study-play-and-leisures-impact-on-mood-stress-and-wellbeing/

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. American College Health Association. American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II: Reference Group Executive Summary Fall 2017. Hanover, MD: American College Health Association; 2018.
  2. Khan S, Khan RA (2017) Chronic Stress Leads to Anxiety and Depression. Ann Psychiatry Ment Health 5(1): 1091.
  3. Zhang J, Zheng Y.  How do academic stress and leisure activities influence college students’ emotional well-being? A daily diary investigation. J Adolesc. 2017 Oct;60:114-118. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2017.08.003. Epub 2017 Aug 23.
  4. Trainor, P. Delfabbro, S. Anderson, A. Winefield. Leisure activities and adolescent psychological well-being. Journal of Adolescence, 33 (1) (2010), pp. 173-186.
  5. Pressman, S. D, et. al. Association of Enjoyable Leisure Activities With Psychological and Physical Well-Being. Psychosomatic Medicine: September 2009 – Volume 71 – Issue 7 – pp 725-732 doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181ad7978Top of Form

 

Graduation, Stress, and Summer

 

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

As the summer nears, many students are anticipating positive experiences such as a break from classes, or fewer classes, study abroad, vacation, time away from academics, work, internship,  job search, etc.

Some students are approaching graduation from college or graduate/professional school.

While these can overall be positive for most students, some students can experience negative emotions during this time.

What are some sources of stress that students can experience as summer approaches?

Some examples include:

  • Stress of graduation, moving, finding a job or internship.
  • Major life transition from being a student to being in the workforce, and related lifestyle changes
  • Increased isolation
  • Change in relationships, friendships, and environment as you move away from college
  • Changes in sleep, eating, and social schedules

What are some negative emotions that students can experience as summer/graduation approaches?

While very little research exists in this area, as college mental health clinicians, this time of year, we will often see students experiencing:

  • Decreased motivation
  • Increase in depression, anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Increased feelings of stress
  • Changes in appetite, irritability
  • In some cases, worsening of a pre-existing mental health condition.

What are some ways to manage this?

  • Recognize the changes that you are experiencing as a result of this transition.
  • Think about how you were impacted, and what helped you during previous transition points in your life such as graduating from high school, or undergrad and transitioning to the next level, other life transitions, etc.
  • Consider making a plan to address the upcoming transition
  • Get organized, maintain lists
  • Maintain healhty habits, now more than ever. (see links below)
  • Some students might benefit from making a plan to maintain a connection with friends and other experiences they found meaningful during college
  • It may be helpful to think of ways to incorporate what you liked in the past, into your future transition (summer, life after graduation, etc).
  • Others may find it helpful to identify positive aspects of the upcoming changes
  • Enlist the help of others.

Learn more:

Resources to manage stress, and increase resilience to deal with change:

Are there useful stress management resources on campus?

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

Mental Health Benefits of Leisure Activities

The previous blog discuss stress management (1). Today’s post talks about the benefits of play and leisure activities on mental health.

A recent study of college students showed that academic stress was associated with negative emotion, and leisure activities engagement was associated with positive emotion (2).

A large scale study looked at impact on psychological and physical well-being from specific types of leisure activities (3).

What is leisure?

The study authors defined leisure as pleasurable activities that individuals engage in voluntarily when they are free from the demands of work or other responsibilities (2).

Who was studied (3)?

1399 individuals, 74% female, age = 19–89 years.

What was measured? (3)

  • Self-report measure (Pittsburgh Enjoyable Activities Test (PEAT))
  • Participation in ten different types of leisure activities (described below)
  • Measures of positive and negative psychosocial states.
  • Blood pressure
  • The stress hormone, cortisol (over 2 days), and other factors.

What were the results? (3)

Enjoyable leisure activities are associated with:

  • Lower levels of depression and negative affect
  • Improved positive, physical and psychosocial states

What are some types of leisure activities from the study (3)?

  • Spending quiet time alone
  • Spending time unwinding;
  • Visiting others
  • Eating with others
  • Doing fun things with others
  • Clubs/fellowship, and religious group participation;
  • Vacationing
  • Communing with nature
  • Sports
  • Hobbies

What are some caveats?

  • Compared to previous studies looking at single factors, this is a large scale study looking at many different leisure activities and its benefits on health and well being.
  • The study authors discuss the importance of healthy lifestyle habits (healthy eating habits, healthy exercise, relaxation skills, healthy sleep habits, etc.), avoiding harmful habits (smoking, drug use, excessive alcohol, etc); and leisure activities as tools to improve physical and emotional health (3).
  • This balance might vary from person to person.

Different people might benefit from different types of play. What type of play is best for you?

Are there any campus resources on play?

Any other useful resources on campus?

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2017/09/01/dealing-with-too-much-stress
  2. Zhang J, Zheng Y.  How do academic stress and leisure activities influence college students’ emotional well-being? A daily diary investigation.

    J Adolesc. 2017 Oct;60:114-118. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2017.08.003. Epub 2017 Aug 23.
  3. Pressman, S. D, et. al. Association of Enjoyable Leisure Activities With Psychological and Physical Well-Being.  Psychosomatic Medicine: September 2009 – Volume 71 – Issue 7 – pp 725-732 doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181ad7978