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

 

Dealing with too much stress

What is stress?

Stress can be thought of as a response by the brain and body respond to any demand (1).

Some stress is useful in helping us perform in life, achieve goals, grow, etc.

Too much stress can harm both physical and emotional health in many different ways.

What does too much stress feel like?

Different people respond to stress in different ways.

 What are some common emotional responses to excessive  stress?

Too much stress can cause:

  • Changes in mood, sleep, irritability, body aches (3).
  • Changes in appetite, difficulty concentrating, etc.

What are some unhealthy ways of dealing with too much stress?

  • Increasing use of caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, drugs.
  • Unhealthy eating habits.
  • Increased behaviors of isolation/avoidance. Too much time away from the problem might make the problem worse by causing you to miss deadlines, meetings, assignments, etc.

What are some healthy ways  of dealing with too much stress?

The American Psychological Association’s help center suggests (2):

  • Take a break. A few minutes away from what is stressing you might help you have a new perspective or give you a chance to practice stress management techniques. (Links below).
  • Smile and laugh. This might help relieve some tension and improve the situation.
  • Get social support from others or a counselor. Talking to someone might help you feel better, collect your thoughts, gain new insights into the situation.

The following are adapted from National Library of Medicine (3) stress management page:

  • Recognize and accept the things you can’t change.  This can help you let go and not get upset. For instance, you might not change rush hour traffic, but you can look for ways to relax during your commute, such as listening to a podcast or book.
  • Avoid stressful triggers when possible. For example, if your family squabbles during the holidays, give yourself a breather and go out for a walk or drive.
  • Exercise. Regular exercise or physical activity most days for about 30 minutes can help your brain release chemicals that make you feel good, and help you release built-up energy or frustration.
  • Change your outlook. Are you being too negative? Work on more positive attitude toward challenges by replacing negative thoughts with more positive ones.
  • Do something you enjoy preferably daily even if it’s just for a few minutes. Examples include reading a good book, listening to music, watching a favorite movie, or having dinner with a friend, a new hobby or class.
  • Get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. This can help you think more clearly, and have more energy.
  • Eat enough AND eat healthy foods. This can help fuel your body and mind. Skip the high-sugar snack foods and load up on vegetables, fruits, raw nuts, lean proteins, good fats.
  • Learn to say no. Set limits if you feel over-scheduled, cut back or defer where you can. Ask others for help when you need it.

Are there useful stress management resources on campus?

Anything else?

Other ideas to manage stress:

Gratitude and mindfulness exercises to manage stress:

Benefits of Play and Leisure:

Smartphone apps for mental health: https://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2017/05/

 

What are some signs that YOU are under too much stress?

What healthy strategies have you tried?

Which ones work for you to help manage stress?

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. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml
  2. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/manage-stress.aspx
  3. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001942.htm

 

 

Helpful Ideas for Transitioning/Adjusting to College

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” ― Benjamin Franklin (1)

 

Each fall, millions of young adults across the country leave home to start college.

For many, this is an exciting time, but for others, adjusting to the university environment can be quite stressful.

Some factors impacting this including living on your own for the first time, and managing your own schedule and social support and college life and other responsibilities all occurring at the same time.

The key may be to plan ahead.

What are some helpful steps to ease the transition to College?

The American Psychiatric association suggest these 5 tips for reducing stress during the college transition (2):

  • Become familiar with campus ahead of time
  • Get involved on campus activities.
  • Before the school year starts, proactively plan a visit home.
  • Figure out a way to stay connected with your support system.
  • Establish a health care provider before starting the school year.

Where can I learn more?

The Jed Foundation has numerous articles on successful transition to college:

What are some helpful campus resources?

 

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. Franklin B. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Norton Critical Edition. (Chaplin J). New York: W. W. Norton; 2012
  2. https://www.psychiatry.org/news-room/apa-blogs/apa-blog/2016/08/5-tips-for-reducing-stress-during-transition-to-college