Mental Health & Studying Abroad
Stress is a major threat to your life, well being and success. In times of growing depression and economic difficulties each individual is faced with a set of problematic circumstances. When it comes to studying abroad it is not just the economic pressures but also the pressure of leaving your family in order to prove yourself. Your mission and goals is to make something of yourself and show the people back home how much you have made yourself. Stress can jeopardize this mission. For this very reason we at FES want to provide a guide on how to beat the stress that comes with studying abroad.
How to look after your mental health while studying abroad
Build a routine
Moving abroad should be viewed as a fresh start. An opportunity to reinvent yourself, an opportunity to make yourself into the self you always wanted to be. It will take two or three days for you to get used to the new timings, and rotation of the sun at a new location. But as your body starts to get accustomed to the new clock, you need to start planning your routine. Make time for a good night’s sleep. Make sure your day ends with a good night’s sleep. It will take a month or two for you to establish such a routine but the importance of sleep should be built into the routine. When you first arrive, it’s only natural to want to go out often and experience everything you can. But you need to build a routine so you do settle in for the long haul. Because if you treat the place as a tourist spot for a large portion of time then you are bound to not make the best use of the opportunities both academic and career.
Find a community
It is going to be a strange new land where you are going to know no one, the key is to remember you are not the only one. There are going to be plenty of international students in the same boat as you. All you have to do is reach out and make a bit of an effort connecting with new people. What a lot of Pakistani students tend to do is try to only connect with other Pakistani or Indian students. We try to look for the familiar all the time. This is not a bad thing. But you need to reach out to students and individuals from other countries as well. This will allow you to beat a lot of the stress as you will learn new things and the best of a difficult situation. Get out there socialise, be polite, smart and learn from new experiences. Take some time out from your day to hangout with your friends, have fun and entertain yourself. In most cases most people will be feeling the same way and will appreciate you reaching out to them. Making friends is arguably the best way to make a place feel like home. When you’re so far away from family and friends back home, the new friends you make will inevitably become your family. This sense of belonging will help you beat the stress.
Being separated from familiar activities can be one of the most difficult things about studying abroad. Make time for yourself, go out and exercise and stay healthy. It is not necessary to make this into a daily activity, it could be a bi-weekly activity but a good run or jog through a nice park or street around you should provide you with extra fuel. This is definitely one great way to make sure your sanity is preserved. Again it should be stressed, it should not be an intense workout, it can even be a walk through the city or town you live in. A pointless walk where you look around, find new shops, and maybe take photos of new interesting things you find. A lot of universities also provide sports or gym facilities at a cheaper rate or sometimes even free. Make sure to find out from your campus regarding all the options.
How do I deal with anxiety while studying abroad?
Realize anxiety is natural
Not to get too deep into the science behind anxiety (watch the Netflix series, “The mind explained- Anxiety” for more), but quite simply it is our body trying to keep us safe from harm. Anxiety is just a natural method of your body trying to signal to you that you need to become a bit more comfortable. A lot of the time anxiety is either caused by procrastination or other bad habits within an individual. So make sure when you get anxious try to take a breather. Have a glass of water sit down, write down all the things wrong, or things that need to be fixed. Writing things down usually helps you structure your anxiety and problems. This is the first step to solving them. Whatever you do, be a bit more patient with yourself. DO not pressure yourself to fix all your problems right now. Keep this in mind whenever you are abroad: Is it really the place making you feel this way, or would you feel that way anywhere?
Reframe the feeling
Make sure to change your perspective. Being homesick can cause a lot of anxiety but instead of treating homesickness as a major source of anxiety. Simply view being away as an opportunity to experience new things. Make sure you use the time wisely and learn new things. What a lot of Pakistani students tend to do is either get caught up in part time jobs and lose perspective. They do not take days off, they do not take time out for themselves. This is vital.
Set small goals for yourself
This will help you feel accomplished. Setting small goals makes it easier for you to tackle long term goals. Making your goals smaller in scale will bring a much needed structure to your life and this will make it easier for you to deal with your anxiety.