An international student’s guide to looking after yourself during lockdown
Life during the coronavirus outbreak hasn’t been easy. At times, I’ve found it hard to stay focused, active and positive.
So how do you deal with these feelings, focus on what’s important and keep moving forward?
In this article, I wanted to talk about how I take care of my own mental wellbeing as an international student. Hopefully it’ll give you some ideas on how you can do it too.
1) Continue to engage with friends and family
Try and reflect on the relationships that make you feel safe and comfortable. Connecting with people and sharing our experiences often helps us calm our stress response, as well as our inner thoughts and feelings. And the beauty of technology means we can connect with people all over the world.
Video calls, virtual quizzes, online games, topical debates, online baking sessions – there are plenty of activities you can dedicate your time to. Personally, I’ve tried to learn new things about my friends and have made online quizzes.
2) Take action at home to reduce anxiety
With a lot of our time now spent indoors, we need to focus more on what we can do at home. Ask yourself: “What makes me feel more relaxed?” In my case, I love to paint, chat with friends online, read books and write.
There might be books you’ve always wanted to read but haven’t had the time to do so until now. Think about any hobbies you might want to try too. I’ve started learning to dance and, I must admit, my dance moves have got a lot better! Use this precious time to learn something new or do something you never had time for before.
3) Don’t make BIG decisions
We typically make decisions in two different ways: fast or slow. We use our fast response most of the time. When we’re anxious we tend to make a lot of hasty decisions (buying loads of toilet paper and canned food), including bad ones, like saying something hurtful to a friend or getting into a conflict with someone.
When we’re anxious, it’s hard to think rationally and decisions are less thought-out, so try and save bigger decisions for later when you feel more calm and balanced.
4) Make time to relax mindfully each day
I’d encourage you to take at least a few minutes each day to mindfully relax. Apps such as Headspace are great for this, helping you run mindfulness sessions for yourself. You can also find resources on YouTube, such as meditation sessions, mindfulness tutorials and ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response), which can help you feel calm.
5) Take regular walks
I find that walking often helps clear my mind, and I always feel better after I’ve been on one. Increase your pace, climb hills or wear a heavy rucksack and it’s also a great form of exercise. Another benefit is that you might even discover some local beauty spots you never knew existed.
6) Love yourself
During the coronavirus pandemic, we may find ourselves feeling jealous of others. For example, it can be hard to see someone else with their family while we can’t do the same. I’ve watched friends move out, students leave from the same flat that I live in and our accommodation become more and more deserted. It felt as if I was losing my sense of support, comfort and security.
Loving and caring for myself changed it all. For a start, I’ve started writing down three good things that happen each day. You could also make time to enjoy some of your favourite hobbies or dress up in your best clothes so you feel good about yourself.
7) Listen to your body
Above all, pay attention to what your body is saying; we all have our limits. If you need to rest, then rest, if you feel anxious, take time to mindfully relax. Sometimes, reflecting on how you feel can help you notice what to work on.