Whether you are an international or local student, attending class in-person or online, university and the pressures that come with it can be overwhelming. Students' various goals to achieve good grades, find a peer group, securing an internship and more, can take a toll on one's mental health. Especially for international students who have come down to study during these challenging times, life can very quickly turn isolated and lonely. Read on for some ways recommended by student counsellors on how to maintain a sound mind and body while balancing academics at the same time.
Get the right nourishment: Consuming a healthy diet comes with a variety of benefits, such as boosting mood and energy levels, improved memory, and better overall brain function. Diets containing vegetables, fruit, and whole grains have been linked to a decrease in symptoms of depression and fatigue. Resist the urge to binge eat or snack on unhealthy foods and try to make healthier food choices.
Get plenty of sleep: Lack of shut-eye can leave you feeling tired, unfocused, and overwhelmed. Your body is not able to produce enough serotonin and dopamine to keep stress, anxiety, and depression at bay. For better sleep, turn off all tech devices. Lights from a cell phone, computer, or television trigger your mind to stay awake, making it harder for you to fall asleep.
Exercise regularly: Staying active, with simple exercises like walking, jogging, swimming, and cycling. These have been proven to strengthen mental health, and improve mood and blood circulation. Make a commitment to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day to maintain clarity and focus.
Create a strong support network: Reaching out to others can help you overcome feelings of isolation. Your support network can include friends, family members, neighbours, professors, resident advisors, your school counsellor, and anyone else you feel can help you solve a problem. Stay in touch with those in your network and help them feel supported by being an active member of theirs.
Develop hobbies: Whether you enjoy painting, hiking, reading, playing an instrument or anything outside your academics, take time to step away from the demands of your busy life and focus on a hobby or activity you enjoy. Doing so will hit the refresh button, providing clarity, calmness, and a much-needed break.
Remove negativity: Since last year, television and video game usage have increased dramatically, leading to weight gain and depression. When stressed out, the default setting is often to engage in negative behaviours such as bingeing calorie-rich snacks, too much screen time, lethargy etc. Limiting exposure to television, social media and especially the news have been proven to decrease stress and anxiety.
Volunteer to lift spirits: With a busy school schedule, you may feel as though you won't have much time for volunteering, however, many organisations offer flexible opportunities to students. While practising social distancing protocols, there are still a variety of no-exposure or low-exposure ways to give back. Find a local animal shelter and help take dogs for a walk. Organise a food drive with other students at your university and drop off your donations at a local food bank. The opportunities are endless.
Appreciate your effort: Recognising value and worth, reaching goals, and accomplishing difficult tasks are just a few of the things that prove that one is doing a great job. Make sure to acknowledge accomplishments along the way and reward yourself for all the hard work that goes into achieving a university degree. Feeling proud and confident about your progress can help you feel excited to continue your college journey.
Have a gratitude attitude: When feeling overwhelmed or stressed, it can be difficult to feel grateful. Start a gratitude journal and document things to be grateful for, no matter how small. Try to add a new item every week. Perhaps it's a good meal with a friend or a compliment you received. When stress begins to build up, read the journal and focus on the positive moments. People who regularly express gratitude for the positive things in their life are shown to be happier overall.