With the pandemic disrupting our learning, jobs, and health, it’s no surprise many of us are feeling blue this January. Although some students are happy with the new learning situation and the time they save on the commute, anxiety, sensitivity, emotional difficulties and inability to relax is observed more often under the quarantine conditions. Even without a pandemic, this time of year is usually challenging for students. The following tips will not make you immune to being homesick or studies-related worries, but there are ways to ease the pressure.
Do not push yourself too hard
We hear from international students that while moving to study to a foreign country they also have a wish and expectations to meet new people, learn about new culture, travel a bit and try new foods. All this sound really great! However, during the quarantine and lockdown to meet these expectations can get really tricky and all these plans unfortunately get a bit postponed. Not to mention cultural adaptation process, where you might experience some homesickness that later grows into fun integration to a new culture or environment. If you feel disappointed, because your expectations we not met, please know, you are not alone on this boat. It is normal if it takes time and effort before you make new friendships. It is quite often and usual that it can take time until you will feel comfortable in a new country. It is okay to feel lonely when all your friends are back at your home country or disappointed when you face difficulties. So, give yourself time and space to get used to changes, especially considering the lockdown situation.
Acknowledge what is happening
Life doesn’t always go straightforwardly, but there is a lot of learning in some of the setbacks. And they’re not a personal failing: they happen to everyone. Staying resilient isn’t about being an optimist, but rather acknowledging things are difficult. Reward yourself when you keep going (for example, promise yourself a tasty treat after you complete two hours of video lectures), and let yourself relax when you need a break. There will always be times when you feel angry, sad or unmotivated and that’s OK – it’s normal. Find ways to release discomfort. Talk, sing, go for a run, cry over sad movies or whatever you feel is healthy for your emotional comfort.
Build support circles
Schedule time with people that make you feel good. That is likely to be friends and family, but could also be fellow gamers or career networks. Connect with your course mates, get involved in clubs and societies – these often come second to study and career goals, yet they expand your social circle and enhance self-development. This is important when an end goal (such as grades or work experience) feels disrupted. The journey has value, too.
The university has additional support, such as counselling sessions – don’t let worrying about whether your struggles are severe enough hold you back. Psychologists are not just for those who are experiencing big difficulties. They can often help prevent those difficulties in the first place.
Routine is essential
Daily habits are good for mental health. When you don’t have to commute to the lectures every day, and can get snacks whenever, the habitual routine is broken. Aim to start each day at the same time. Best case scenario – start your morning with a walk, for example, though any kind of physical activity is beneficial. Getting outdoors is vital, as exposure to sunlight can boost mood. Learning new skills, sports or hobbies is another option, especially if they are unconnected with your course or career. Anything you can get absorbed in can help the mind feel refreshed or reinvigorated.
Get to know yourself
Reflecting is a way of making sense of and processing difficulties. Many people do this quite naturally when checking in with support circles. Alternatively, try keeping a journal, or even just ask yourself: “What’s happening right now? How do I feel? What can I do to help myself?”
Apps like Headspace and Calm introduce and help grow the habit. You can also find plenty of relaxations or guided meditation recordings online for free. Even if these techniques aren’t for you, many resources include sleep stories to help you switch off or fall asleep. Regular, restful sleep helps you to manage your mood.
Find new purpose
Goal-setting is good for wellbeing but if you’re not feeling robust, take a break from life goals and challenges. Think about what can you do in the next few days, next few weeks or few months? Or even what can you do today to ease your struggles – maybe read one chapter for a course that you’ve been postponing for weeks? Even getting dressed every day can be a positive goal when you feel low. And if you’re up to it, helping others can bring benefits back to you. It’s a form of distraction, yet can help you find meaning or perspective when things feel bleak.
Ultimately, finding purpose and making plans are strategies that work because they acknowledge that life goes on. It’s important to remember that January will end, the spring will come. There will be an end of the pandemic. We don’t know when, but it will happen and it’s important not to lose sight of that.