Ways to Maintain and Improve your Mental Health While Abroad

Michael Chung
November 14, 2019

Studying abroad can be an extremely rewarding and fun time in one’s life. You are independent and alone across the world, are immersed in a completely different culture, are exposed to many different foods and views, and can make lifelong friends in a short amount of time. Although the first few weeks can be a fun joyride for many, a crash of realization can hit afterward. You are going to be abroad for not a few weeks or a month, BUT you are abroad for an entire semester. This realization can cause panic and concern for many, but there is no need to freak out. Just because you are halfway across the world, it doesn’t mean that you are alone. Depending on your program or school, you can always contact your school’s mental health hotline and/or IES Abroad's mental health hotline. You can go on IES Abroad's or your school’s website to find the specific number or email your advisor for the number. In addition to these resources, there are also ways for you to mitigate the effects of homesickness and ways for you to take care of your mental health while abroad. 

1. Talk to your friends and family back home

It can be very overwhelming studying abroad by yourself and you can feel alone at times. However, you need to keep your head up and maintain your relationships with your friends and family back home. Talking to them will be a good de-stressor and they will provide you with moral support should you need any. Catching up with friends and family is a great way to stay up to date on your loved ones and to keep you grounded during a stressful time. 

2. Spend time with yourself to recuperate and journal or reflect

While studying abroad, you can go through many different events and do many different things in a single day. Day after day, all these things add up and become both mentally and physically tiring. By journaling and reflecting on your daily life, you become more aware and self-conscious of how certain activities and events make you feel and how they impact you. In addition, journaling has a therapeutic effect and leaves you relaxed since you have to sit down, relax, and think about what has happened in your life. If you’re an individual with anxiety as well, journaling helps clarify your thoughts and allows you to figure out where your mental state is. Being mindful about the present and dissecting what causes you to react and be anxious helps a ton as well.

3. Exercise

Any form of exercise whether it is weight-lifting, calisthenics, yoga, or even walking is a great stress reliever. When you work out, your brain increases sensitivity to serotonin and norepinephrine (which relieves feelings of depression). In addition, working out increases the endorphins in your body, which is responsible for reducing pain and producing positive feelings. If you’re suffering from anxiety as well, exercise can reduce the symptoms. Therefore, exercise is an amazing way to keep you healthy physically and mentally.

4. Utilize your creative side

Drawing, singing, editing photos or videos, digital art, painting, music, etc. are all creative activities you can practice in order to help out your mental health while abroad. Even if you don’t have much experience in these activities, giving yourself time for self-expression and awareness through these activities are great ways to de-stress and give you confidence. You will be lost in your creative world and forget about the problems around you.

5. Meditate

Meditation has been practiced throughout the world for thousands of years. The media doesn’t just show the practice for fun; there are real and amazing benefits to practicing meditation. You don’t even need to meditate for hours on end to reap the benefits. You can start small and stay consistent to attain the benefits of meditating such as reducing stress, controlling anxiety, promoting emotional health, decrease blood pressure, and more. 

Mental health is looked down upon in society because there is an idea that you are weak. People have a notion that if you seek help and talk with a professional, there is something wrong with you and you aren’t normal. However, that is a ridiculous notion and one that needs to disappear. If you have a chance to improve your mental state and be a happier individual, why not go for it? Who cares about what other people think? At the end of the day, you’re your own person and live for yourself. You don’t live for other people and shouldn't care about how you may look by seeking help. If you need a day to stay in and relax, do it. Don’t feel pressured into going out or doing activities that you don’t want to do. Remember to stay positive and keep your head up during the process and you’ll be fine with consistency.

Michael Chung

<p>I am a first generation college student who hopes to create my own company soon. My parents are Vietnamese immigrants and I’m hoping to help them retire one day. On my free time, I love playing basketball and taking photos. My fun fact is that I speak three languages.</p>

2019 Fall
Home University:
University of Rochester
Astoria, NY
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