When studying abroad and enjoying all of the amazing new things that are coming your way, it can be quite easy to forget about taking care of your mental health. You’re in a new place with new people, possibly speaking a different language. This is stressful even if you don’t feel stressed out. I think talking about mental health and how to keep yourself in the best mental shape possible is really important, so this week I am going to be sharing some of the things I have learned in the past four months of living in Freiburg in regards to mental health.
The first thing I can recommend is to remember to take time for yourself to digest everything that’s happening. I know I can get really stuck in my head if I don’t take the time to process everything that goes on in my life, and that has been even more true since coming to Freiburg. Every day is an adventure, and I am constantly experiencing new things. Most of these things are fun and exciting, but they can take a lot of energy. I find the best way to work through my thoughts and emotions is to keep a journal. At a minimum, I try to write once a week. Sometimes that doesn’t always pan out because I get busy, but I really do try to stick to that because it helps me a lot to get thoughts and feelings and ideas out of my head onto paper. If writing isn’t your cup of tea, try talking to a friend or a family member, painting, singing—really whatever helps you express your thoughts and emotions and not keep them all stopped up.
The next most important thing I do to keep my mental health in check is to move mindfully. As a yoga teacher, that usually means some kind of yoga practice. Even if I only have 10 minutes, that’s 10 minutes more of moving than not. Moving mindfully isn’t just running from one thing to the next. It’s taking time to really feel my body and how I’m feeling in that moment. I check in with myself and see what I need to work on. Other good ways of moving mindfully include going for a walk or a run (especially outside) or dancing around. Put on your favorite song and dance like no one is watching, or better yet, like you don’t care if they’re watching because you are fully enjoying yourself.
Going off of going for a walk or a run outside is simply going outside. Literally ground yourself into the Earth by walking barefoot through some grass, feeling the breeze and sun on your skin, hearing the birds around you, and breathing in fresh air. Clearing your head and reminding yourself of the beauty and magic in the world can work wonders when life gets to be too much.
Make sure you are sleeping enough, eating healthy foods, and drinking plenty of water. If you aren’t physically well, it is going to be hard to be mentally well. Make sure that you are taking care of yourself physically as well. For me this means that I’m eating fruits and veggies (and enjoying some chocolate as well!), drinking water, and sleeping well. It can be super easy to fall into eating Döner and drinking Spezi (a Turkish street food that is very popular and an orange cola drink) for every meal, and while there’s nothing wrong with enjoying this every now and then I definitely feel worse when I haven’t been eating as well, so I make it a priority to eat as many veggies and fruits as I can because that makes me feel so much better. Sleep is also an important part of feeling well. I know all too well how easy it is to stay up talking with friends, but it’s also important that you get sleep. Without the proper amount of sleep your brain doesn’t function as well as it should, and this can lead to mental health difficulties.
These are just a few of the tips and tricks I personally use to help keep my mental health strong. Everyone is different, and what works for me may not work for you. Listen to yourself and find the things that make you feel the most whole and like the best version of yourself. If you feel things getting bad, listen to yourself and take the time you need to truly care for yourself. I think the biggest thing to remember when dealing with mental health struggles, in your home country or abroad, is that you are never alone. If you are really struggling, please talk to someone you trust or seek professional help. You and your mental health are worth it.
German Word of the Day: Today’s word of the day is die Gesundheit or the health.
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<p>I am a sophomore German and Secondary Education major at Susquehanna University. Some of my favorite activities include reading, hiking and being outside, running, and yoga. I am actually a certified yoga teacher! I want to be a German teacher after I graduate. My favorite word in German is Glühbirne which means light bulb, but translates literally to "glowing pear"!</p>