Impact of the Pandemic
With the world reeling under the impact of COVID-19, it has negatively influenced students too. According to a survey conducted in April 2020 by CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) Ontario, mental health challenges faced by students rose sharply. This was due to the pandemic.
The survey was completed by over 600 young people from across Ontario ages 14–27. It also included youth who had sought mental health services in the past. At the time of the survey in April, 39 per cent of the youth from the community reported significant problems with mood and anxiety. For youth who had previously sought mental health support, the figure jumped to 68 per cent.
These figures reveal how the pandemic influenced students across the globe. For young adults, university closures, distance from family and friends, and income loss have all caused mental strain.
Unique Mental Health Challenges Faced by Students
It can be said that studying abroad offers so many opportunities to students. The cultural experiences alone are life-changing for so many. However, attending university, living away from family and friends, especially for international students, is not easy. They end up far away from their home, culture, and communicating in a different language can create additional stresses. Plus academic pressure, taking on new adult-like responsibilities, such as having to worry about finances, cooking, and doing laundry, further adds to the situation. Hence, it is not surprising that college and university students experience their own unique challenges with mental health.
Mental Health Tips for University and College Students
Here are five tips for students that can help improve their mental health while studying abroad.
1. Stay Calm and Grounded
Many people with anxiety find it difficult to stop their mind from racing or spiralling into anxious thoughts. Try doing some helpful grounding mental exercises to practice turning your mind away from stressful thoughts.
Some students may also find that meditation is a helpful way to control their thoughts. Apps like Calm and Headspace are commonly recommended tools by mental health professionals.
2. Stay Physically Active
The best way to manage stress is to simply burn some calories. You can choose Yoga or go on a peaceful trail hike. Or, simply go for a jog around campus because moving your body is a proven way to boost your mood.
According to a study conducted in May 2020 https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00509 in Germany, university students who engaged in short-term aerobic exercise experienced improvements in their stress levels and mental health.
3. Be Kind to Yourself
You’ve worked hard to get to where you are today. So, smile, hold your head high and be proud of yourself. Be gentle with yourself too, and try to avoid self-criticism. Self-compassion means that you accept your imperfections and avoid self-critical or blaming thoughts.
4. Stay Socially Connected
Social connection is a valuable way to improve your mental health and general well-being. While international students are living away from home, it is very important to make new friends. You can choose to connect through FaceTime or Zoom or WhatsApp. You may even try writing old-fashioned letters back home. But at all times, connect with local students for your mental well-being.
5. Ask For Help
In case you are not able to cope with mental health issues, seek medical help. Reaching out for help is crucial when you’re struggling with your mental health. If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, or any other mental health disorder, contact your university counsellor. Sharing your struggles with someone who is trained to support you is an important step towards healing.