Mental health is defined as mental, emotional, and social well-being. According to the American Journal of Health Education, poor mental health can impact academic performance and even graduation rates.
International students have the unique situation of assimilating to both a new school system and a new culture. These challenges have the potential to compromise mental health, but there are steps you can take to avoid that situation:
- Don’t let small problems evolve into bigger ones: When you start facing obstacles, manage them quickly instead of letting them fester into greater concerns. If you find a class difficult, reach out to your instructor. If you have roommate issues, calmly communicate concerns. Proactive behavior ends many long-term dilemmas.
- Leave free time in your schedule: Academic success comes from more than attending classes. You need to finish readings, study, and meet with professors. Down time becomes especially important when you apply for jobs because you still need to complete coursework while preparing applications, going for interviews, and networking on and off campus.
- Prioritize physical health: Mental and physical health are very closely intertwined. Taking care of your body helps take care of your mind. Eat balanced meals, exercise, and sleep for at least six hours every day. These habits will help you work more productively as well.
- Determine your limits: It’s tempting to take on the maximum amount of courses and opportunities, but too many activities could compromise both your health and success. Create boundaries and remember that sometimes it’s better to excel in a few pursuits than have surface involvement in many.
- Consult your school’s office for counseling and psychological services: Colleges have offices with trained counselors who help students deal with issues like stress, anxiety, depression, and other difficult life changes and situations. These offices provide affordable services and keep personal details confidential. Save your school’s counseling office’s information and pay a visit, even if you just want to learn more.
- Develop a local support network: International students are more vulnerable to feelings of isolation because of their distance from familiar people and practices. To minimize loneliness, join student and/or community groups and make friends whom you can talk to when you feel overwhelmed.
- Create backup plans: Many issues can be mitigated by planning in advance. Work for the best case scenario, but know what you will do if circumstances throw you off guard.
- Have an activity you use to de-stress: You may not be able to add another commitment, but have a go-to activity that helps you unwind. It could be yoga, art, music, sports, or any other hobby that you enjoy.
- Keep everything in perspective: School represents an important aspect of your life but not your whole life. Doing well requires being well, and maintaining your mental health is the best way to invest in your long-term success and wellness.