Travel Writer Amelia Foxton shares her top tips on managing mental wellbeing on a year abroad
A Year Abroad is a remarkable opportunity which allows you to move to a different country, make new friends, and perhaps even learn a new language. However, this presents its own unique challenges, and sometimes this can mean we forget to look after ourselves. Here are my top five tips on managing your mental wellbeing whilst on your Year Abroad.
Seek support at your host institution as soon as possible.
It is tempting to dismiss concerns about your mental wellbeing in the noisy confusion of settling into a Year Abroad. However, it is important to recognise its unique challenges. Seek out support services early (Welcome Week is a good time) – even if you don’t ever use it! Just knowing you have access to support will be a comforting thought.
Be honest with your friends and family back home about how you are feeling.
Often, there seems to be a lot pressure surrounding a Year Abroad to be the “best year of your life!”. Just know that it’s okay if it doesn’t always feel like that, and there is no shame in admitting that you are struggling to your friends and family back home. Don’t sit quietly sobbing behind a perfectly-edited Instagram post: reach out, tell them how it really is.
Learn to listen to yourself.
This is the most seemingly straightforward advice I can give, but simultaneously the most difficult to follow. Self-awareness is integral in establishing your limits and discerning where you are comfortable. If you need a break, don’t force yourself to go on that second night out. People deal with new situations differently, and there is nothing wrong with looking after your own wellbeing.
Find a place you can go if you need some time out.
Finding somewhere you feel comfortable and can take time out is reassuring, especially in an unfamiliar place. On my Year Abroad, there was an arboretum right next to my halls. I would try to find time at least twice a week to walk through it alone to get some breathing space. It could be a coffee shop, a bench: whatever you fancy. As long as you set time aside for yourself in a space you feel is your own.
Keep a journal.
Keeping a journal or diary is an excellent way of recording your memories and tracking how you are feeling. Set aside ten minutes or so toward the end of the day just to reflect on how you’ve coped that day. Record small things that made you smile. This is such a great and simple tool for managing your wellbeing, and something I have actually only started doing in my final year. It really makes a difference and I wish I had done it sooner!
These are just some of my top tips for managing your mental health whilst you are away. The list could go on, but the most important thing to take away is simply to take care of yourself. Reach out for support and accept it when it is given to you. Try to practice self-compassion and treat yourself the same as you would a good friend in the same situation. Enjoy it: the year will fly by. Good luck!