Hello, my friends! I hope you are doing well despite the pressure of exams and essays (yes, I know those feelings well).
I don’t know about you, but here the weather is getting colder and colder and the days darker and darker – it’s quite depressing, to be honest. I realise how the change of daylight hours affects my mood and energy levels. Last month I posted about mental health and I thought it would be great to give you a follow up on my own journey and some things I have learnt, in the last few months, in order to cope better, especially in this cold weather.
Caring for Others
Stress and a low mood can drive you to very lonely and self-absorbed places sometimes. I am learning how shifting my attention from myself to others can help to release the pressure. Simple acts of kindness, like buying a friend a hot drink (or a homeless person in the street – such an appreciated act by the way!), or helping your friend out with some work at uni etc. My challenge? Try to do at least one single act of random kindness every day and see how things change.
We all have planned this at the beginning of the year: to cook more! But the sad reality is that as the term gets busier and busier, we end up just eating sandwiches, or during very lazy days, unhealthy snacks. I realised how much better I feel when I sit down and have a hot meal. My suggestions to make life easier? Mark in your calendar a day when you are going to cook a big curry pot, soup or something you can easily freeze and have later during the week. Another amazing suggestion is these “bags” of ready lentils, quinoa or any kind of mix of grains that are offered as a healthy and very nutritious option. They are ready in less than a minute in the microwave and not expensive at all.
It seems simple and silly, but I am going to say it: Sleeping does wonders! If you don’t believe me, you must try it. I want to be productive; I want to go and take on the world… but I need to have the energy to do it! The fear of missing out or wanting to be connected constantly (social media) can disturb our sleeping patterns and, therefore our mental health. So, I recommend putting your phone into aeroplane mode after a certain time and try to get into the habit of going to bed at a set time in order to sleep at least 8 hours a day. I promise you; it really helps!
Pets and Animals
Okay, I know that as an international student it might be difficult to get a pet. I am permanently living here now and the other day, out of the blue, I decided to get myself a little friend called Peter (dwarf hamster). There is something about the vulnerability and fragility of animals that makes me forget a little bit about myself and think more about those little friends. If you cannot get yourself a little pet, then go to a pet shop for a little trip or go and spend the day with your friend’s pet. This is connected to the idea of learning how to care more about others than yourself.
Accountability for your Mood
I am learning that the more I leave my mood to get lower and lower without reaching for a friend to help me get back up, the harder it is to get better. As an international student, it becomes a bit harder to express our feelings and if we don’t know someone that well we fear annoying them. My advice is to find someone you are going to reach out to when days get difficult, even though you don’t feel like it. I had a difficult day recently and I reached out to my friend Naomi. We agreed we are going to “annoy” each other when things are tough so that we don’t suffer alone. One cup of tea with her and my perspective shifted completely! Don’t wait until things get too dark, reach out for help now.
My dear friend, I hope you can find these tips helpful and that you don’t let this cold winter get you down.
Next month I am going to share with you some ideas on how to get ready for Christmas and ideas of what to do this festive time as an international student.
Remember: Be kind to yourself and remember how far you’ve come!
Photo by Elle Hughes from Pexels