5 Tips To Overcome Depression While Studying Abroad
When you first arrive somewhere new, everything is exactly that – new. It’s exciting to experience things for the time, and it’s easy to thrive on that excitement, at least in the beginning. But for most people, there comes an inevitable crash because you miss your family and friends or because you missed something important at home. Anything can trigger it. This sensation is most commonly known as culture shock, and it can certainly resemble a temporary depression. Culture shock is normal – and expected – and we’re here to reassure you that we know exactly how you feel, and that “this too shall pass.” Here are 5 quick tips to deal with your depression so that you can make the most of your study abroad:
1. Don't Wallow
It's ”OK“ to be upset, but limit the time you allow yourself to give in to it.
If you’ve been struck by culture shock or depression while studying abroad, the first thing you need to remind yourself is not to wallow in it. Everyone is entitled to feel upset, for whatever reason, but it’s important to not overindulge those feelings by listening to sad music or spending all your time cooped up indoors talking to family and friends from home. Dedicate 30 minutes to give in to whatever is bringing you down – to cry, to scream, to rant; however you choose to express your feelings – and when that time is up, let whatever is upsetting you go.
2. Acknowledge Your Depression, and Get it Out!
Dealing with your frustrations or distress and then letting it go is the best possible thing you can do while studying abroad. Getting your thoughts down on paper (or on your computer) can help you release, and feel better. Journaling in an old-fashioned notebook, or blogging if you are not old-fashioned, is a great way to feel like you’re being heard without ever having to explain your emotions. It can also be a good exercise in reflection, because when you look back a month later you will have more clarity as to why you were feeling the way you were and how to prevent those feelings from coming back a second time.
3. Sign Up for Activities You Enjoy
Regardless of whether you’re in another country for six weeks, six months or a year, you need to adjust to the new life you’re creating for yourself, even if it’s only temporary. Sign up at a gym or find a local pick-up league for your favorite sport to get your endorphins back. If athletics aren’t for you, grabbing a book and reading in the park is always nice.
4. Be Around Friendly Faces
One of the major causes of depression is loneliness. If you are having problems navigating the culture, language, or if you are simply missing your friends and family back home – break out and seize the new experiences in front of you. Chances are, there are a ton of people in your program, or at your school, looking for some friends as well. Invite them to grab dinner, go see a movie, or go explore your new city together. There are also great websites like Meetup.com and Couchsurfing.org that will allow you to connect with likeminded people locally. Being around friendly faces and potential friends is an easy way to cheer yourself up.
5. Show Your Gratitude
There are so many things to be grateful for, and with the chaos of the day, we may not have time to realize all that is around us. Take some time in your day to choose something to be grateful for, or show how grateful you are by giving back. You can start a grateful journal where each day you pick one thing to be thankful for. You can also do this on Facebook, Twitter, or your very own blog to share your thoughts with the world. If you want to go one step further, see if you can volunteer at a soup kitchen or with another organization. Not only is this a great way to get involved, but you will be part of a team, and giving back each time you do it. This is a guaranteed way to feel better!
Remember to be healthy, happy and strive to get the most out of the experience. Remind yourself of what made you happy at home, too. It’s more than likely that similar things or activities exist in your new temporary home that can help you shake away the blues.
We’re all prone to feeling down every now and again – and especially while we’re in another country. But remember that being in a new place can be amazing, but also overwhelming and, at times, confusing. Enjoying the good times is easy, but making it through the rough times, while more difficult, is infinitely more rewarding. Hopefully these tips (and knowing that you are 100% not alone in these feelings) will help you clear those dark clouds and replace them with warm rays of sunshine in no time!
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