Managing Your Mental Health

It is definitely possible to lead a happy life with a mental health illness or problems, though it may require discipline, self-reliance, perseverance, and a remarkable amount of support from friends and family. Everyone is different, and while some may manage their mental health problems with ease, others may have more difficulty, and may require more support. Remember that there is no shame in asking for help.

There are many ways of taking care of your mental health. These include:


It's easy to get caught up in the action and stress of student life, so it's important to remember to take some time to yourself every once in a while. Even taking a few minutes away from your normal routine can help you to feel calmer and distract you for a while. For the mind to be calmer it also needs the body to be so and we often don’t even know when our body is feeling stressed. Some relaxation activities might include:

  • Reading a book
  • Watching a movie
  • Cooking or baking
  • Breathing exercises
  • Listening to music
  • Gentle exercise such as yoga, pilates, or going for a walk
  • Arts and crafts
  • Gardening
  • Writing
  • Petting animals
  • Sleeping/taking naps


Physical activity is good for your body, and studies show that it can be good for your mental health, as well. It is especially important for people with mental health problems, as they are more likely to have a poor diet, smoke or drink alcohol to excess, or suffer from eating disorders. Some of the benefits of physical activity such as exercise or sports include:

  • Happier moods. Exercise releases endorphins which can help to calm anxiety and lift your mood.
  • Reduced stress levels. Your body will be better able to control cortisol levels, which can help relieve the stress and tension in your body.
  • Greater sense of calm and clearer thinking. If you have racing and intrusive thoughts, physical activity can help your mind to calm down and think more clearly.
  • Increased self-esteem. Feeling your body stronger and healthier can provide a huge boost to your self-esteem. Improved self-esteem can also increase your satisfaction levels.
  • Reduced risk of depression. Studies suggest that people who are more physically active are at a significantly lower risk of depression.
It's a good idea to speak to your healthcare provider about what physical activities best suit your specific needs.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a technique that involves making a concerted effort to give your full attention to whatever is happening in the present moment — whether it be in your body, your mind, or your surroundings — in a non-judgemental way. This means to allow for all feelings and ideas to come through you and just feel them. Mindfulness can help you manage your mental health or simply gain more enjoyment from life; it can help you approach your thoughts and feelings in a way that allows you to become more aware of them and react appropriately. Mindfulness can help you:

Chances are, there are mindfulness clubs or groups you can join on your own campus where you can learn more about it and practice it. If you can't find a class or group to join, or you don't feel up to social activity, you can practice mindfulness on your own. Try to set aside a short period of time every day to practice it. Remember to go slowly and be patient; you're learning a new skill, so it will take some time to develop.

Managing Loneliness

It's not unusual to feel lonely when you start college, and as an international student far away from home, maybe for the first time, you may find that you're even more susceptible to loneliness at first. Feeling lonely isn't a mental health problem, but the two are closely linked; feeling lonely can definitely have a negative effect on your mental health.

Everyone has different social needs. You may be content with a few close friends, or you may need a large group of friends and acquaintances to help dispel loneliness. Either of these--or a mix of both--is totally valid.

People usually describe feeling lonely for one of two reasons: either they don't see or talk to other people very often, or they don't feel understood or cared for, in spite of being surrounded by people. Figuring out which of these applies to you can help you find a way of feeling better. Think about your interests or hobbies. Is there a class or a group on campus that can help you meet people who share your interests? This has the added benefit of providing you with a built-in icebreaker; you already know you have something in common with the people you meet. Volunteering is also a great way to meet new people, and helping others can help to improve your mental health.

Mental Health and Studying

Starting college brings a lot of changes into your life, especially as an international student. Hopefully these changes will be enjoyable and interesting, but they can also be challenging if you're living with a mental health illness. You might face challenges such as:

Studying can be extremely overwhelming, so it's helpful to feel as in control as possible. To help with this, it's useful to find out as much information as possible about what will be expected of you and what resources are available to help you. Try to find out:

Building a social life is a big part of starting college. To help make friends, you might:

Monitoring Your Mental Wellbeing

Mental wellbeing describes your mental state: how you feel and how well you can cope with day-to-day life. Your mental wellbeing can change from day to day, month to month, or even year to year. Whether or not you have mental health problems, there will always be times or situations in life that are more difficult to cope with than others. The ability to stay mentally well and overcome the situation in a healthy and convenient way during those times is called “resilience.”

The terms 'resilience' and 'managing stress' can mean different things to different people. We might understand them differently because our experiences shape how we feel stress, and how easily we can respond to it.

Some people may think that our response to stress is something that we can all easily control. But this is not true. There are some causes of stress that are beyond our control. And some ways of managing stress and building resilience are not always available to us.

Some experiences that can make it more difficult include:

Research shows that it is easier to develop resilience if we don't face these barriers. But many of these things are difficult or impossible to change.

Remember: If you face these barriers, this is not your fault. And it is not up to you to remove these barriers yourself.

Tips for managing stress and becoming resilient:
Return to our Mental Health section for more information and help