Mental health and self-care are interconnected parts of our individual lives. In our world today, many people only associate the term “self-care” with nurturing and pampering our physical bodies. For me, I infuse habits that help maintain my mental health into my daily self-care methods. As an international student, one of the major challenges I had upon my arrival in BC was overcoming my homesickness. It is indeed tough to transition to a new environment, educational system, and phase of life without having your family and friends present with you. It took a toll on my mental health and I longed to go back to my home country, Nigeria every day. However, having spent over a year in Canada, I have grown to adapt and appreciate this new environment. Here are some steps that I took that have been immensely helpful:
- Building and nurturing new friendships and relationships: Meeting new people and spending quality time with close friends has been fundamental in maintaining my mental health. Having a community of people who I can be trust and be vulnerable with has helped me to overcome anxiety, loneliness, and terrible days.
- Being intentional about communicating with friends and family at home: I make it a priority to call or send texts to those I care about deeply back home. In those conversations, I can be transparent about my mental state and receive encouragement and support when school got tough or I had some other life challenges. They act as a backbone that keep me standing and mentally stable, constantly reminding me of my roots and true heritage.
- Journaling: Writing has been a channel of expression for me for as long as I can remember. With journaling, I become open about how I feel and avoid denial of any mental health challenges I face. From acknowledging these feelings, I can take active steps to change or manage the challenging situation.
- Music: I simply cannot imagine my life without music. Over time, I created different playlists with different themes, and I can play my favorite songs depending on my mood. Listening to music is a great way to unwind and keeps me motivated when carrying out some tasks.
- Getting at least eight hours of sleep: Getting enough sleep is essential for me to perform well the following day. Even when I have busy days, I try as much as possible not to deprive myself of good sleep. I also take short naps during the day when I can.
- Reading books and listening to podcasts: I am an avid reader and a listener of podcasts. I take pleasure in reading novels and listening to podcast episodes, especially on the weekends. With books, I try to read more books in print to reduce my screen time. These activities help me de-stress and keep me entertained yet gaining new knowledge.
- Staying off social media: I delete my social media apps often to protect my mental health especially when there are unpleasant happenings. With the unending feed of posts and information, it is overwhelming to process some information. Therefore, I have learned to step back when I feel the need to.
- Physical Activities/Exercise: In a time when most of us live a sedentary lifestyle, staring at our computer screens and smartphones, I have become more intentional about setting some time aside to engage in physical activities. I take long walks, do simple aerobic exercises, and dance. Dancing is also very therapeutic for me and just the little ray of sunshine I need on some days. With a good playlist, doing physical activities can become much more fun.
These tips and actions have helped me maintain my mental health. Nonetheless, I am constantly seeking new methods and activities that can keep me grounded and maintain a healthy balance in all areas of my life.