International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) is pleased to feature this guest post from Dr. Arna Erega of UT Austin’s Counseling and Mental Health Center.
Hello, hardworking international students! I just want to let you know that I see you!
I see your hard work, sleepless nights, group efforts, and those hidden, silent tears. I see your frustrations, your desire for success and good grades. I see your passion to be better, more knowledgeable, and more experienced. I see your grit.
As someone who experienced all those things during my own 14-year-long educational journey in the United States, I can truly tell you: I get it! Now, as a mental health professional, I advocate, educate, and provide support to international students on how to strive for balance and be mindful of their physical, mental, and emotional wellness.
The end of the semester always brings up additional stress, worry, and sometimes anxious feelings. In the next couple of paragraphs, you will read about helpful tips and tools you can utilize to ease the chaos and find your calm as you finish this semester strong.
Let’s start with three very basic tips:
- Sleep is sacred. When we are exhausted, we are more likely to feel stressed out and out of control. A good question to ask yourself may be: What is one thing I can do differently to improve my sleep?
- Consume what nourishes you. The things we consume impact us physically, emotionally, and mentally. Pay attention to what you are consuming and how it makes you feel. When you nourish your body with healthy food, do you notice feeling strong and clearheaded? This applies to social media, as well. If you notice feeling even more tired after watching TikTok videos, that may be a sign to reduce the time you spend on social media apps.
- Move your body. Even if all you can do is go for a 15-minute walk around campus or dance in your room for 5 minutes, it is still a good way to release pent-up energy and stress.
The following three tips focus on creating a supportive mindset:
- Start your day with intention. You can set the tone for the energy and attitude you bring throughout the day. When you wake up in the morning, take a minute or two to consider how you want to show up in the world and how you want to feel. Write it down on a sticky note and carry it with you or place it somewhere in your sight.
- Nothing is good or bad. It just is. We like to categorize things as good or bad. When we do that, we feed judgments and create narratives that support stress and worry. When we choose to stop labeling experiences and things in our life as good or bad, it eases the pressure. We can choose to accept things just as they are, by simply acknowledging them without judgment.
- Focus on one thing at a time. We pride ourselves on our ability to multitask, but what we are really doing is shifting our attention from one task to another very quickly. Today, make a priority list and start by giving your most important task 45 minutes of uninterrupted attention, then allow yourself to take a 10-minute break. If you are not done with the task, return to it for another 45 minutes. Once you are finished with the task, move on to the next one.
And one final tool to help you focus better:
I know there may be a lot going on in your lives outside of school, and focus may be hard to come by, but you can do something about this: Do a distraction dump. When there are a million thoughts running through your mind and you feel overwhelmed, take out a piece of paper, write “Distraction Dump” on the top, set a timer for 2 minutes, and list every single thought floating around in your mind. By writing it all down on a piece of paper, you will declutter your mind and be better able to focus on what is important.
Wishing you all success!
Dr. Arna Erega
Counseling and Mental Health Center
Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or join one of my drop-in groups for international students at https://cmhc.utexas.edu/groups.html.
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