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Mental health care for international students in Australia

No-one had Coronavrius scheduled into their 2020 plans. It’s possibly the biggest and most worrying event we will ever see in our lives. And when you were planning studying in Australia, being in lock-down to avoid a potentially deadly virus wasn’t on your list of things to do.

This blog gives you some reasons why we might be feeling the way we are, and how we can combat it.

Brain fog makes you unproductive

Are you struggling to do things at present that you would normally fly through? It’s ok, lots of us are feeling the same way. Simple things feel heavy, like hard work to do. Your ability to make decisions is limited, and you are exhausted by simple choices. You’re more tired than normal and feel like you’re barely surviving. And then, you feel frustrated with yourself that you can’t accomplish what you normally would.

The world is trying to tell you to be productive! Creative! To make great use of your time! But, some people aren’t going to be able to plan much beyond breakfast. It’s ok, it’s your brain’s fault. When under periods of trauma and stress, our brain devotes more energy into immediate concerns, and things requiring complex thinking seem a lot harder.

It’s an evolutionary thing. It was useful to deal with woolly mammoths and tigers, decidedly less useful with this long-term, chronic stress when we aren’t in immediate danger.

Can you overcome it? Not really. But here are some things you can do to help alleviate it.

Get into a routine

It doesn’t matter what kind of routine, but there are some things you should include.

Get out of bed and then make it. Some days it might not seem like you’ve achieved much, but, you’ll have a nicely made bed to get back into tonight.

Shower and get dressed. The occasional PJ day is OK, but showering and putting on actual clothes is something to aim for.

Exercise. What do you like to do for exercise? If you’re allowed to go out for a non-contact walk, that’s a great way to get fresh air and some vitamin D (which helps with mood). Find a dance routine and learn that. An at-home HIIT routine from www.fitnessblender.com. Find what exercise you love to do and have some fun with it!

Eat good food. It is awfully tempting to eat a bunch of easy to prepare, processed junk, but you’re not doing yourself any favours. If it’s all too much, at least aim for one meal a day with something resembling vegetables.

Try to do something. Whether it’s uni work, learning a musical instrument, or going to your job, do something. Set realistic goals here, you’re not going to write a book in a day, or even an essay. Be kind to yourself.

Talk to people. While you can’t do this out of your bubble, there is a thing called the internet. Video calls with friends and family all over the world (or, three blocks around the corner) are great to see and talk with someone outside of your own head.

Set a bedtime. Not the most exciting thing to do as a grown adult, but have a rough timeframe for bedtime. It helps to keep that routine as well as making sure you have enough sleep.

How to manage stress and anxiety

There are simple ways to help fight stress.

  • Exercise to release endorphins, which make you feel better.
  • Deal with the things that you can control. For instance, if an assignment is due and you know you won’t complete it, email your professor and ask for an extension. Don’t put off dealing with these things, people are very understanding at present.
  • Consider taking supplements, as studies are showing micro-nutrients may be helpful in managing some mental health issues.
  • Reduce caffeine intake as it’s been linked to increased anxiety. That morning cup is fine, five are not.
  • Write your feelings down to take the thoughts out of your brain and disposing of them.
  • Yoga/ mindfulness/ meditation aren’t for everyone, but they can help you feel better. Give them a try using free online videos or apps.
  • Listen to music you enjoy to release some endorphins—and maybe dance around while you listen, for a double-happy-hit.
  • Breathe. Sit down. Feel your body, drop your shoulders, unclench your jaw, and take a big breath in. Let it out. What do you feel? Repeat a few times—it helps to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, basically counteracting all the stress you’ve been feeling.

What if you’ve lost your job?

If you’ve been laid off, there are a lot of people in the same boat. Here are some ideas for a job:

  • Supermarkets are under a lot of pressure. They are hiring across the country, and in every supermarket. While these may be casual roles, they’ll provide an income for now.
  • Casual roles in other industries are available too. Think about delivery companies, telecommunications providers, cleaning companies, and other essential services.
  • Teach English online. VIPKid, Cambly and EnglishHunt are common places. Your English will have to be perfect, and you may end up working odd hours to match your student’s timezones.
  • Become a translator. If you’re fluent in two+ languages, there are opportunities to do so. Try Gengo, Day Translations and Deluxe Digicaption.
  • Mechanical Turk is a where a computer can’t test something, so companies use people to do so. All you need is an internet connection and a bit of patience.

Be kind to yourself

If you are struggling, there are agencies to help.

  • Lifeline 13 11 14
  • Mensline 1300 78 99 78
  • Beyond blue 1300 22 4636

You can also contact us for virtual counselling. Simply scan the QR code and speak to one of our skilled counsellors from 10am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

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Above all, be kind to yourself. Lower your expectations and do the best you can. We are all going through the same things, and all of us are struggling on some level.

It’s going to be OK.

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