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Mental health care for international students in Australia

No-one had Coronavirus scheduled into their 2021 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.

If you are in India or from India, the situation is incredibly stressful right now. You will be worried about your friends and family, and your own health too. The problem with corona is that we feel powerless, beyond staying at home and taking basic precautions such as wearing a mask. This can be difficult to manage, coupled with the worry about your health and the wellbeing of people around you. It is normal to be overwhelmed, exhausted, stressed and worried right now.

But, you’re here, we are here, and we have to make it through this time, however we can. 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! To make great use of your time! But, some people aren’t going to be able to plan much beyond breakfast. When under periods of trauma and stress, our brain devotes more energy into immediate concerns, and things requiring complex thinking or decisions making go offline.

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 steps you can do take 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 make your bed. Some days it might not seem like you’ve achieved much, but, you’ll have a nicely made bed to get back into in the evening.

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

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, aim for one meal a day with some 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 and show compassion for yourself in this hard time, by not expecting too much of yourself.

Talk to people. 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 manage stress and anxiety

There are some simple ways to help fight this stress. Pick the ones the suit your lifestyle.

Exercise to release endorphins, which make you feel better.

Deal with some things that you can. 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 try to deal with them.

Yoga/ mindfulness/ meditation aren’t for everyone, but they can help you feel better. Try these 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:

Jobs in Hospitality and Tourism - The government will have restrictions on working hours lifted, in a bid to boost these industries 

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.

When should you seek professional help?

How do you know when your mental health might need some professional medical assistance? Beyond Blue has great resources for those suffering with mental health issues, as well as a list of symptoms and signs of depression. If you or those around you are experiencing a number of these symptoms, it’s time to see a doctor or health professional.

Feeling overwhelmed

Not enjoying things that you normally do

Withdrawing from friends and family and spending more time alone

Feeling worthless, like you’re not good enough

Being sick and tired all the time

Feeling sad, rejected, lonely

A change in feelings, behaviour, or actions.

If some of these symptoms sound like what you’re experiencing, take this anxiety and depression checklist. It gives you a score of the likelihood that you are suffering from mental health problems. From there, you can connect with a local doctor, counsellor, or other medical professional.

High risk signs of mental health problems

The following symptoms are signs that depression has advanced, and the person may be thinking of suicide or self-harm.

They are threatening to kill or harm themselves

They are talking, writing, or drawing about death, dying, or suicide

They are planning and stockpiling means to commit suicide, such as medication or equipment.

What do you do if someone you know is feeling like this?

The best thing you can do is ask your friends how they are feeling. It can be a scary conversation to have, but you making the first step allows them to feel like you are open to discussion. If they tell you they are thinking of harming themselves or someone else, seek medical help immediately. 

What to do if you’re feeling like this?

If you are struggling, there are agencies to help. 

Lifeline 13 11 14

Mensline 1300 78 99 78

Beyond blue 1300 22 4636

If you are in danger or in immediate risk, call triple zero (000)

Above all, be kind to yourself. Lower your expectations and just 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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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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