I’m a 21-year-old international student and my anxiety has gotten worse ever since I left Nepal. I feel like I’m not making much progress. There is always this feeling of heaviness whenever I think about my future. Classes, work, and assignments have pressured me a lot. I’m not sure if it’s because of my social isolation, homesickness, or cultural shock, but I know my anxiety is getting worse. It’s not that I don’t carry out my responsibilities well. I do all my work. But still, something is missing. How do I deal with this? Please help!—A worried student
Answered by Dristy Moktan, psychosocial counselor, Happy Minds
Being away from home is never easy. There’s always a chance of being overwhelmed by homesickness. Usually, we feel lost and incomplete when we find ourselves in a new environment. But this is completely normal. You are in the adjustment phase. Some people can easily cope with this but for some, it takes a while. So give yourself some time to process this change.
In situations where we get out of our comfort zone, we usually expect too much from ourselves. Sometimes, even our close ones expect too much from us. This could be a little pressurizing, especially in a completely new place. But remember that you’re doing your best. Don’t let negative thoughts consume you. You’re single-handedly doing all your work even when you’re having such a hard time. That’s quite brave of you. Give yourself some credit for that.
Usually, in cases like these, people have a need to prove to themselves that they can take on any new opportunities. What often happens is that they end up having a lot on their plate. The same might be happening to you. Going beyond your limit all the time is quite stressful. It will drain you physically and mentally and things might spiral out of control. At times like these, it’s best to focus on yourself, ask what you really want and try taking one step at a time. You don’t have to do everything at once. Work on one task at a time.
Being in a new place means you’re introduced to new culture and beliefs. It gets difficult to adjust. But you shouldn’t hesitate to ask questions. If you don’t make an effort to understand and adjust, the situation might get even worse. Try socializing with people from all backgrounds, which might eventually become your comfort zone too.
I understand that opening up with someone there might be difficult, since you don’t know many people. But there might be other international students going through a similar experience. Try talking to them, and share how you feel. Maybe their empathy will help you take the first step towards healing. If not, you can always reach out to your friends and family. Writing your thoughts down can be therapeutic too.
Being overwhelmed can stop us from living in the moment. It’s important to prepare ourselves beforehand about the fact that things will be different in a new environment. That acceptance will help you process the changes well. Also, some of your experiences will be exciting, while some situations will be challenging. Try jotting down both of these experiences and the difficulties you might face in the future. This will prepare you to handle whatever comes next without being overwhelmed.
If none of these suggestions work and your mental health gets worse, it’s best to seek some professional help. Psychological counseling and therapy will guide you better through the healing process.