Sometimes, taking care of yourself is hard. I knew going in that studying abroad can be emotionally difficult, and I had a plan: drink tea, call home, do yoga. But six weeks in, I felt myself slipping. A quick Google search for “self care” and even “self care while studying abroad” yields hundreds of results, but the problem is they carry much of the same, generic advice. Eat better. Take “me time”. Be social.
But that isn’t enough. I do eat well, because there’s no processed food here and I don’t have a microwave to cook any ready-made food even if I found it. I have “me time” pouring out of my ears because I only have class three days a week and don’t have a job for the first time in years. I am social, but some days it just makes me feel more isolated by reminding me I’m one of the small minority in this apartment that doesn’t speak German, so I can never be in on the jokes. I followed the usual advice and still felt restless, disengaged, and lonely.
So what’s a girl to do? I didn’t come here to spend a semester being miserable! Self care looks different for everyone, but here are some of the things I used to get out of my slump:
- The first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one. The second step is figuring out why. After I realized that my low mood was becoming a trend instead of just a one or two day slump, I took a few minutes in the evening to write down how I felt that day and what was stressing me out. I’ve never been able to stick to serious journaling, but getting my feelings down on paper helped me see what was bothering me so that I could do something about it.
- Working out, hard.
- At home, I love yoga. Lifting weights is boring, running is hard, and crossfit is nuts. I still love yoga, but here, it isn’t enough. I have too much free time on my hands. Last week, a roommate and I went to a Pilates class that, at the last minute, was changed to Bootcamp. We decided to stay anyway, and yes, it was hard, but afterwards I felt amazing. Since then I’ve also been to a HIIT class and to Zumba, and I plan to keep it up. Beating the study abroad blues and getting in shape at the same time is a great two-for-one deal!
- Taking purposeful me time
- I’ve learned in the past few weeks that there is a big difference between taking time for yourself and having time for yourself. I have all this free time, but instead of relaxing me it was driving me nuts because I was filling it with the same stuff every day. I watched four seasons of Orange is the New Black in four weekends, but by the second season it was just something to do. Time isn’t “you” time unless you are actively choosing to do something you need or value with it!
- Just buying the ice cream
- I’ve been craving ice cream for a while now, and was holding off because the last thing I wanted to do while sad and homesick was start eating a bunch of junk food. Honestly though, sometimes you just want ice cream, and that’s OK.