#SocialDistancing: Four Things I Have Done to Look After My Mental Health

Written by Khoa Nguyen

Coronavirus virus (Covid-19) has been in the spotlight for the past few weeks and it is expected to continue for months to come. We are facing an unprecedented situation, and it’s understandable to feel confused, frightened and even panicked. For some, they are able to stay at home with their loved ones; many more face the lockdown with their friends and family thousands of miles away. This includes many international students like myself. So here are four tips that I found very useful for mental self-care, to stay calm and informed, as the outbreak continues.

1. Acknowledge the situation and be prepared

The sooner we recognise this is the new normality for everyone, the better we can find ways to cope and spend our time more efficiently. While we cannot do much to change the current climate (except to observe social distance and stay at home), we still can share empathy and offer kindness to others. An act of kindness can travel a long way, especially at difficult times like now. Why not check in with your neighbours, let your teachers know how appreciative you are of their efforts to shift teaching to online, stay in touch with friends, and offer help to those who need it where possible! I managed to gift my spare new masks and hand sanitisers to two of my friends who decided to go home and felt relieved to learn they are now safe and sound back to their homelands. Remember, the entire world is suffering from this pandemic right now, and we should all do our bit to overcome this battle and be prepared for whatever may happen in the long run.

Should international students return home or stay in the UK? There’s no right or wrong answer for this as long as you can make an informed decision. If you choose to leave for home, remember to protect yourself while in transit, and follow any advice from the authorities regarding self-isolation/quarantine upon arrival. The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) also recommends that you let your education institution know this as soon as possible. If you decide to stay, follow the UK government’s guidance and keep your friends and family back home, and your peers and support network in the UK informed about your safety. Whatever decision you make, be prepared for possible scenarios and stay alert for changes and official guidelines.

2. Be informed and communicate responsibly

The manifestation of anxiety and fear often results from the absence of knowledge. I found it very helpful to learn more about the facts on Covid-19, such as how the situation evolves, the infection mechanism across communities, and what is recommended to slow down the spread of this virus. I maintain a healthy diet and frequent physical exercises at home, I wash my hands regularly after being in contact with outside environment, I stay at home at all times except for urgent shopping trips, I advise all of my friends to do the same. Be mindful to select credible sources, such as the UK government, the World Health Organisation (WHO), BBC, and UKCISA. Whenever you come across new information, make sure you verify the source to ensure its validity, and share the information if you think this could help others too.

Some people choose to switch off social media and news to avoid negativity from overwhelming information. However, as the situation is rapidly changing, everyone needs to be aware of the updated information and follow official advice. If you find some news or social media posts disturbing or triggering, make sure you regularly check the government websites for up-to-date information on legal requirement and health guidance, instead of scrolling down your social media timeline.

3. Make the most of virtual socialising

While a young, strong individual is likely to recover from the virus after proper treatment, the vulnerable after contact might get infected who without knowing have to suffer severe consequences and may lose their lives. Let’s be honest, no one on earth is thrilled to observe social distancing and stay at home but it is needed than ever for the sake of the whole society. Nonetheless, with modern technology, we can all start socialising virtually and not feeling alone.

We are only one click away from checking in on our family or friends back home and letting them know how we are coping. Is there anyone that you love but haven’t had the time to get in touch due to a busy and hectic semester? It couldn’t be a better time to catch up and share with each other the amazing stories you have been through. This can easily be done via Facebook, Whatsapp, Skype, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams. I have talked to my family everyday on Facebook, scheduled video calls with my old friends from high school this weekend. Remember, everyone is in this together, so do not ever feel ashamed to speak up by asking your friends to reconnect to lift you through the temporary loneliness. It’s time to take advantage of social media before getting back to actual real-life socialisation, enjoy while it lasts.

4. Love yourself, and it’s high time for inner connection

Have you ever complained that there aren’t enough hours in a day? So why not start doing things that you have always wanted to do during the #socialdistancing and #quarantine period! I have found it very rewarding to spend more time going through the additional readings of my favourite module. If you are not in the mood for academic reading, why not read more about some interesting facts about the culture and heritage of the city and the country where you are living! Another way to stay healthy is through physical activities. Yoga and Zumba are just some of the options for me to spend my time with positive energy and good music. Nobody’s looking, so what are you waiting for? Do a quick search on Youtube or Facebook, find the instructors that click with you, and then give each class a try and see how it goes.

What’s more, why not start planning things you can do after the pandemic ends, which might keep us hopeful and motivated for the coming months on our own. People will start writing to share their experiences, so there will be more interesting stories for us to relate and great ideas to pick up on. Some people might want to take up a new skill, such as drawing, cooking, designing clothes, learning a new language, or even drafting a start-up business proposal. Whatever you decide to do, do it because there won’t be a time like this, when you have all the hours you need to love yourself and appreciate self-connection.

Life will hopefully return to normal soon, but remember, you are not alone. So take care of yourself, look out for others, and maintain a positive outlook. One day, we will be able to go out to see our beloved friends and take a long walk in a green park under the lovely sun of the summer, again. Until then, take care!

Author

Khoa Nguyen
Majoring in mathematics in high school and always having strong passion for the dollar sign (silly me!), I decided to study and graduated from Foreign Trade University with a bachelor...
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