Effective ways to improve your mental wellbeing

Here are four ways to look after your mental wellbeing as an international student.

13 June 2023

Studying in a new country is an exciting adventure that can also be challenging. You might miss your friends and family at home, or find it hard to balance your study, work and social activities. Sometimes, these things can feel overwhelming. 

But we’re here to help!  

Here are four things you can try to improve your mental wellbeing.  

1. Create a supportive social network

Many studies have shown that people who have social support from family, friends and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer. 

When you first move to a new country, you might be feeling alone and homesick. However, by making new connections, you can find a sense of belonging, share fun experiences and support each other.  

There are many ways to make friends, such as joining clubs or going to student events. Or, perhaps there is someone in your class that you’ve been chatting to – look for an event, festival or concert coming up and invite them to go with you.  

2. Exercise 

Exercise is proven to have huge benefits for mental health and wellbeing, as well as physical health. Exercise improves memory and brain function. It also releases chemicals that make you feel good which can lower symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression.  

Even walking around the block has its benefits! If you spend a lot of time in front of a computer, stepping outside can help to prevent tight muscles in your neck, shoulders, back and legs. 

If you find exercise challenging, here are a few tips to get you started:  

  • Exercise with a purpose: Instead of catching public transport or a taxi, walk or ride a bike to your destination.  
  • Start small: Commit to just a few minutes a day to stretch or to do a short workout or yoga video on YouTube.  
  • Make it fun: Use activities that you genuinely enjoy such as dancing, swimming, hiking or playing a team sport to keep your body moving.  
  • Buddy up or join a group: Having a workout buddy or joining an exercise group can help motivate you to get out there and exercise.  

3. Breathe 

As a form of meditation, focusing on your breath can relieve anxiety and stress, lower your heart rate and make sure your blood is full of oxygen. 

Here is a simple breathing exercise to slow your breath and calm yourself down. 

  • Make sure you’re sitting comfortably, somewhere quiet. 
  • Close your eyes and pay attention to your breath. You might notice your stomach or chest rising and falling, or the air moving in and out of your nostrils. 
  • Now, count slowly as you breathe in – try to inhale for four slow counts. 
  • Pause, then exhale as slowly as you can – aim for eight counts. 
  • Repeat this, focusing on slowing your breathing and making sure you breathe all the air out of your lungs each time you exhale. 

4. Be mindful 

Mindfulness is about paying attention to the present moment rather than the past or the future. It is a great way of managing and relieving stress. It is particularly effective if you tend to worry about things that might happen.  

Mindfulness is very easy to do – a simple five or 10 minutes of mindfulness can help your emotional and mental state.  

One simple exercise is paying attention to the world around you. It can be done in the home or outside while walking around.  

To yourself, list:  

  • three things you can see 
  • three things you can hear 
  • three things you can smell, and  
  • three things you can touch. 

This will help you feel connected to your surrounding environment and slow down your thoughts. It can even produce feelings of gratitude, which also has proven benefits.  

There are a range of apps – such as Insight Timer, Smiling Mind and Calm – that provide mindfulness and meditation exercises. Take the time to try a few and find one that works best for you. 

You’re not alone  

Sometimes you can try everything to feel OK, but it just doesn't work. That’s when it’s time to reach out and get some help.  

If you do feel isolated, anxious or depressed while studying in Australia, there’s a range of mental health support services available for students.  

Please reach out and ask for help if you need it.