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How good is your mental health?

This is a question we hear more and more often recently. It is crazy to think that we have been in this situation of uncertainty for more than a year now, and at this point no one can take living like this anymore. It is proven that these kinds of situations, where we are constantly afraid and always expecting the worse, are directly linked to the cause or worsening of anxiety and depression, and therefore can decrease the quality of life. But what does this mean to students?


COVID-19 has hit all industries with great impact, and it is discussible that the one that suffered the most is the Education industry. We all remember how classes suddenly stopped in the beginning of 2020, forcing teachers and students to shift their entire life to an online environment. This brought a lot of stress to all parties involved, because this shift of environments also highlighted how unprepared schools were to deal with this sudden situation, and many other problems rose from that.

Now, looking back at that past, we can say with certainty that there has been some improvement, but it is still not the ideal place to be. We can see how this isolation has been having a very big impact that can be irreversible in many cases. Many people describe the feeling of being completely burnt-out, having constant migraines, back and neck pains, and many other symptoms.

The main problem is that many take these issues as their personal flaws, when they are actually effects of lockdown, and most people are feeling the same way. One other symptom often mentioned is how much time is spent overthinking now, which is understandable due to the unusual way we have been living our life. What makes it worse is that the longer we keep going like this, the more this seems like this will be the new reality, and life as we knew will be just a memory.

ISIC hopes to give you a bit of a break on that tiring cycle of thoughts with a story of Eduarda’s (one of our interns) personal experience and how she personally deals with this uncertainty, and some tips and tricks to make the new way of living a bit more bearable until we can resume our normal activities again.

“I have been living in Belgium by myself for a while now, and my family is all back in Brazil. When I first heard that there was a gobal pandemic happening, I could not believe it. I was alone in a country where I had no personal connections in (which can already be a terrifying situation for some), and I would have to face this rising situation all by myself.

The measures started being imposed by the government, and suddenly I found myself being scared of leaving my house. The thought of going to the supermarket would give me anxiety, and I started overworking myself so that I would keep my mind occupied. We have a saying in Brazil: “An empty mind is the devil’s workshop”, and that was my mantra during the starting months of lockdown. I was in what is known to be the hardest semester of my university program at the time, so I always had enough work to do. This only emphasized my workaholic tendencies which I have a hard time running away from now. It is very hard for me to relax, as a consequence of that overworking that I thought would be so good for me.

Nowadays, I try to put limits on the amount of time I spend working in one day, and try to stick to my schedule. I do not cure boredom with more work, but try to start new hobbies instead, go for a walk, get out of the house. The fact that I started my internship at ISIC has also helped a lot, because I am a very extroverted person and missed getting to know new people. The fact that I can see my family members getting vaccinated makes me a bit more hopeful that I will see them again soon, and these small victories are specifically what gets me going and hanging in there.”

Eduarda Sales, 22

How to improve your mental health in the comfort of your dorm?

Because of COVID-19, students have been forced to stay at home and stare at the same four walls every day. It has been suffocating, demotivating and, dehumanizing. But there are multiple ways to improve your quality of life and also your mental state. Many students are stressed out because they feel as though they are trapped in a cage in this never-ending prison sentence. First of all, ISIC will like to promise you that what you are going through will end soon as the vaccination has started, so hang in there a little while more. We also want to reassure you that your feelings are valid and that you are not alone in this lonely battle. Here are some measures that you can take to improve your mental health.

  • Create a daily routine
    • Feeling like you have no direction in life during the lockdowns? Create a routine! What students need most in their life is structure and consistency, especially if you are new in the higher education scene. All this independence and uncertainty can be overwhelming. Having a routine can provide stability and reduce stress as it gives you a sense of security. A routine can be as simple as waking up at 8 am and going to sleep at 10 pm. The purpose is that you have a structure to follow through and commit to. There is no point creating an extremely detailed and jammed-packed schedule that is almost impossible to follow. That will just create more stress and students already have enough on their plate to begin with.  Furthermore, this is not only useful during quarantine but for life in general. You will be more self-assured, motivated and, in control. So definitely try it out!
  • Write and read
    • “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
      ― Ernest Hemingway
    • Whenever you catch yourself overthinking or being suffocated with negative thoughts, write them down. Take a piece of paper and pour your heart out. This is to purge all the negative thoughts trapped in your head. Being stuck in that negativity can lead to major consequences such as anxiety, self-doubt, burnout and, even depression. It is best to learn to contain it or cope with it before it consumes you and spiralling more in the toxic cycle of despair that is almost impossible to escape. Another way to cope with negative thinking is by distracting your mind through reading and preferably on a positive topic. If you are not much of a reader, audiobooks would be a better option for you.
  • Take care of your body
    • Even if you are feeling down, you must take care of your physical health as they are closely linked to each other.  For example, constant stress and worrying can increase blood pressure or stomach acid and worst-case scenario permanent physical impairment. You as a student must follow a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients needed to perform academically. Following a healthy diet is not enough to maintain your health, it is important to exercise occasionally too. I know, I know, it is easier said than done. But you have to start somewhere no matter how small it is, like eating 1 fruit per day and walking 4000 step per day. When you are healthier your mood is better too.
  • Talk
    • Being in insolation can be lonely but you do not have to be alone. Modern technology has provided us with many different ways to communicate with friends and family with just a click of a button. According to Stanford University, staying connected with friends and family can help decrease the level of anxiety and depression. During this stressful time, it is better to go through it together rather than alone. Go and call a friend or a family, ask them how they are doing. I bet their faces would light up with impish glee to hear from you.

In a nutshell, COVID-19 has taken a toll on everyone. If you are overwhelmed with emotions and do not have anyone to confide in, CHS (Community Help Service) would gladly listen to your concerns and provide the needed help mentally and/ or physically.  They are an international team of therapists that are experts in different mental health issues. They are warm and welcoming to anyone in distress. Just give them a call if you ever need anything. Tel: 02 648 40 14.

Sources: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00243/full#:~:text=Perceived%20uncertainty%20is%20not%20only,et%20al.%2C%202017).

https://blog.valleywisehealth.org/how-to-improve-your-mental-health-during-quarantine/

https://writingcooperative.com/how-writing-helps-to-overcome-negative-thoughts-abadc5db7816

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/brain-food-for-studying

https://www.chsbelgium.org/en/