The current state of the world is causing immense stress for international students. Not only are they faced with the risk of getting sick, but they also worry about the uncertainty of their academic journey.
Further, as the COVID-19 virus evolved into a full-blown pandemic, higher education institutions have been forced to close campuses, recall students abroad, and postpone semesters. These actions have resulted in more uncertainty and heightened anxiety for students.
Although stress is a common experience, one should understand that it can greatly impact one’s health.
Causes of Stress for International Students
Though safety protocols are being implemented on campuses, these have unintended effects. For instance, lockdowns have forced many students to become homeless and jobless. Without campus dorms and job security, many students worry about their rents or their next meals.
Feelings of self-isolation is another major cause of stress. One in five people in the world right now are in some form of quarantine. Being forced to stay in one place for long periods of time can jeopardize physical and mental health. Studies show that self-isolation increases the risk of functional decline by 59 percent and stroke by 39 percent.
In addition, questions about study visas and permits add to the stress of international students. Prior to this pandemic, study visas have limitations when it comes to the amount of school work and breaks students are allowed to take to maintain their status. Shifting to online classes also puts them in a precarious position because their visas only permit a certain number of courses to be taken online.
Recognizing Signs of Stress
It is important to be aware of signs of excessive stress within ourselves and other people. Take note of physical, emotional, and behavioral changes such as the following. Symptoms vary per person, and other changes can appear outside this list.
Being easily annoyed by others
Nervousness or fear
Depression or anxiety
Being tearful or crying for no reason
Nervous habits like nail-biting or picking at your skin
Increased smoking or drinking
Lack of concentration
How to Relieve Stress During a Lockdown
The travel restrictions in place pose an added challenge in coping with stress, but it’s not impossible. Here are practices that the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention suggest to alleviate stress.
Minimize watching news related to COVID-19 if it makes you feel anxious. Even though staying informed is important, there comes a point where one can focus too much on the news. Constant exposure to distressing news can overwhelm your emotions and cause you to stress out more than necessary. Limit updates during specific times of the day so you minimize your exposure to bad news.
Find or give support to others. Talking to people you trust will take away the burden of the situation. Despite the geographic distance, technology can be used to contact your loved ones even from halfway across the world. In the same sense, reaching out to family members that could be vulnerable to the virus will also reduce one’s stress.
Maintain a routine. Students are encouraged to keep to daily habits such as allocating time for studies or regularly showing. A lethargic lifestyle can foster negative thoughts, which, in turn, adds to stress.
Spread positive messaging. For school administrators and staff, you can help reassure the students by employing a comforting aura in social media. Show your support to these students and assist them by answering their questions and concerns as best that you can.