July 20, 2018

Three tips to manage your mental health abroad

Use these simple strategies for a stress-free trip
Make the most of your travel experience by using our simple tips to maintain your mental health.
Make the most of your travel experience by using our simple tips to maintain your mental health. Pixabay photo by Jan Vašek, licensed under Creative Commons

From meeting people around the world to visiting places you’ve only seen online, travelling is full of exhilarating new experiences. While undoubtedly exciting, taking the plunge to study, work or volunteer abroad is also a nerve-racking commitment.

Whether you’re a seasoned traveller or about to embark on your first international adventure, these tips will help you make the most of your experience abroad without taking a toll on your mental health.

1. Plan and prioritize 

Having a plan in place eliminates unnecessary stress, making your time abroad the exciting experience it should be. Here are some key things to consider if you’re contemplating venturing abroad:

  • What mental health resources do you use in your home country? Are they accessible in your host country and will your travel insurance cover expenses?
  • How do you care for your mental and physical health? Can you incorporate these routines into life abroad? 
  • What activities help you unwind? Can you maintain these practices while abroad?

By reflecting on the aspects of your day-to-day life that bring you a sense of comfort and stability, you can confidently decide which part of the world is the best fit for you.

2. K(no)w your limits

Fear of missing out is a common concern in nearly any abroad experience. With new people, places and activities vying for your attention, proper self-care often gets placed on the back burner.

While it’s important to immerse yourself, knowing when to say “no” is key to avoid burning out and feeling overwhelmed. Whether it’s reading a book, trying mindfulness or practisng a hobby, schedule some me-time in your week to stay refreshed and relaxed.   

3. Embrace cultural differences

Although doing research before you travel is an important pre-departure step, remember that things will inevitably be different than home — and different doesn’t necessarily mean bad. Being open-minded and going with the flow will help you feel less out of place in your new surroundings. Making local friends, attending a cultural event, joining an activity or team, eating traditional food or taking public transit are a few simple ways to start living like a local while fully appreciating what your new culture has to offer.

Although living abroad isn’t right for everyone, if you do decide to take the plunge, these three tips will help ensure you’re prepared to maintain your mental health while having a rewarding abroad experience.

For students studying abroad on a UCalgary program, connect with a study abroad advisor for support and resources by email

The University of Calgary’s Campus Mental Health Strategy is a bold commitment to the importance of mental health and well-being of our university family. Our vision is to be a community where we care for each other, learn and talk about mental health and well-being, receive support as needed, and individually and collectively realize our full potential.