Anxiety Beforehand & What Preparations I Made Before Leaving the USA
My name is Aiman Ghani. I’m earning a bachelor’s of science in elementary education in Chicago, Illinois, the beautiful, utterly magnificent city where I am from. I suffer from a mix of depression and anxiety which I treat with therapy and medication. My biggest worry was that I, myself, would be the reason I would not be able to enjoy my time abroad – that I, myself, would be to blame if due to my at times uncontrollable thoughts and feelings got the best of me. Self hatred had begun rising in advance, because I would never forgive myself if I didn’t enjoy my time abroad all because I couldn’t survive without therapy for four weeks.
But that hasn’t been the case at all since I’ve arrived. I love it and I am having a blast! Everyone is so nice. A large part of this is because I spent a lot of time thinking about taking care of myself and managing my expectations. Here are five tips for planning self care while abroad that you can begin before you leave:
- Talk to your therapist about some of the things you worry might come up while abroad. For example – do you have social anxiety? If you’re studying abroad with a group, expect a lot of socializing, and use the therapy sessions beforehand to come up with strategies to implement while abroad. Do you have trouble speaking up your needs, especially to strangers? Go over that and how you can assert your needs (whether it be special accomodations, assistance, etc). Whatever the negative habits and bad thought processes, really highlight the ones that will be most heavily triggered while in the situations you anticipate finding yourself in when abroad. Practice implementing the breathing, mental, and physical strategies before you leave so you have them in your back pocket when you suddenly feel awash in any of the myriad symptoms depression presents.
- In the weeks and months before, find easy recipes with few ingredients. Practice cooking some while at home, preferably with a parent or experienced cook alongside you. Have ideas in your mind of things you can easily make so you don’t skip meals. It isn’t healthy for the body or wallet to eat out every meal. Packing some quick breakfast also helps. I brought Belvita breakfast biscuits from the states to last me half the days and lots of people have bought cereal or eggs from nearby stores, because you don’t always have time before class to eat out and one little meal can make all the difference between a good mental state and a bad one.
- Decide ahead of time the values at your forefront you want to bring one or two pieces of with you, whether in material form or not. If it’s family, carry them in a matching necklace with your sister or souvenirs you know they’ll truly love or use the Eiffel Tower’s free WiFi to facetime your mom (I’ve done all three). If it’s your unique individuality and the expression of it, find places/events ones that will make you feel connected to who you are, what you believe in, and accepted for who you are (pride parades, religious institutions, libraries, areas populated with those of your culture – things that make you feel at home with who you really, truly are).
Take care. You know yourself better than anyone else does. Big love from dreamy Paris,