Over the past two years, the pandemic has taken a major toll on a lot of people, specifically regarding their mental health. I know for me, the periods of isolation, lack of working and taking online classes have done nothing for my mental health and sense of production. It’s been hard to find the motivation to do the things I once loved and had a passion for.
However, as corny as it sounds, I really wanted to take the phrase “New year, new me” and run with it. I decided it was time to break out of my old toxic habits and create newer healthy ones to try and turn my life around.
One major part of the new year I was looking forward to was studying abroad. I get to live in Italy for a whole semester! Moving in it of itself was a major aspect I knew was gonna help me a lot.
A new city, new routines and new friends are something I was desperately craving during the months leading up to the New Year. I felt trapped in my old routine in Ohio and being in a new beautiful city alone has completely changed the way I look at life.
In Italy, everyone moves a lot slower and the Italians prioritize living in the moment and seeing every day as precious. Being forced to walk everywhere has made me slow down and see the beauty not only in Italy, but the world itself as a whole.
I know not everyone has the same privilege of studying abroad like me and other students do and I realize that I don’t get to live here forever. Realizing that has helped me prepare for when I get home and the aspects of living in Italy I want to take home with me.
Since I’ve been here, I rediscovered my love for things I once forgot about or had no motivation to partake in. Being in class in-person has completely changed my attitude towards my academics. I’m motivated to learn, take notes, apply myself and I rediscovered the love I had for my major. I’m excited to go to class every day and learn something new. I have goals and aspirations for the future in regards to school, the student organizations I’m involved in and my future career.
I also regained my passion for different hobbies I used to enjoy. I bought paints and canvases so I can paint by the river, I bought an anatomy coloring book so I can exercise my brain and learn something new and I plan on jumping back into dance classes and working out once I get home.
For the student still stuck in the pandemic funk, I get it. It can be hard to feel excited about the future when the future can seem so bleak, but I learned that all it takes is one change. A change in routine, finding a therapist, picking up a new hobby or any act of self-care can ignite a spark of motivation for things once seemed lost.
Mental health is a complex topic and what works for me may not work for you, but I hope it empowers you to realize that you can do anything as long as you try. Depression never fully goes away and I still have times here in Italy where it can be hard to get out of bed, but I have my own “toolbox” of self-care I’ve learned to help get through.