Getting used to life in another country is challenging. Add to that the pressure of succeeding at your studies. You may feel like you are being pulled in 20 different directions. It is normal to feel overwhelmed, but sometimes our negative feelings can last longer and feel different than everyday stress. If your bad mood is turning into a series of bad days, ask yourself if you have been experiencing any of the key signs below. If they sound familiar, it may be time to take the next step and talk to a health professional about how you are feeling.
- I feel sad or hopeless most of the time.Everyone has bad days, but if you notice your negative feelings are here to stay, there may be a problem—especially if they don’t go away when something good happens, like scoring an A+ on an important test. Feeling sad or hopeless for at least two consecutive weeks without reason (e.g., the death of a loved one) is a warning, and it is important to recognize that these feelings will not simply vanish. Left unchecked, negative feelings can affect your self-esteem, sense of purpose in life, and your performance at school. Make sure to visit your doctor or the on-campus counsellor if you are feeling this way.
- I don’t feel like doing anything.Finding it hard to motivate yourself to study for tomorrow’s test? Are you skipping your favourite tennis lessons or avoiding your friends over the weekend? If the couch has been your second home these days, take a moment to reflect. Loss of interest in things that used to bring you pleasure can indicate that the reward pathways in your brain may not be functioning properly. As a result, the positive things in your life may have lost their charm. When you lose interest in your friends and hobbies, social isolation can occur—and this only feels worse. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for help!
- Everyone and everything annoys me.Suddenly, the people in your life are all very irritating. Your professor is being extra strict with marking and deadlines, and you are tired of the people around you accidentally pushing you on a crowded train. We all have days like this, but if you are feeling angry more often than not, something could be wrong. Are your feelings of frustration leading to verbal or physical fights with people? This could represent a mental health issue that leads to unsafe and impulsive behaviour. It may be time to speak with a health professional.
- I feel SO good that I am doing things I usually wouldn’t do.This may seem wonderful at first. You may feel ultra productive and full of energy, but feeling persistently hyper or “high” can lead to impulsive or dangerous behaviour, like excessive spending (putting you at financial risk), engaging in sexual activities with multiple partners (putting your health at risk), or experimenting with illegal drugs (putting you at risk of addiction). So when that “good” feeling passes, it may have left a path of damaging consequences behind. If you notice times of extreme highs, or if others are expressing concern about your actions during these times, talk to a doctor or counsellor before things spiral out of control.
- I’m worried about everything in my life and overly concerned about what’s going on in the world.Feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders? If you are just as stressed about your upcoming essay deadline as you are about a political crisis in another country, take note of whether this is usual for you. When everything in your life is a cause for concern, you may be experiencing a form of anxiety. And because anxiety can limit your effectiveness at school, your personal relationships, and your self-worth, speaking with a counsellor is the first step to gaining some control.
- My heart starts racing for no reason.You are walking to class like you usually do, when suddenly you start feeling afraid and panicked. Feeling out of breath, you find a nearby bench, sit down, and try to relax, but in just a few minutes it starts getting worse: you’re trembling, having chest pains, and experiencing dizziness and nausea. Maybe you feel like you are going crazy or fear that you are dying. When the feelings pass, you are left with an intense fear that they will come back. If you have this experience more than once, make your next stop a visit to your doctor.
If any of these situations sound familiar to you, get help—the earlier the better! If you aren’t ready to see a doctor, stop by your on-campus counselling service and make an appointment. They will ask you questions about how you’ve been feeling to gather information and connect you with the resources you need. Above all, remember that getting the help you need means an end to mood changes and bad feelings. So don’t delay… use Ingle’s find-a-doctor tool to search for a health professional today.
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- American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
- Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (2012). Anxiety and anxiety disorders. Retrieved from http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/health_information/a_z_mental_health_and_addiction_information/anxiety_disorders/Pages/Anxiety-and-anxiety-disorders.aspx#panic.
- Mood Disorders Association of Ontario. (2013). Frequently asked questions. Retrieved from http://www.mooddisorders.ca/faq.
- National Institute of Mental Health. (2008). Bipolar disorder. Retrieved from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml.