10 Ways You Can Self-Care Abroad
Life on placement is fast-paced - you will be constantly busy and alternating between projects, transport and socialising. During down time, it's important to find something you like doing that will allow you to unwind and de-stress. No one knows what chills you out better than you do, but here are some handy ideas to help you find your chi (that's your energy force) through some T.L.C.
1. Keep a Journal
Let's get real, volunteering abroad is a great way to travel and learn about new cultures. Your days will always be jam-packed with activities and being busy can often mean you forget to take time to reflect. You may want to jot down some of your daily events to look back at at a later date and for all our chronicling, we love a good journal.
According to HuffPost, journaling can help improve self-confidence, creativity and emotional intelligence to name a few - aka all of the good stuff! It's the perfect activity to give you the however-many minutes of self loving freedom you need.
If you're a new writer, you can give way to your imagination and be as creative as possible. You can put pen to paper and use a nice book; or even re-count your adventures online and publish them for your family and friends to follow from home!
And to all those who are hesitant, don't stress, it'll be all write.
2. Take Time Alone
While travelling around on your own during your placement is ill-advised, we're huge fans of finding some safe alone time to reflect and chill. Whether you're a classical music fan or an avid Belieber, a solid playlist or podcast can often do the trick allowing you to shut the world out and have your own personal jam-sesh.
Busy buses while in transit between projects are a perfect moment to whip out the headphones and mentally sing along to your fave tunes. You can also look for a good quiet spot you can count on either in or around the homestay, and go there with a good book or a cup of tea after a long day of projects.
3. We Like to Move it, Move it!
For some of us, getting on our feet and being active after a long day can be a hellish endeavour and we would much rather kickback and relax watching Netflix - you do you! For some, though, some physical activity does wonders and can really help you clear your mind of stressful thoughts and tasks from the previous few hours.
According to a recent study, "exercise participation is associated with higher levels of life satisfaction and happiness" - so sign us up for some happy times!
You can be as adventurous or slow paced as you wish, with even 10 mins of exercise being positive for mental health. As long as you get that blood flowing and those happy hormones circulating! Some volunteers go hiking on weekends, or get into a daily routine of 8 minute abs after a long day, which can help to release energy and distract from everyday stressors!
Pro tip: Get everyone involved in coming up with a choreography and perform it! I feel a homestay dance off coming...
4. Keep in Touch With Family and Friends
Being far away can be a challenge for not just you, but your loved ones too! Not having your regular support system readily available can often make daily struggles seem more overwhelming.
To help keep you connected, you can get data packages at affordable rates and keep in constant contact with everyone back home, sending them updates and snaps of your time on placement. You can set some time aside for "family time" chats over Skype or FaceTime, which could contribute to giving you some structure and support.
We don't have to tell you that keeping in touch with family and friends is awesome and helps, but this article published on Psychology Today, says just that! Being in regular contact with your safety net while abroad can improve your confidence, job-satisfaction and all round well-being.
If, like some, you choose to use your time abroad as a Social Media cleanse, you can find Internet Cafes readily available in the community, or even send your loved ones back home snail mail, to keep the art alive!
5. Take a Break From Social Media
As much as we love scrolling through Facebook updates and Instafeeds, marvelling at memes and double tapping our friends' beautiful scenic snaps, it's so easy to get lost in the black hole of the internet and end up watching seals bouncing (you're welcome for that btw).
While on placement, it may be nice to take a break from the updates and use the time to concentrate on the projects and the amazing sights you will visit at the weekend. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie so eloquently points out, you notice so much when you look away from the rectangular screen and stop to smell the proverbial roses.
Of course, the time difference between you and your homies from home will enable the temptation as your day will be ending while theirs is in full-swing. But if you resist the urge to lurk, we guarantee you will have an amazing time and experience parts of the placement some will not.
P.S. No need to revert back to the Palaeolithic, and weekends are perfect for WiFi, so look for the perfect balance to live your best life and snap a pic if you want to! #Connect
6. Do What You Like at the Weekend!
Volunteering, working and functioning full time is tiring, so we want you to make the best of your time on placement and travel at the weekends! It's important, for your self-TLC, that you visit places you are interested in and enjoy every second of it.
TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet are your best friends, and while we don't recommend booking any accommodation or activities before you arrive, you may want to get an idea of what you would like to do and then seek out SLVFFs to spend your golden time with.
Pro tip: Your weekends are your own, and you do not have to follow the crowd. If you don't want to do something your roomies are doing, you can seek out someone else who wants to follow where you lead. #YOLO
7. Talk About Your Day
An amazing part of your placement will be the amount of time you spend with your fellow volunteers. They will become your roommates, colleagues and confidantes, so it's important to talk to them about what you are going through - chances are, they are experiencing the same thing!
A great time to do this is at the dinner table. While you are digging into amazing dhals or nasi goreng, you can flaunt your awesome conversation starters and get everyone to share how their days went. The rose and thorn game is a perfect way to get everyone to share equally about their day. A very creative team of volunteers added the 'bud' to the rose, and started sharing an area they were looking forward to. We're all about the positive vibes!
You can find some inspiration here, and some of these activities could be fun for projects, too. Wink wink!
8. Turn off Your Brain and Turn on a Movie
We all have our tv Kryptonite, from binge-watching Game of Thrones to watching a feel-good movie. Netflix makes life so much easier by allowing us to stream hours of our fave visual relaxers.
If you have a laptop or a tablet you can organise fun movie nights with your homestay. You can even make them themed, organising games to go along with the film's genre.
This is a fantastic way to get everyone involved in a fun activity that will help you relax and forget about your hard work - unless you're into horrors, in which case, let's all sleep with the light on.
Lights, camera, relax!
Whether you already do, or are intrigued by the idea of it, meditating can be an amazing way of blocking out the negative and focusing on the positive to give your inner child the TLC it needs.
A study published by the Journal of Psychosomatic Research states that meditation helps "in reducing stress, depression, anxiety and distress, and in ameliorating the quality of life of healthy individuals". While there are many different types of meditation, with a bit of practice you will find the one that is perfect for you to find your chi.
Whether you like listening to someone guiding you, or prefer to focus on your own surroundings, meditation is a great way of concentrating on good thoughts to release stress, and where better to practice it than Buddhist Sri Lanka or relaxing Bali?
Ohm -I- right?
10. Make Your Homestay Homey
Rumour on the street is "creative people flourish in clutter" and we're all for harvesting your artsy sides. However, when sharing a room with other people, it may be nice to keep the areas clear and tidy so everyone can roam comfortably and feel at home. As Marie Kondo teaches, tidying up is a life-changing magic!
Cleaning up has been shown to improve overall well-being by promoting "healthy eating, generosity, and conventionality". So take some time to re-organise your belongings in your room and you will feel all the lovely benefits of living in an inviting environment!
Pro tip: although you will be on placement for quite a few weeks, we recommend refraining from bringing excess clothing and trinkets - it will make cleaning up way easier and lighter!
If you got distracted by the seal video, we don't blame you, it's an SLV.Global HQ fave. But if you've made it this far, these are just a few handy tips, and you can implement them as much or as little as you like. We want you to make the most of your time on placement, so give yourself some SLoVe, and take in every moment!