How can I study when my grandfather is ill?

I am an international student, I have some assignments I need to do this week. However, my grandfather has a serious illness and I cannot focus on my study. I am sad, nervous and so worried. I just would like have a rest. I cannot breath.

It sounds like you are going through a difficult time at the moment. University is often challenging for most students; the pressure of learning in a foreign language, the absence of family and friends. When a loved one is unwell, it can make the whole experience a stressful and difficult one. So I praise you for your tenacity and your decision to contact us when things seem to have become overwhelming.

Although it might be hard to find the energy and time, it sounds like you need others around for emotional and social support. If you have a group of friends, make sure you dedicate time during the week to meet with them. There are also International student groups organised by UMSU International, with whom you might be able to talk and share your thoughts and experience. Most importantly, it sounds like you need contact with your family to share your emotions and receive regular updates on your grandfather’s health.

Based on what you have written, it sounds like you might be experiencing symptoms of anxiety and/or panic and low mood. You may benefit from practising some focused relaxation and breathing exercises to help reduce your overall level of stress and anxiety.

When you are struggling with study and concentration it might be helpful to try and study in periods of shorter duration. Be kind to yourself and take frequent breaks. It is important to look after yourself in general – try to ensure you are eating a nutritious diet, taking some fresh air, sunlight, some regular exercise and trying to get quality sleep. These are the foundations of our well-being and often get neglected during times of high stress. Practising mindfulness might also help.

I would encourage you to make a time to see a counsellor with the Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS). The service is free of charge, completely confidential and counsellors are experienced in helping students manage similar situations to yours. In addition, in light of your circumstances, you might be eligible for Special Consideration or even a Leave of Absence you’re your course. The University’s Stop 1 can assist you with any queries regarding Special Consideration and leave processes. I hope this gives you a few ideas about how to best manage your difficulties at the moment and wish you well.

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