If you are just starting your internship or training program in the U.S., you may be faced with many new challenges. Being in a foreign country and taking on a new role professionally can lead you to feel stressed at times and can take a toll on your emotional and physical well-being if not kept in check. If you start to feel overwhelmed, there are a few steps you can take to ease your transition into your new position and manage stress on a daily basis to allow you to make your overall experience the best it can possibly be! The first step is to notice when you start feeling overwhelmed. If you start to feel anxious or stressed, this can lead you to lose confidence on the job, become tired or withdrawn and will make your internship or training program less rewarding. But there are steps you can take to lift your mood and keep energized.
Take care of yourself: If you start to feel overwhelmed in or outside of the workplace, you will need to be sure to take care of your emotional and physical well-being. Your first step is to get moving! Aerobic exercise is a hugely effective way to lift your mood, give yourself more energy, sharpen your focus and also help you to relax. Exercising before or after work can help you have a productive day while also releasing any stress you may feel.
Eat well! Make food choices that will keep you going throughout the day. Having low blood sugar can make you feel sluggish and irritable. Eating the wrong foods or too much food can make you feel tired and lethargic. Keep your mood and energy up by eating breakfast every morning, as well as making sure to eat good protein with fruits and vegetables throughout the day. Also, drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated. Read more tips on eating well here.
Sleep! Getting the right amount of sleep each night is vital to having a productive day at work. Stress can sometimes cause insomnia or an inability to sleep, but a lack of sleep can cause even more stress and leave you feeling overwhelmed. If you sleep well during the night, you will also have less trouble waking up on time and can avoid rushing to work or being late which can cause added stress. Be conscious of your alcohol and nicotine intake. While alcohol may temporarily decrease your feelings of stress or anxiety, too much can cause even more worry as it wears off. Excessive alcohol also results in less restful sleep, and drinking to relieve work stress may cause alcohol abuse or dependence. Make sure to give yourself time to unwind at night and avoid watching TV or using the computer within an hour before you go to sleep. Maintaining a consistent schedule can also be helpful for managing sleep problems.
Minimize stress during the work day: There are steps you can take to make sure your workdays run as smoothly as possible. One important tip is to keep your daily schedule balanced between work and personal time, including social activities and downtime. Keeping a balance with all the things going on in your daily life will help you keep any negative feelings at bay. When you have a good balance that includes social activities and downtime, you will be more productive at work.
Another important factor is to not over-commit yourself at work. Don't take on responsibilities that you are not ready to perform or cannot fully commit the time to and avoid trying to fit too much into one day. Make sure you also have the support you need for projects, whether it is from co-workers or your supervisor. Remember: You are here to learn as an intern or trainee—not to fill your employer's labor needs. Make sure you prioritize your tasks from the most important to the least important and don't be afraid to ask questions or ask for help or additional training if you need it. Also, though you are required to intern or train for a minimum of 32 hours per week, you should not be spending all of your time in the U.S. in the office. Part of the cultural exchange experience is having time to explore the U.S. and meet new people. If you are interning or training for more than 45 hours per week, please let us know so that we can speak with your supervisor about decreasing your hours so you have enough time to get out and enjoy the U.S.
It is also important to have open communication with your colleagues as well as your supervisor. If issues or unexpected problems arise, it will be easier to make a plan of action if you have good communication between the people you work with directly. Don't be afraid to ask questions or request guidance on a project. If you become overwhelmed with your duties, discuss what you are feeling and work with someone to create solutions to help you be more productive, whether that is in delegating tasks or helping you prioritize your work. Open communication is key for creating your own success.
Make sure you take a lunch break! Try to stop working during lunch to give your mind a mental break. Eat in the cafeteria in your building or take a walk to a new cafe or park to get away from your desk and get your body moving. Taking breaks during your workday will help keep your motivation up and give you some time to relax.
Let yourself be successful: Put yourself in a position to be successful. Make sure you show up at your internship or training program on time and keep your workspace organized so you can easily find projects and supplies. Keep to-do lists and cross off items you complete so you remember what still needs to be accomplished. If possible, plan your day ahead of time so you are able to complete all necessary tasks. Always try to think positively about the work you are doing. Negative feelings will bring you down and drain your motivation and energy. Always remember, no project or decision is ever perfect and you should try to resist perfectionism with your work. Set realistic goals for yourself and always do your best!
Homesickness can also cause stress, and stress can cause homesickness. If you feel homesick while on the program, check out our blog post on how to cope with homesickness.
Culture shock is another big stressor for participants. If you are feeling any culture shock while on your program, visit our blog post on how to overcome culture shock.
Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Ani is a fan of exploring new places through photography and the local cuisine. After earning her BFA in photography from NYU and gaining communications experience at International Planned Parenthood Federation, she joined InterExchange in 2012, and worked as the Marketing Producer until 2016.