Physical and Mental Health for International Students in Japan
A group of international students from diverse backgrounds pose for a selfie.

Physical and Mental Health for International Students in Japan

By Yasin Rahat Mar 8, 2024

Let’s be honest – it is challenging to manage physical and mental health as an international student. As I write this, I find myself juggling sophomore year coursework, an internship, a part-time job at a convenience store, all while preparing for my dream master’s at the Kennedy School of Government in Harvard.

What’s even better is that I’ve managed to maintain my mental and physical well-being. But my journey wasn’t always smooth sailing. I struggled with sleep, sometimes with mental health. Some days, I lacked motivation, while other days, I didn’t feel physically well.

It is frustrating. I know it is similar for you too.

So, in this article, I decided to write about How to stay Mentally and Physically Fit as an International Student.

Start by Finding a Sweet Balance in Your Schedule

When choosing classes in school and providing shifts in your workplace, be very careful. Because it is either going to break you or make your life better. 

It is impossible to change your class timetable when your course schedule is already decided. It is also hard to change shifts sometimes once you’ve already submitted them. Be wise when choosing it. 

Do not just consider time, also consider energy, travel time, and stress.


A close-up of a white calendar page with the days Monday through Thursday visible. The calendar is titled "Weekly Schedule." It will help someone with balancing schedule for physical and mental health.

Image credit: Canva

Things that work for me are avoiding  working on class days. I never go to class and work on the same day. I work on weekends; which makes me feel better. During class time, I just focus on school work, work on the paper or homework that is due, or hang out with my friends in an Izakaya or a cafe. You need to find your sweet balance. 

Make your calendar in a way where you have time for school, friends, and work.

Moving on to My Second Recommendation – Eat Well, Healthy, and Balanced

Please do not live on instant ramen or McDonald’s. I did it and did not recommend it all.

I know these are easy choices sometimes. But trust me, it will make you feel low on energy and leave you feeling disgusted for no reason. If possible, try cooking, or go for a healthy option. C’mon we live in Japan, and have lots of healthy options around us. You can even find healthy options in your next-door conbini. Try a salad, freshly cooked bento, juice, onigiri, etc. Read our ultimate conbini comparison here.

Eating well, healthy, and balanced will help you feel energized in class, and work and enable you to feel productive and healthy both mentally and physically. If you are thinking of cooking at home, check out this article for the basics of groceries in Japan, and for bento recommendations, you can look at this guide

In case you are curious, you can read more amazing food-related articles here

Third on the List, Make Sure Your Sleep Is Undisturbed for Physical and Mental Health

Maybe I am not the first one telling you this but maintaining at least 6 hours to 8 hours sleep is healthy for your physical and mental health.

Sometimes we stay awake late hours, and catch our class or work in the morning. Doing it some days is okay, but sacrificing sleep regularly would be harmful to you. 

My one suggestion to you is do not live on coffee, please! 

Try to sleep constantly at the same time. Spend some money on your futon, pillow, and blanket. Nitori is a great option for this. Check this The Best Buys From Nitori For Under 1000 Yen! 

Also, maintaining night rituals might help you. If you already have a night skincare routine that is great. If you do not have one, get one. Your skin will thank you when you reach a certain age. 

Taking a shower before sleeping is a common Japanese practice. You can try it too. Take a hot shower, do some skin care, clean your bed, and scented candles in your room might help you too. 

Next, Practice a Hobby

Do not forget your hobby for the sake of a busy schedule. It might work as your therapist, or friend when you are lonely. Our hobby is our escape route from the stress and difficulties in our day-to-day work. 

If you enjoy painting, take some time to do it. If you enjoy reading, buying yourself a Kindle would be a great investment. I love my Kindle. This is the best thing I got after coming to Japan. 

If you do not have a hobby, try to find one. How to find a hobby? Just try random stuff. You can try journaling, or start a blog or a TikTok, where you share your life here in Japan. 

Try it today. 

Up Next, Try Travel for Mental Health Break

Traveling is surely refreshing. I traveled to 13 prefectures so far and I am an advocate for it. 

Search day trips near your area and you’ll find a lot of options. If you live in the Greater Tokyo area, here are the top day trips in Tokyo you can consider. 

For long travel during summer and spring, consider visiting other prefectures of Japan. I recommend going to Osaka, and Okayama for a traditional Japanese experience. If you feel like going to a beach, consider Okinawa

I must say, Japan is very strategically located for international travel. You can get crazy cheap flight deals. Easy direct flights to the entirety of Asia. I traveled to 5 countries so far using my two summer and spring vacations. 

If you are a K-pop fan, Korea is very close to Japan. I recommend visiting Vietnam, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. You can book affordable flights in these countries, the landscape is mind-blowing. 

Travelling is a great way for some refreshment. Go travel with your friends group or go solo. You are going to love it. 

Lastly, Ask For Physical and Mental Health Support if Needed

Even if you are doing everything right, you still might not feel okay. It is hard to go to the doctor or counseling for mental health help because of the language barrier. 

If you are attending universities, technical schools, or language schools in Japan – you must have a student support office. If you do not feel okay, let the university know about your situation. Have their email and contact number near you. They will help you find English-speaking doctors or arrange translators for you. 

You can read this Guidable Guide for mental health services in Japan and this guide for English-speaking doctors. Going to doctors or counselling might help you recover quickly. 

You don’t know the best part yet. Most of the medical expenditure in Japan is covered by your national health insurance. Sounds good, right? Check out things you should know about national health insurance. 

Implementing these strategies can significantly enhance your well-being and productivity as an international student. You can customize it in a way that works for your life and unique needs. You can integrate sports, meditation, and anything in this list. 

But keep the basics in your mind – listen to your body and mind. 

Studying abroad is a rewarding experience for us. Embrace the freedom of this journey and take pride in the personal growth you’re experiencing.

Enjoy freedom, and be proud to see yourself growing. This is a pivotal moment of growth and hustle for us. 

Here’s to your success and well-being, my friend. Keep thriving! Cheers!

Related Articles:

The Things NO ONE Told You About Study Abroad In Japan

Featured image credit: Canva