Learning to take care of your mental health in the virtual world

True leadership begins when we take care of our mental and emotional health

Kareena Thakkar, an Academy ’22 alum from India, knows that true leadership begins with our own well-being. In this article, she shares how Global Citizen Year Academy helped her develop key skills for taking care of her mental and emotional health in our increasingly online world. Read on for tips and advice from Kareena and other Academy alumni.

A global cohort of 260 passionate students come together to engage and build leadership skills through an online platform. Not long ago, this would be impossible to imagine, however, the internet has created spaces for students to connect globally. These virtual spaces provide incredible new opportunities for our perceptions to be challenged, stereotypes broken, and for learning surprising new things about different communities.

When first entering an online community like the Academy, it can sometimes take courage to be vulnerable. For me, it was initially difficult to share my views with my peers. But over time, I learned that ‘The more we connect with others, the easier it becomes to open up with them.’

Now that I’ve completed the Academy, here are my top 5 tips for how to make the most of this virtual community and develop life skills to take care of your mental health in our online world.



One of the best parts about online communities like the Academy is the diversity of perspectives and experiences. That also means it’s essential to listen with empathy and avoid jumping to judgments or stereotypes.Victoria Rodríguez Villarreal, an Academy alum from Mexico says,

“This global community of young changemakers has given me a platform free of judgment. It’s enabled me to freely go through this process of self-discovery. The simple gesture of being an empathetic listener allows us to understand the different perspectives on social issues worldwide.”



Our generation is busier than ever before. Students engage in multiple activities that require a lot of time and energy. Managing our time is crucial to our mental health. Larissa Ximenes, an Academy alum from Brazil says,

“I organize and schedule all my weekly activities, including the activities to de-stress. Sometimes, it is difficult to balance all of that, but I keep trying and I am aware of my limits. I am able to modify my schedule whenever it is needed.”



Estela Leticia Lopes, an Academy alum from Brazil, shares that respecting boundaries is an essential part of self- and community-care.

“I believe that respecting our own boundaries makes us more aware of our classmate’s boundaries. It makes us listen carefully and give support if one of them shares something personal.”



Like many people, I’ve tried and failed to maintain the “perfect” self-care routine. Now, instead of striving for perfection, I see self-care as slowing down during the busy days, appreciating the beauty around me, and learning to be mindful of my actions.

Cultivating self-care in ourselves, enhances our mental health and well-being and enables us to also take care of others in our community.



Mindfulness helps me to bring balance to my life. I take 5 mins a day to just observe and be aware of my breath. This seems like a simple exercise but it tremendously helps me to be present and enjoy the simple moments.

At the end of the day, I journal and reflect on that day’s events and lessons I’ve learned. This self-reflection activity allows me to stay humble and keeps me focused. Along with self-reflection, gratitude can also be very useful in enhancing one’s mood and well-being.


I believe that true leadership begins when we take care of our mental and emotional health. This is especially important in today’s online world. Through the Academy I’ve developed my capabilities to take care of my mental health and be a successful leader.