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Emotional Well-Being During Your Gap Year in Israel: Essential Tips for a Fulfilling Journey

Embarking on a gap year in Israel is an exciting opportunity for personal growth, exploration and cultural immersion. However, amidst the excitement, it’s crucial to prioritize emotional well-being to ensure a fulfilling experience. Here are some tips to cultivate emotional health during your time in Israel.

  1. Setting Boundaries With Friends:

One of the keys to maintaining emotional balance during your gap year is setting boundaries with friends. Most programs have girls and boys from an array of schools, communities and environments. This is an incredible opportunity to branch out, with the possibility to make lifelong friends. Since everyone is living in the same space, it can sometimes be an “incubator” to accelerate friendships. It is important to always keep your eyes open and make sure that the friends you choose are right for you. Are you your best self when you’re with her? When you go out with him, does he allow you to make your own decisions? Do you feel like this friend is using you as their “resident mom” while being away from home? Does your roommate respect your space, or does she use it as if it is her own? Do you feel your friendship is balanced or are you giving more than you are receiving? While these factors are crucial for all friendships, they are heightened while living in close quarters for an extended amount of time.

While it is natural for these relationships to develop quickly, it is important to recognize when it is time to set boundaries. To do this, you must be sure to put yourself first, so that you will enjoy all of what the year has to offer. It is essential to honor your own needs. Don’t hesitate to spend a night in, if you feel the need for solitude or rest. Spend a Shabbat away with friends or family from home. Communicate openly with your friends about your boundaries and ensure mutual respect for each other’s space.

  1. Prioritize Healthy Habits:

In the excitement of exploring a new country and spending hours learning and growing, it is easy to neglect basic self-care habits like getting enough sleep, as adequate rest is crucial for emotional well-being. Make it a priority to establish a regular sleep schedule and stick to it. In the beginning of the year, there is excitement and curiosity, similar to how it feels in a sleepaway camp. Once a few weeks and months go by, it is important to avoid the temptation to stay up late every night.

  1. Give Yourself Space:

Amidst the hustle and bustle of a new environment, it’s essential to carve out time for yourself, whether it’s through journaling, solitary walks or taking the bus alone and listening to some music. A good idea is to use this summer before you leave, to think of readily available strategies that can help ground you.

  1. Maintain Therapy if Needed:

If you’re entering your gap year with a preexisting mental health condition, or feel that the transition is affecting your emotional well-being, it is a good idea to consider continuing therapy while abroad. Prioritize your mental health by researching therapy options in Israel. Transitioning to a new environment can disrupt the continuity of care, potentially impacting progress and stability. By working with a therapist in Israel who understands the yeshiva and seminary environment, students can seamlessly continue their therapy while being in the same time zone as the clinician. This not only ensures that students receive the support they need, it will facilitate a deeper exploration of issues that emerged prior to their gap year.

In conclusion, prioritizing emotional well-being is essential to fulfill and enrich the gap year experience in Israel. By setting boundaries, practicing self-care, seeking support when needed, and embracing new experiences, you can navigate this transformative journey with resilience, growth and joy.


Yael Bernstein, LCSW PMH-C, services clients virtually in New York, New Jersey and in Israel. She attended the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, where she earned her MSW and went on to receive her LCSW as well as the PMH-C for Maternal Mental Health. Yael has extensive experience working with teens and adults struggling with various mental health challenges and complicated family dynamics. Yael can be reached at [email protected] or 973-327-3316 to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation.

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