Ways to Balanced Mental Health for Women Expats
For those adventurous souls who embrace the flavours of various cultures by choosing to start a new life in a different country, becoming mentally and emotionally vulnerable is a very real reality. Some may even feel a level of guilt for harbouring bad feelings whilst in the midst of living abroad.
This is why it’s important to note that everyone has the capacity to feel stressed, anxious, and unwell and that it’s imperative to take steps that will help you stay mentally and emotionally healthy.
These seven tips will guide you in times of mental or emotional turmoil, and encourage and teach you how to take the necessary steps to becoming a happier and healthier person as an expat abroad.
Make Connections Stay Connected
It’s a natural feeling to be homesick. Being in a foreign country not only presents you with a whole new set of challenges, such as learning a new language and cultural customs, and making new friends, but it also expects you to do so without the comfort and support of your family and friends by your side. In fact, according to a study conducted by Aetna International, the second biggest factor that causes stress among expats is the loss of activities that they took part in at home.
For that reason, it’s important to stay connected to those who make you feel ‘at home’. With today’s technology, it is near impossible not to be able to talk with your nearest and dearest, and by doing so, you will receive that extra boost that you need to keep going.
Seek A Trusted Therapist
For those seeking professional help or merely someone with whom you can talk freely with and confide in, online therapy has proven to be a huge success among expats. It removes the stress involved with finding a therapist who speaks your language, or who has the same ideals or cultural background as yourself, and it allows you to find a safe space during a somewhat chaotic situation.
“Two primary components of the expat lifestyle are high mobility and cross-cultural living. With those realities come an elevated concentration of opportunity to experience grief, loss, and questions around cultural identity,” says Josh Sandoz, a Seattle-based therapist and the creator of International Therapist Directory, an online listing of professional mental health therapists familiar with the Third Culture Kid and international expatriate experiences.
He continued, “Often, major life transitions can involve seasons of isolation and complex grief, unearthing intense feelings that require significant care and thoughtfulness.
Those things in mind, it becomes increasingly important for an internationally mobile person seeking mental health services to work with someone who has a good enough understanding of these common expat dynamics.”
Find Your Tribe
We all have hobbies and interests, and if you can find one person or even a group of people who share one or more of your same interests, you will be able to create a network of new relationships.
Make use of apps such as Meet Up or Facebook groups for expats in your location to make new friends and to develop yourself and grow in a country that is literally foreign to you. Even if you consider yourself to be an introvert or a loner, finding someone who shares your passion is one of the best ways to feel a sense of belonging in an unfamiliar world.
Incorporate ‘Me’ Time
Take an hour out of your day, week, or month to do something that is close to your heart. It could be watching your favourite TV show, seeing a live show, going to the cinema, or getting your nails done. By taking the time to love yourself, you will reap endless benefits when it comes to knowing your self-worth and how strong you really are when you feel depleted and perhaps alone.
“My advice would be to never underestimate what an upheaval expatriation is. You need to prioritize self-care so that you can face the challenges that each day inevitably brings.” says one expat abroad.
Healthy Body Healthy Mind
There’s a direct correlation between what you eat and how you feel. And while treating yourself to something every now and again feels like a reward in itself, eating well-balanced meals brings immeasurable benefits.
When you eat well, you are gifted with an energy boost that encourages you to be more active. This can include participating in various sports, or being more social in general. In turn, you’re developing new skills, forming new bonds, and gaining the drive to embrace your hobbies, passion, and interests making you feel productive and important.
Plan An Exciting Trip
As an expat abroad, it’s evident that you’ve got the drive and skills to make it in a new country. And the chances are that you really love to experience new places and different cultures.
So why not take some time to plan an exciting trip? It can give you a brand new reason to smile, and something to look forward to! Whether it is a weekend day-trip or a mini-getaway, do something that will make your soul happy.
Have A ‘Local’ Plan
Whether you’re prone to experiencing mental health or emotional issues or not, it’s extremely important to know your options when it comes to taking care of yourself in a new location.
Be sure to research your local doctor – can he or she speak your language? Can they assist you in the areas that you seek? Write down the numbers of emergency services, and make sure to know of a pharmacy that is open 24 hours a day. If you find yourself in a state of total anxiety, panic, or other, it’s very difficult to do productive research, and doing so would result in a waste of precious time too.
Bonus: Honor Your Feelings
Most importantly, Trust. Your. Gut.
It’s not uncommon for an expat to feel bad or guilty when they do not enjoy their new location abroad. And if you too feel this way, you more than likely, do not want to take the opportunity for granted, but perhaps you just feel unhappy or out-of-place. This is a normal and natural feeling, but don’t give up!
Make sure that you really have taken the time to explore your new surroundings and given this new location a chance before you make the decision that you won’t be able to thrive or be happy there. Be mindful about the way in which your surroundings make you feel and use that energy to make rational choices about staying or leaving.
Guilt is by no means a good feeling, but it does teach one that they have the conscience and moral compass to feel compassion for themselves and others. Embrace your raw emotions such as sadness, longing, or fear but do not let them define you.
Of course, when it comes to mental and emotional health, there is no one-size-fits-all. But there are many outlets available to you should you be experiencing negative emotions and crippling bouts of fear, anxiety, or other mental health concerns.
And as psychotherapist, Dana Nelson PH. D says, “The tricky thing for expats is differentiating between the very normal process of cultural adjustment – which takes time and some patience, but which often resolves itself – versus difficulties adjusting that don’t seem to be getting better over time, or where suffering is taking a toll in other areas of life and so requires attention.” So, take your time, be kind to and take care of yourself because you are so important.
Wishing you, the adventure-seeker, a lifetime of amazing journeys and tons of fun as an expat abroad!
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