The expat life can appear to be glamorous and chock full of exotic locations. While this may ring true, it also comes with its fair share of mental stress. Making a big move anywhere can be nerve-wracking. Imagine throwing in a new culture, language, and way of life to boot and you can see how the stress might increase tenfold. As a new expat, you’ve got to find ways to cope with the changes that will seem to bombard you left, right, and centre, and we’ve got 5 great tips to help you do just that!
1. Find a social group
One of the first things you need to do when you arrive in a new place is find people to hang out with! Having friends will go a long way to helping you deal with homesickness and culture shock, and if they have similar interests to yours it’s even better. There are lots of great sites online that cater to helping locals and expats meet like-minded individuals. But don’t just hang out with other expats, find ways, such as language exchange, to meet and make friends with locals. They can give you great insight into the culture and help you assimilate much faster than if you just spend time with other foreigners.
2. Tackle new things
Living too long in one place can give you a sense of complacency and you’re less likely to tackle those things you’ve always really wanted to do. Being surrounded by friends and family can be distracting and moving abroad is a great opportunity to finally take on some new and exciting challenges! Dust off that list of must-do things you’ve shelved somewhere at the back of your mind and start checking items off. Since you won’t know many people at the start, you’ll be less distracted and have more free time to get them done. Write out that business plan you’ve been saying for years you want to finish. Or read that book you’ve been putting off. These little accomplishments will make you feel like you are doing something good for yourself.
3. Schedule time with family
One of the downsides of living overseas is that you’re removed from your usual social circle and talking to your family isn’t quite as easy. The good thing is that you’ll never again take those phone call with Mom for granted! It’s essential when you move abroad to schedule time to talk with your family back home. Conflicting time zones and schedules make it necessary to set aside that hour or so every week for a chat and it’s excellent for your mental health too! This way you avoid feeling down about calling back and forth and never seeming to catch one another. When you start to miss them you can comfort yourself knowing that you’ll have the chance to talk it out.
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4. Carry a memento
It may sound silly, but having a memento or item that has special meaning to you can help with the mental stress of moving overseas. Have this item always on hand so that when you start to feel despondent or homesick you can pull it out and be reminded of home. It can be anything from a music album that reminds you of happy times in your childhood, or a lucky necklace your mom gave you when you were a teen. These small things hold memories which can comfort and make you feel a little less lonely, even when you’re thousands of miles from home.
5. Accept s*** happens
It’s obvious that some personalities deal better with big changes than others. Even if you aren’t a part of the group that adjusts quickly to change, you can help yourself by trying to just let go. Nothing will be quite the way you expect it should be when you move abroad. Yes, some things will work out wonderfully, but others will not. The sooner you accept that you will probably have really crappy days where really crappy things happen, the easier it will be to cope with them mentally when those days do come around. It’s also important to remember that the bad days will pass and there will be times where you’ll be having a blast and wondering why you ever doubted that moving abroad was the right choice for you!
What has helped you mentally cope with an overseas move? Share your tips with us!