Ways to Survive the Exapt Blues
Happy 2018, everyone!! Resolutions made? Goals set?? Yeah, me neither.
After the sparkle of the New Year fades, we’re stuck in January, or “the Dark Ages” as it’s known to some. The greyest, the coldest, the most depressing month of the year.
It’s enough to make anyone feel down, never mind if you live thousands of miles from home.
**As I mentioned previously in Expat Life Lessons, I’m using the term home to describe one’s own country, culture, customs, or origin. **
As expats, long-term travelers, we’re used to making home be wherever our suitcase and significant others (and/or children) are. But we all experience bluesy feelings from time to time, particularly after the rush of the holidays has ended.
These feelings are often temporary but are sometimes strong enough to shake one’s constitution. Loneliness, frustration, often feeling isolated or forgotten. Just waiting through the months until the grounds thaw.
If you’re feeling down this time of year, know you’re not alone. Here are a few small tips to get you through the doldrums and on to your next big adventure.
** I am not a therapist or doctor of any sort. I share this advice because these are strategies that have worked for me. If you feel like you need greater help, please contact a medical professional. **
Define (and remember) your “Why”
Don’t lose sight of why you did this in the first place. This is always my go-to whenever I start to question my life choices of living abroad.
Why do I live on the other side of the world, drive on the road with a bunch of loonies, and struggle to communicate with the grocer?
Why do I put myself through this?
Why did I choose to do this in the first place?
If it helps, write down your Why on paper so you can come back to it when you start to feel down.
What else would I be doing at this exact moment in my life?
Where would I be?
And would I be genuinely happier?
Recognize small moments of happiness
In the throes of culture shock or even just expat-induced blues or moments of happiness will feel grounding. This is also called resiliency.
Find little moments to be thankful for. It sounds cliche, but a little gratitude goes a long way. It doesn’t have to be big, but it does have to be sincere.
Have an escape place
Sometimes you just need to escape. And that’s ok. Find the thing that gives you pleasure and DO IT.
Find a retreat space to go when you need a legitimate break. If it’s for an hour, or an afternoon, establish a spot where you can take your mind off your frustrations. Try to remove yourself mentally, even for just a little while
My escape place in Yerevan was a yoga studio. It became a place that I could retreat to. When I walked through the doors, I was no longer in the dirty, busy streets of the city. I wasn’t anywhere, really. I just became me in a space. (For those interested in this peaceful sanctuary, check out Arev Yoga and Pilates Studio in Yerevan!)
Take care of yourself
It’s easy to get wrapped up in your new environment. It’s also easy to not know where to turn when you need a break. Whatever it takes to keep you sane, do it, my friend.
By taking care of yourself you are being a better person for your family and those around you.
So go get your hair done, take an afternoon off for a massage. Make the time to DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY.
Don’t be afraid to get help or talk about your feelings with those close to you
No matter what you’re feeling, it’s important to communicate with the ones you are with. Living overseas is a HUGE stressor and can affect one’s mental health and relationships if expectations are not expressed well. Being able to communicate with your partner about your feelings will save your relationship and your expat experience.
If you feel like you need to talk to a professional, there are plenty of avenues for that as well. These days, there are quite a few online counseling services available to you wherever you might be in the world. Sites like betterhelp.com or talkspace.com connect you with a licensed therapist to get you the help you need without the hassle of having to walk into an office.
If you’re hesitant to virtual counseling, let me be the first to tell you that it helps!! I recently used Talkspace myself during a time when I wasn’t sure of where my life was going. I felt lost and needed help. Through chatting with a therapist online, I pulled myself out of my crisis and bounced back to my old self.
The decision to live overseas is a huge one and it doesn’t come without challenges. These are simple strategies to help you get through particularly rough times. The Expat Blues happen to use all and it’s important to know they’re coming. But you can prepare yourself and become a happier person and a happier expat.
Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to SHARE with your friends! If you enjoyed this, you should also check out:
- Expat Life Lessons: Reflections on Two Years Living Abroad
- 5 Easy Steps to Pack for a Stress-Free Family Vacation
- 4 Reasons Why I am Raising My Kids Abroad