Moving to a new country as an expat can be an exciting adventure, full of opportunities for personal and professional growth. However, it can also bring about unique challenges that may affect your mental health.
Another study showed that expatriates tended to experience a high prevalence of affective and adjustment disorders related to occupational anxiety, home country anxiety, acculturation concerns, and physical ill-heath (Foyle et al., 1998).
When I moved to the US from India, the first few years were not easy. Besides adjusting a to a new culture and country, I also experienced loneliness, homesickness, discrimination to name a few.
I missed my family, friends and the support structure I had built in India. I also had to go through the not so easy motions of finding a job. It all affected my mental health and was one of the reasons, I was inspired to start The Expat Woman and create a community of supportive women.
Here are some tips on how to deal with mental health as an expat:
Build a Support Network:
One of the first steps in maintaining your mental health as an expat is to establish a strong support network. Connect with other expats who understand what you’re going through and can offer advice and companionship. Additionally, try to make local friends who can help you integrate into your new community. Social connections are vital for mental well-being.
Learn the Local Language:
Language can be a significant barrier to feeling comfortable in your new environment. By learning the local language, you can improve your communication and understanding of the culture. Language skills not only help with practical matters but also boost your confidence and sense of belonging.
Exercise has a tremendous impact on mental health. Engaging in regular physical activity helps reduce stress and anxiety. Explore local fitness options, whether it’s joining a gym, taking yoga classes, or simply going for a daily walk. Staying active will boost your mood and energy levels. It also pushes you to get out of the house.
Set Realistic Expectations:
It’s important to have realistic expectations of the expat experience. Understand that you may face challenges, experience culture shock, or feel lonely at times. By acknowledging these potential difficulties and having a positive attitude, you can better navigate the ups and downs of expat life.
Seek Professional Help:
Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you find yourself struggling with your mental health. Many countries have expat-friendly therapists and counselors who can provide the support you need. Whether you’re dealing with stress, depression, or anxiety, a mental health professional can offer valuable guidance.
Taking care of your physical and mental well-being is crucial. Make time for self-care activities, such as meditation, reading, or hobbies that bring you joy. Create a routine that allows you to recharge and reduce stress. Also be kind to yourself. Usually we are hardest on our selves and also feel we don’t deserve self-compassion or self-care.
Keep yourself informed about the local culture, customs, and important services in your new country. Understanding the local healthcare system and knowing how to access emergency assistance can provide peace of mind.
Financial stress can impact your mental health, so it’s important to manage your finances wisely. Create a budget and save for unexpected expenses. Knowing that you have financial security can alleviate some of the anxiety associated with living abroad.
Embrace Cultural Differences:
Celebrate the unique experiences that come with living in a new country. Embrace the local culture, try new foods, attend local events, and explore the traditions. Cultivating an open and curious mindset can help you adapt and thrive.
Stay Connected with Loved Ones:
Maintaining ties with family and friends from your home country can provide emotional support. Regular communication with loved ones can help combat feelings of homesickness and isolation.
It’s been many years since I moved to the US. By building a support network, taking care of my mental and physical health, being kind to myself, finding work that brings me joy havs helped me ease into this expat life and enjoy it