Expat survival skills for tough times
As expats, we have all experienced challenges and obstacles along our career paths abroad. Sometimes those challenges can feel very overwhelming and suffocating. Many times they can sink us to our knees and make us want to crawl into a hole and die. When that happens the proverbial “pity-party” kicks in and then it’s tickets. Unless you have a strategy in place to get yourself back on a positive track quickly, life can get very depressing abroad.
Over the years I’ve learned how to talk myself into a better headspace when challenges get too overwhelming. And believe me, when you leave the comforts of your home country to move abroad, your challenges will always be ten times bigger than those of your friends back home. After all, they have family, close friends and familiarity to comfort them when times get hard. But the average expat has none of that. You only have yourself and you’d better learn to become your own best friend if you are going to survive away from home.
I’d like to share some coping skills with you that have worked for me in the past:
- Get into the habit of starting each day with some quiet time where nobody is likely to disturb you. I use early mornings because my brain feels fresh. Have a special journal or notebook where you write down your goals, the things that you have in your life that you feel grateful for and a list of accomplishments that you are proud of. Spend 10 – 15 minutes reflecting on this list, it helps you sharpen your focus and move into a positive frame of mind.
- Teach yourself positive self-talk designed to comfort and soothe you. It’s so easy to call yourself awful names like “Idiot” or “Moron” and that kind of self-talk just makes you feel worse. You don’t always have someone trustworthy to turn to as an expat, so learning to be your own best friend is necessary for your survival away from home.
- Allow yourself a maximum of half an hour to wallow in your pity-party. Seriously. Set your alarm and then lie down, cry, scream, do whatever it takes to vent your frustrations. Then get up, make yourself a cuppa and start the positive self-talk.
- Drop your guard and learn how to get close to people. Some of the best friends I’ve ever made have been other expats abroad. We all have the same struggles, we all feel homesick from time to time and we all have to learn how to survive away from home. Make it a goal to develop close friendships because now more than ever you will need reliable friends.
- Learn to distract yourself from your emotional pain. It's easy to hole up in your apartment and sink into a depression when you feel homesick, but this is the time to go out, meet more people, watch a movie, learn the local language, do anything but lie around feeling sorry for yourself. The more you focus on your emotional pain the worse it gets.
- Learn to pat yourself on the back a lot. Congratulate yourself when you accomplish even small things, like learning to say a few words in the local language, or cooking a new dish, or even making a new friend. Nobody else is there to tell you how well you’re doing so it might as well be you!
These simple strategies can be very powerful if you are self-disciplined enough to practice them. Self-reliance is everything when you’re trying to survive thousands of lonely miles away from home.
Check out my personal blog: www.thatsuitcasegirl.com
- Amour Setter is a Digtal Nomad/Entrepreneur who has been traveling the world and working remotely for the past 5 years