Shaking off the ‘Expat Blues’

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Feeling a bit ‘flat’ after the holiday season?

We ALL feel like this after the excitement of the Holiday Season, regardless of our location: living abroad or not. It’s a normal slump in mood. But it can affect expats a little more, because the New Year brings a kind of ‘back down to earth’ emotion.

This an exciting chapter of your life: a New Year in a new country. You have a brand-new opportunity to explore unseen places and to get yourself out of a life-stagnating rut. So, why are feeling so ‘flat’? Why does your home country – or previous country, even – feel like the place you’d rather be right now?

It could be case of the ‘expat blues’. They grab the best of us, especially when the holidays roll around. Or rather, when the holidays are over. Come Christmas, or Thanksgiving, or whichever holiday is your top family tradition, it can be hard not to think of life ‘back home’ and the cosiness to be found with all those familiar comforts around you.

The expat blues can be especially potent at this time of year. You may have flown home for the holidays, or your family spent time in your new country, and now life is getting back to normal. School starts again, and the last piece of tinsel has been packed away.

Well, it’s time to cheer yourself up and shake off those blues. Snapping out of it can be difficult (and I hate to use that phrase in case you’re suffering from real depression – in which case, get proper help – but in this instance I am purely referring to a minor slump in mood.)

Here are some experienced tips that have worked before and will undoubtedly work again.

Laughter really is the best medicine

You might not feel like laughing right now, but the truth is that it’s one of the most effective things when it comes to immediately switching your mood from one track to the other.

Take the time to find some funny videos online or find one of your favourite comedy movies or stand-up recordings and just devote your full attention to it. It can be like an instant dose of brevity that makes it a little easier to get through the absence of the familiar.

Don’t neglect your connections

Your friends, past, present, and future, are important. Make sure to keep in touch with old connections either through the wonderful invention of the internet, or even the old-fashioned telephone. Perhaps give your relationship a special charm by becoming their pen pal instead. Write letters, real letters, on paper!

Making friends in a new place can be tough, but it’s essential. You can look for expat groups online and meet others who have made the move just like you. However, it’s important to build connections with those you’re sharing your new home with as well. The school gates can be perfect for this, if your child is young enough to need you there, and the school is one of the friendly ones. Alternatively, try social apps – many people recommend, attend work dos with your (or your partner’s) colleagues, or be brave and strike up a conversation in a café, if that kind of thing isn’t poor etiquette in your country.

Be a tourist

You’re settling into a new land, but besides getting used to the day-to-day, take the time to really appreciate where you are. Take a day to visit some of the most exciting activities and sights that your new home has to offer. Drink it in like you would if you were a tourist. It can help build an ongoing appreciation that you keep with you even as you get back to a normal daily life.

Think about why you’re really missing home

Simply put, when you find yourself missing something from home, ask yourself why you’re missing it.

Did it really add real value to your life or is it just weird that it’s no longer there? If it’s just the latter, then is it really a big loss to not have that familiar thing near you anymore? There will, of course, be some aspects of your old life, like family and friends, who really did have a lot of value, and you will naturally miss them. But often you may find you fixate on the little things, such as a good cuppa or a certain brand of chocolate.

This is just part and parcel of expat life, I’m afraid. It’s all about the little things, and more often than not you find that you’re just missing things to miss them. It’s a displacement emotion.

A sound body makes a sound mind

Your physical health and mental health are inextricably linked. A bad diet contributes to depression, as well as to a poor metabolism, which can affect your sleep. Poor sleep leads to an increased production of cortisol, the stress hormone that makes your body feel all tense.

Regular exercise, good diet, and sleep. You can’t skip them. Healthy living is a priority, not a hobby.

Don’t deny yourself

If you’re not feeling happy, it’s important to be OK with that. If you’re feeling that this is more than a temporary hump, then you should consider asking for help.

Depression can hit anyone at any point, even if you’ve moved to a fantastic place you’ve always dreamed of living in. Similarly, loneliness can affect us no matter where we are. Tell others how you’re feeling and don’t try to ignore your own emotions in a rush to ‘get better’.’ It doesn’t always work that way.

Don’t let the expat blues take hold of you

Heavy duty mental health problems can be more difficult to fix, but it’s worth repeating the steps above to see if they can shift your emotional state as it may well be a just an understandable blip. These tips will give you a mood boost when you need it the most.

You will probably find that the expat blues are just an occasional swing of the mood you have to get through, or you might find they’re more persistent. However, you can get over the slump, you just need to keep trying.

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