And we’re down to the last, most active stress-reducing strategies group. Let’s fight! Let’s take action to lead happy and fulfilling lives abroad!
Fighting is not what we literally mean today though. Let’s get this cleared up straight away. No boxing, no kicking, no punching here 🙂 Fighting in this context is simply a metaphor of some form of intentional action leading to reducing stress levels in your body. In many many cases strategies from this group help us make an actual change to the situation and be leaders of our own lives.
You might feel uncomfortable doing some things and have been running away from them (see: flight strategies) in the past, but you intentionally try to make the effort to fight the stress you encountered.
Go out of your comfort zone and try one new thing at a time
For example, you might have difficulty making new connections in your new home, either because of the cultural differences that you didn’t quite grasp yet or maybe not being fluent in the local language. Although you would of course be scared of this and think that you don’t have enough resources to overcome the challenge of meeting new people – you could still go for a meet up, local conference, food market or find a place that enables you to continue doing your hobby.
It is likely that you won’t make life-long friends showing up on a meet-up just once, of course. However if you do it consistently and try to make a routine out of it, there is a chance for you to feel more at home that way and less lonely, seeing familiar faces regularly and having a hobby you can hold on to. Also, whenever you manage to have a conversation with someone or use a foreign language effectively – your stress levels will decrease. And with every other time the stress connected with this particular situation will simply be smaller.
Reach out to your friends and family
You’re the one that went abroad. Your friends who stayed continue leading their lives and did not experience so many changes as you have over the past weeks or months. It’s worth keeping that in mind whenever you start complaining about how rarely you talk to each other or how they “never” reach out to you.
I’m playing a bit of a devil’s advocate here right now, but my experience shows that it seems like you need to be the one who initiates more conversations. Especially after a couple of months where the initial excitement or leaving blues fades out and everyone is back in the rush of everyday activities. That’s not to say your friends don’t care. That is just to say that life is what it is and things like time differences, work and everyday rush simply always stand in the way. That’s part of the reality and we can’t change it. But we can change how we approach it.
You might also like: Expat relationships
If you feel overwhelmed – seek help! Nothing wrong with it.
It might also be that despite of identifying the challenges and stressors, you are just not able to force yourself to take action. There is just no way you can imagine going for a meet up in your host country where you need to speak the language you are not fluent in. No way! Or you know you should practice the language, take lessons and all, but you find yourself decorating the house and complaining about your situation to your friends back home (who can’t really relate and so it doesn’t impact the relationship positively).
You are in a vicious circle of ineffective stress-fighting strategies. What can you do? You might need this one little extra push from someone trusted and impartial.
A very good way to get out of it is to seek help from someone with an outside perspective. Like a psychologist or a coach, for example. I know that many people shudder when they hear the word psychologist as it is often associated with serious disorders , mental illnesses and psychiatric wards. It is not the only thing psychologists deal with though! The key is to do your research and find someone who you like and trust, someone who just resonates with you as well as a therapy method that is appropriate for you at a given point in time.
When you go to a coach, your work will likely be more focused on action, creating goals and steps to achieve them one by one. You need to be ready to make a change and take action. With a psychologist (depends on the type of therapy they specialise in) there is an additional type of support they can provide. They can help you stop and think through what you want to reflect on, on who you are, why you feel in a certain way, what might have shaped your attitudes. They can assist you in your self-reflection process. On the basis of this you can start working on making a change that will improve your situation.
A great website that lists therapists who focus especially on working with expats is International Therapist Directory. Great way to start the search for support when you’re abroad!
Previous articles from the series:
What are your ways of dealing with stress after you’ve moved abroad? What helped you reduce the stress and all the fuss related to moving abroad? Are your strategies different from how you used to react in your previous location? How have they changed over time?