We experience stress in situations when we are faced with something challenging, where we don’t believe we’ve got enough resources to deal with it. These can be situations that are threatening, challenging or very emotional.
There are multiple stress triggers in the expat life. In the previous article – the Expat Stress Explained – we took a closer look at how stress works and saw just an overview of how you can deal with it.
Every move is different, no matter how many times you’ve done it. It might become easier on the logistical front the more you move around the world. Our mind though, although prepared for various differences, needs to deal with completely new challenges each time. Do the below sound familiar?
– remembering about a number of things to do
– having countless long To-Do lists to be completed within unrealistic deadlines
– partner and/or children hating the idea to move abroad
– you hating the idea of moving abroad but having to do that anyway
– learning new language intensely
– having to speak foreign language constantly
– feeling alone in the new location
– you actually adapting well, but your partner and/or children are not
– trying to figure out how to stay in touch with the loved ones back home/in your previous location
– other people who constantly feel like they know better what you should do
– being surprised about how living in this country is different from your previous visits as a tourist
– and the list continues…
We’ll now take a closer look at the three strategies – freeze, flight and fight – in more detail so that it can help you deal with any stressors you might currently be facing. We will start with ‘freeze’.
Freeze and reflect
The freeze reaction is one of the most passive ones. It leaves you pretty much where you are and does not make you the owner of your life. It doesn’t actively initiate any changes. Unless you use this downtime to your advantage.
When you find yourself in a place, where you feel like the life is slipping through the fingers, where you feel like you’re losing control, where you feel like you’re not going in the right direction but it just sort of happens anyway – use this moment wisely! This is the moment of self-reflection that may help you move forward and melt the ice you got freezed in [metaphorically].
Although you will be taking actions after identifying this moment, you will not be actively changing your reality just yet (unlike if you would using active (fight) strategies). The actions you will take while “frozen” may include (but are not restricted to) the following:
Describing all your current thoughts, reflections, stressors, happy moments and sad moments; you would just try to take a closer look at what is happening, why do you feel the way you feel, what you are currently doing (if anything) to change this. Just focus on how things look or feel right now. Thanks to this you will have a great point of reference for the future and you will see how you’ve changed your approach over a year or couple of months’ period.
Connected to the above, but with a slightly different focus. The point of just sitting down, stopping the everyday rush and flow of things that we stopped controlling is that you understand what is it that you want, what is possible and what you currently have. Again, this serves you as a reference point. You realize what you really want (vs. what others tell you you should want or do), who you really are and what your core values are.
It helps me out in everyday life and that’s why I want to share it with you – not because it’s just a popular concept now. Start with a positive log! Everyday write down at least one positive thing that happened (if there were more write all of them of course!). Even if your day seemed really bad and tiring, try to think of a nice thing that happened. Maybe you had a nice meal? Maybe you tried something new? Maybe you messaged a good friend? Maybe a stranger smiled at you on the street? Remember, it doesn’t need to be any massive success or project closure – that is not the point of this exercise. The point is to start noticing the good moments every single day and simply be more present in the moment.
If you’d like to have a moment with yourself and think about what you value, how things currently stand and prioritize this whole lot of information that comes your way – I encourage you to download the exercise book from Project Abroad’s website. A very valuable exercise, short and to the point. When you go through all four exercises, you will know where you stand and what your priorities are at the moment.
On the ‘staying positive’ note, I also recommend a very good podcast called Mindful Expat by Dana Nelson. Definitely check it out! It talks about various struggles that expats face and provides very useful insights into how you can make the best out of the life abroad while staying true to yourself.