Living abroad can be an emotional roller coaster and can also, unfortunately, be a factor in triggering depression. In accordance with the WHO’s 2017 annual World Health Day which has focused on depression, it is important to address this issue.
In fact, this mental illness affects over 300 million people around the world and can strike anytime and anywhere, impacting expats during their time abroad. As an expat, being far from your family, adapting to new cultures and starting a new life can all be sources of added stress. To deal with this, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Stay connected to home
Staying in touch with your friends and family is important when you’re in a situation like this. Stay opened with them about how you’re feeling. If you’re not a fan of Skype, there are many smartphone apps like WhatsApp and Viber that allows you to message, call and even video chat other users.
But don’t get stuck in it
Try to avoid staying on your phone or computer all day talking with them. This will not help you fight your depression since you’ll be cooped up at home all day, thinking about what you’re missing back home while not doing anything in your host country. Since you still won’t really be with your friends back home, you might feel as though you were missing out which will not help your state of mind.
Meet people going through the same experience
You might feel lonely once in awhile when you move to a new country, and meeting foreigners who are living in your host country can help you cope with this. They might understand certain things or emotions that you’re going through that people back home or your local friends don’t understand. This also helps you experience new cultures that you might not know about!
Explore new places around your host city or country. Remember that your home will still be there and waiting for you when you go back. So try to make the most of your time abroad by enjoying the little things and the little pleasures, even if that only means going for a walk, reading in a park or grabbing a bite to eat in a local restaurant.
Speaking of grabbing a bite to eat, be careful of what you eat and drink! As strange as it sounds, this can worsen your state of mind. Many people tend to forget to eat healthy and end up gaining weight abroad, making them even more depressed. Try to avoid this by staying healthy, which is one of the best remedies to fight depression! Drinking is also a habit many people tend to take while abroad, especially students. If you are thinking about drinking, moderation is key to avoid sending your body into a downward spiral. Try to find other activities, or try to control the level of alcohol while going out.
Chart your feelings
Write about why you feel depressed with the dates to see if there are specific things that trigger it. Loneliness, feelings of guilt, missing out, or just of missing people can all make expat life a little harder.
By comparing the good and the bad days, you might find out what triggers your depression. Once you have found the possible reasons, make changes. It might be scary to cut out certain things or people out of your life while abroad, but it can help you lose the negativity around you.
Lastly, if you can’t seem to fight depression, don’t be scared to seek counseling. Depression is nothing to be ashamed about, and sometimes reaching out to a therapist might be the best answer.
This illness is becoming more and more common throughout the world, so it is important to talk about it. If you are suffering from a depression while abroad, don’t fight it; deal with it.