How to overcome stressful expat situations

expat stress advice

Don’t let expat stress get the better of you.

The prospect of moving abroad can be very exciting. However, there are many obstacles to hurdle during the moving process which can cause a great deal of stress.

To help expats who find themselves in a stressful situation abroad, or even before moving, here are some common issues accompanied by some advice to help deal with stress.

The job

Maybe you’ve found a job abroad but miss your old one, or you’re trying desperately to find a new one but the job market isn’t on your side?

The best advice in this situation is to learn to adapt and to be flexible. The most useful quality an expat can have is adaptation to a new environment and an open mind. If you’re struggling with the new job you have two options: If you know it’s what you want to do, persevere and give yourself time to accept the new working environment. If you’ve made the wrong decision, it can only get worse with time, so look for something else.

The relationship

Maintaining a relationship as an expat through the inevitable troubles and stresses is a great challenge. It may be the case that there is one ‘working spouse’ who is the reason behind the move, and one ‘trailing expat spouse’ who has given up their career or previous life to adjust to a new one for their partner. In a marriage context, the move overseas may create new roles and responsibilities that each partner has to take up.

An expat relationship requires a great deal of adjustment, patience and cooperation. If there is an unequal share of responsibility, try to see things from the busy spouse’s perspective and offer cooperation and support. If tempers flare, keep calm and take some time out if necessary, because if you do it right this stress won’t last long and your partner will appreciate it in the long run.

The kids

Moving abroad is likely to be the most challenging time of your offspring’s childhood. They have to get used to a new school with new teachers and new teaching methods, a different language, and a whole new way of life. It can really test your child’s resilience, especially during their teenage years.

In the case of your children, it is imperative that you put their needs before your dreams in case their lack of security creates a distance between you and your relationship is compromised. Make an effort with them and do what you can to ensure they feel as comfortable as possible.

Homesickness and isolation

Feeling homesick and isolated is probably the most common trigger of expat stress and anxiety. You miss your friends, and being this far away from your family is proving painful. Consequently you’re lacking a support system, and the reassuring voices of those close to you are now reduced to voices on the phone or words on an email. The different language isn’t just a barrier but a great brick wall which makes even the simplest of tasks seem like a mountain to climb. The everlasting challenges may make you question the whole idea of an expat life. However, this is completely normal and can be overcome.

Rule number one for moving abroad is to have a purpose and a strong sense of adventure, or a reason to leave your old place. Reassure yourself that you do indeed want to be there and motivate yourself by giving yourself something to look forward to or a task to achieve.

Lonely, or new, expats are most commonly recommended to join an organisation or be open to new ideas. Create a new normal that you can adapt to, and keep in touch with your loved ones by exploring the new technology of social media and appreciating the contact that you do have.

Moving abroad may not be for the faint-hearted, but there are always ways to get through it and turn the experience into the dream you’d always imagined it to be.