Many expats still experience relocation blues even well into 6 months and longer, into their new foreign assignments. It manifests itself in low energy, minor depression, loss of interest, the feeling of imbalance, disconnect, and uneasiness. Sometimes, this emotional state can be more profound like an urge to cry, unexplained anger, boredom, sudden pain in the body, anxiety. For more experienced world travelers, relocation blues reveal themselves in milder symptoms: fatigue, which goes away after good rest; intermittent disconnect and disorientation.
It always seems like a continuous emotional roller-coaster every time you move, cycling from excitement about the new post – the desperation of packing and saying goodbyes – newness and liveliness of foreign destination – the pain and frustration of adjustment – plateauing in stability and contentment – repeat.
What happens with our minds when we move to a new culture?
The job of our brain is to keep us safe. When we face something new, the natural reaction is fear for many of us or at least the feeling of caution that gauges the safety of the situation. It clings to the past routines, positive experiences, comfort, that was established, stable and consistent. That reminds us about how good it felt then and there and how uneasy and different it feels now and here. It doesn’t matter where we are geographically positioned in the world: be it in a well-developed with modern conveniences places or in third world countries, where running water happens on occasion. The good news is that most of us are quite adaptable and flexible creatures. We can adjust to any situation, but it takes some time and some emotional work.
Change is always uncomfortable until it is not.
Relocation blues are caused by a change in our lifestyle. We get uprooted from an established environment and move to a new one, which can be in general better than the previous one, but not always easy to accept and enjoy right away. One friend of mine commented about his vacation in Fiji. Spending several days in a 5-star hotel on an island in the South Pacific, he admitted he had never felt at home there. No wonder, we often hear that people long for rest coming home from vacation.
With expats those feeling can be profound. Expats don’t go on vacation to a foreign country, they move there to spend several years of their lives. Change always brings some uncertainty and doubt, sometimes it frightens. Sometimes the possibility of change inspires and motivates us to pursue doing what we have been dreaming about for some time. It depends on us and our vision of the potential we see in that change. They say with the experience of moving and living overseas, it becomes easier to endure the relocation and adjust to a new culture. It’s true in some way. I believe with every move we just become more resilient and resourceful, which helps us with an understanding of ourselves and our situation.
Help yourself first.
The relocation blues cannot be avoided. We are emotional human beings and thrive on allowing ourselves to feel and experience feelings. What can be done to help ourselves stay connected to our authentic selves and find that balance in our lives during and after the relocation?
Slow down your everyday rhythm.
Even if you need to stop doing some usual things which before were easy and fast to fulfill. You can pick on that later when other more important problems are out of your way. Set priorities and do only what’s important right now. Never mind about vacuuming the house or cooking the dinner, even if it is paramount for some of us. It is perfectly fine to focus on setting the Internet connection first and having fried eggs for dinner in a dust-covered kitchen.
Take care of your well-being.
How often we feel guilty about doing things for ourselves? Latte and blueberry muffin during a visit with a friend – why not? It’s OK once in a while. Or enjoying half an hour of sunbathing on the top of a roof swimming pool of that hotel you are staying in, while your spouse and kids are out at work and at school. It seems like an unthinkable, a sinful thing to do. If it makes you feel better, do it.
Be kind to yourself.
Allow yourself to feel your feelings whatever they may be. You are lucky if you can confine them in someone you trust. If you feel completely isolated and lonely, make your journal your best friend. Pour your worry on the paper. Write it out of your heart. Feel the relief, pat yourself on the shoulder. Know you have done an amazing job for your sake and the sake of others.
Your loved ones are going through the same adjustment period as you are. They might also feel some emotional discomfort and sadness. Help yourself first, so you can be available for people who are dear to you. Remember the flight attendant’s instruction about what to do during the low-level oxygen in the cabin? When the mask drops off the ceiling of the airplane, put it on your face first, then help others. You know what happens if you don’t take care of yourself first and don’t put your oxygen mask on? You’ll pass out because of the lack of oxygen and then you won’t be able to help anyone around you.
This is it for today. Remember life is a journey of joy. Embrace it!
Let me know what you are doing. Let’s talk about relocation blues. Schedule a call with me.
To find more about relocation blues, follow the link here.