Today, the world seems like a smaller place. Businesses operate on a global scale, low-cost operators fly to every corner of the globe and the internet makes it easier for us to cut through the red tape, obtain the necessary visas, book our flights and relocate just about anywhere.
A recent survey from Manpower says that more than one in three of us are willing to move overseas for career reasons. In many cases, that move will also entail better weather and a lower cost of living, so it is easy to see why millions decide to up sticks and move every year.
It sounds exciting, but relocating to an entirely new place can also be one of the most stressful experiences we go through, often leading to anxiety and depression.
Expats face greater probability of mental health problems
An American study by Sean Truman found that 50 percent of US expats are at high risk of mental health conditions such as stress and anxiety. This is two and a half times higher than in those who remain at home. The causes are various, but include the following:
- Adjusting to different cultural behaviour and expectations
- Missing family, friends and familiar surroundings
- Exposure to poverty and violence in some countries
- The need to be completely self-sufficient
Social isolation and homesickness are among the biggest challenges that the expat will face, and part of the reason is that while the traveller might be accustomed to business trips or holidays to different locations, finding oneself there for good is a different matter entirely.
Escalation is common
Another problem is that once anxiety or depression starts, it can easily escalate, because of those very circumstances that triggered it in the first place. At home, you can try to combat the symptoms by going out with friends, taking a long walk in a favourite location or consulting with your GP.
Expats feel, rightly or wrongly, that they are all alone. The support structure isn’t there, and so in addition to the factors that caused these feelings, they have the additional weight of knowing they have this anxiety to deal with – and that they have to face it alone.
There are solutions
That all sounds very dark, and of course, that is half of the problem. When you are in a black hole of anxiety, you are often only able to see the problems. Take a deep breath and follow the following three tips to help you see the light at the end of the tunnel.
- It is very difficult to be truly isolated in this modern online age. Technology allows you to chat with family and friends on the other side of the planet at any time. Use that support structure as a crutch when you have to.
- Take care of yourself. Relocating is mentally and physically arduous. Take daily exercise, don’t neglect your diet and take a serotonin booster to help your mood and get your sleep rhythms under control.
- Give it time. Relocation is a bigger deal than we first realise, and it is normal to feel a little lost at first. Accept that, go with it and enjoy the adventure of a lifetime.