Moving abroad is an important step in one’s life that can generate strong feelings. It definitively creates excitement and positive feelings, but it can also trigger more negative ones, such as high stress, loneliness, sleeping disorders, or anxiety. The stress of expatriation usually starts before the departure, when people realize all the aspects that should be considered before the move. Expatriation always comes with its emotional difficulties, here are some tips to deal with them.
Before the departure
The main feeling experienced by expatriates before their departure is stress symptoms. These are often directly linked to the administrative formalities that should be cleared up in the home country, especially for first-time expats. From banking, tax, healthcare to travel documents, it is not easy to get well organized and not be overwhelmed by the number of tasks to do.
Our best advice at this step is anticipation. Make sure to have sufficient time to sort things out before the move. Create a list of everything you need to prepare and set a deadline for every task. As for documentation, it is highly advisable to save both (several) hard copies and electronic copies that you can bring with you to the different appointments. Gather all the important documents (identity cards, family record book) well in advance to avoid bad surprises.
You can also already emotionally prepare yourself for the changes ahead. Get information about the new environment and anticipate how your overall lifestyle can be impacted. Get guidance from other expatriates to know what they have been through, and how you would manage these situations yourself. Find a therapist online who can help you work through the emotions surrounding expatriation.
During your expat life
You just started your new life abroad and you are excited to discover your new environment, yet you feel disoriented and worried. Every expat needs adaptation and adjustment during the first months. It can take more than a year to feel completely at home in your new destination. Here are our recommendations to cope with stress and anxiety as an expat:
- Be positive and patient: it takes time and effort to leave your comfort zone and find back a balance in your life. Keep in mind the positive reasons why you have decided to live abroad, find joy in your everyday life, and take a break. Give yourself the time to observe and understand why you are feeling worried.
- Listen to your body: mental health is as important as physical health. If you feel that your emotions impact negatively your health over a long period, we advise you to find support and consult a doctor. If you have opted for international health insurance, you might have access to teleconsultation which allows you to have a first diagnosis from the comfort of your home.
- Stay open. You might be confronted with cultural differences that irritate you. By observing and trying to see things from a different perspective, you become more tolerant, and you will engage differently in the culture. Stay open to meeting new people, locals, or long-term expats, who can help you integrate more easily in your new country.
Expat mental health at work
There are so many types of expatriates: digital nomads, long-term travelers, career expats… People move abroad for different reasons, but many of them are making this choice to start a new professional challenge. The Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced the remote working trend and pushed employees to move for better job opportunities abroad.
Whether you have made the choice of working online or joining a company overseas, your work environment will change, and this can affect your psychological well-being. Many expats have experienced burn-out (or bore-out!) during their stay, sometimes even without realizing it. Burn-out has silent symptoms, such as a lack of motivation and drive, mental fatigue, or decreased satisfaction. If you feel some early signs of expat burn-out, do not hesitate to take action and talk about it with friends, family, and colleagues around you. Do not stay isolated and get professional help if needed.
Expatriation stress can happen to anyone. Make self-care a priority for yourself to enjoy your expat life to the fullest! Remember that many other expats had gone through the same struggles. Expatriation is a beautiful adventure that can be daunting sometimes, but very few people regret it!