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10 tips for staying mentally healthy as an expat

10 Tips for staying mentally healthy as an expat

Staying mentally healthy as an expat can be quite tricky, moving abroad can be something of a rollercoaster ride. Meeting new friends from around the world. Trying exotic foods and flavours. Dealing with culture shock and language barriers. Balancing work and your personal life on an entirely different schedule.

While all this may sound fun, and it can be, there are also many challenges that come with living in another country away from your family and friends in your home culture— you can always find yourself feeling homesick at some point.


Planning ahead

Planning ahead and maintaining a balance will help you stay mentally healthy. Here are some top tips to keep in mind:

  1. Make sure you have enough money saved up before moving abroad to cover your basic living expenses and any contingencies that might arise
  2. Do research on the country where you’re going to live, including the culture and customs, so that you know what to expect before arriving
  3. Try to find a few locals who can act as friends or family when you first arrive in your new home country so that you can be among those who speak your language and understand the cultural norms better than others around you
  4. Plan your visits back home – if you’re going to move abroad why not stay for a few months then plan to come home, it will give you something to look forward to
  5. Research some of your hobbies before you go. For example, where are they gyms? Are there any museums?
  6. Have a basic understanding of the language so you can communicate your needs


Building friendships

When you first move abroad, it can be hard to make friends. But with a little effort, you’ll find that people are actually more open and friendly than you might have anticipated. Here are some tips for making friends abroad:

  • Join a local sports team or activity group. These groups often include members from many different countries, so it’s easy to meet new people in this setting
  • Try to speak your new language with locals – even if it’s only broken phrases and simple words at first. You’ll find that the more you try, the easier it will get
  • Why not join an expats facebook page before you go? This will allow you to communicate with people who have been through what you’re about to go through


Improving your new language skills

If you are living abroad and learning a new language, it is important to be persistent. Set a schedule for when you will study each day and stick to it. We love Duolingo and Babble!

As well, try to find a native speaker who can help with your pronunciation, since that can make all the difference. Even listening to the locals speak will help you to pick up the accent.

Lastly, even if you are only going out once in awhile, try not to get too discouraged or frustrated when speaking with locals because they might not understand some of the words that we take for granted.


Getting active every day

There’s a reason why the word exercise comes from the Latin word meaning to exert. When you work out, your body releases endorphins that help to relieve stress and make you feel better. Plus, exercise is one of the best ways to lose weight and keep your body healthy. After all, our bodies were made to move.

Why not check out gyms or fitness centres in the area you’re going to be moving to. They may allow you to join clubs such as spin classes or badminton games or whatever sort of sport you are into. Alternatively, if you’re into outdoor exercise, look for some hiking trains or running routes where you can go to get yourself moving.


Reducing alcohol intake

Alcohol consumption is a common social practice in many parts of the world, but it can be costly to your mental health. It’s important to drink responsibly and know when enough is enough.

  • Get plenty of sleep during the night and exercise during the day
  • Choose quality alcohol over quantity
  • Avoid drinking on an empty stomach or before bedtime
  • Do not depend on alcohol if you are feeling socially anxious


Dealing with homesickness

Don’t worry about what others think. When you’re in a new place, it’s natural to feel like you don’t belong. But remember that most people are just too wrapped up in their own lives to pay attention to yours. The more time you spend with the locals, the less important your differences will seem.

My favourite mental health tip is to focus on the things that make you happy and find joy in little moments. Try not to dwell on negative thoughts or get too caught up with things that are out of your control; instead, take things one day at a time and be present in the moment.

Why not make a photo album or scrapbook of the new things you’ve seen or done since moving to show your family and friends back home, or begin an online blog to post about things you’ve found. You never know you might help someone just like you get over their fear of relocating.


Maintaining contact with family & friends

It’s important to maintain contact with your family and friends back home. Even if you feel that they are the ones who need to adjust their lives in order to be a part of yours, it’s still important to stay in touch. Video calls, Skype, social media chats – these are all great ways of staying connected when you’re abroad. And if you’re lucky enough to have someone traveling near by or living abroad at the same time, meeting up can provide a much-needed dose of laughter and perspective.


Connecting with locals

The first step to becoming a successful expat is to immerse yourself in the culture of your new home. One way you can do this is by connecting with locals and getting to know them better. You might find that once you show interest, they will open up and become more friendly. It’s important not to be afraid of making mistakes or saying something incorrectly – just go with the flow and have fun!


Remember why you moved away

Whether you moved for school, work or scenery, it’s always good to look back on why you moved. Try to remember that 5 years ago you dreamt of being where you are now.

Remembering why you made such a large move in your life can help put things in perspective. Reminding yourself of all that you’ve done is a positive, and it will help you realise that there’s nothing to be upset about when little hiccups come along.


Bring your home comforts

No matter where you end up, there will always be a part of home that you’re missing. And if you’re feeling homesick, one way to remember what you have waiting for you when this adventure is over is by bringing some comforts from home with you.

It can be anything from a photo album to your favourite pillow or blanket to a coffee machine. Bringing items that remind you of your past and present is important to help ease the process of starting a new life abroad.


How RHJ Law can help

We hope this post has been helpful. These 10 tips can help you stay mentally healthy, even when the going gets tough. Remember, it’s all about making sure you take care of yourself and don’t allow yourself to burn out. You deserve it!

If you need legal advice or assistance, be sure to contact the experts at RHJ Law. We’re able to guide you through what you need to know before moving abroad.

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