As an expat self-care is very important. Here are some of the things that I instinctively did in-order to take care of myself during my first couple of years of immigrating, but also some things that I wish I did or even have access to.
( you know, being so old that I grew up without a mobile phone, or even more shocking , without an iPad).
Any way moving on.
So, what does self-care look like for an Expat?
As you know self care should be an integral part of your daily life.
But being an expat comes with some extra challenges,
such as not having anything that is familiar to you and in some cases not even the language,
you have lost your usual support system and you can even lose yourself.
This last point is a distinct possibility especially in the beginning when you are trying to figure out who you are within your new surroundings.
Our natural tendency is to try and fit in and believe me this is not an easy task and you can easily lose who you are and take all confidence with it and replace it with all your insecurities .
This makes self-care for an Expat even more important.
So what can self-care look like when you’re an expat?
Create your own space
Well first and foremost is to start to create a safe space.
Somewhere where you can just be yourself, without trying to constantly fit in, or where you feel judged by others or stressed out by your life.
A place where you can just be you or as much of you as you can be.
When I met my husband in 2000 he was still studying and I was selling wooden shoes to tourists, true story, so money was tight. So, in order to save money for a house we lived with my in laws.
Even if you all get along this is not the best of situations. It was only after buying our first house and I had complete control over my surroundings that I began to settle into my new country.
You learn a lot about yourself when you immigrate. One of the things you are forced to face is WHO you are outside your comfort zone and your support system.
This sounds scary but it could be a fantastic opportunity for you to reinvent yourself.
I mean you already have been brave by stepping out into the great unknown by moving, so why not be brave and become the person you always wanted to be.
A quick story for you: a, now, good friend said to me once, many, many years ago “ your weird” in a friendly and loving way.
This got me thinking that maybe I don’t have to be just like everyone else and try to conform to this new culture, it obviously wasn’t working and I was exhausted just trying to do so.
Maybe that was the problem and maybe I’ll just embrace the crazy. I mean if everyone already thinks this about me, why not be completely myself.
So, I did and I continue to do so. This was a freeing moment for me.
This was a difficult one for me when I first arrived here in the Netherlands. Technology had not yet caught up with my needs.
Only by my second or third year of living here was there a four digit code you could punch in to receive discounted oversea calls.
This meant that I could call home once a month for 30 minutes instead of for 10 minutes and only on special occasions.
Long live the Skype, even though it took my parents another 2 years to figure out how to download the app.
Connection in this case does not only mean calling with friends and family back home,
but also refers to you taking the time to cultivate new friendships.
Try and find new people to connect with, I found an Australian friend by sitting behind her in a café.
Trust me this will make the difference when the homesickness kicks in, if I did not have those relationships in my life, I would not have made it to 20 years or even 5.
Let it go
One of the major mistakes that I made for many years was to compare everything.
I kept looking back, so to speak, at what I thought was better back home in Australia.
You know that saying, “ the grass is always greener on the other side”.
This was the case for many years and it tore me to bits.
I could not settle down, my mind was always elsewhere, always busy with what I didn’t have. I talk about this in more detail HERE
Now I know that a lot of what I have said in the post you have probably heard before, but that’s okay.
Sometimes you need to hear something a few times before it becomes relevant to you.
Don’t forget that immigrating is a slow process that requires a heap of hard work and patience and the more you start to understand the new culture your experiencing,
the more the world becomes that little bit bigger, filling up with new possibilities and experiences.
Be kind to yourself
This was something I did not do for myself for many years. I was brought up, as a lot of you were, with the mentality of ‘suck it up’.
So I did. I ignored all the signs that I was not doing well and convinced myself that I was being silly and to just keep going.
This, of course, had its consequences.
I became depressed for a long time, which lead to a burnout.
Looking back, the burnout was a blessing in disguise as it forced me to, finally, to be kinder and more forgiving to myself.
So please learn from my mistake.
Take care of you.
Immigrating has its challenges, but taking care of yourself should not be one of them.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment below
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