Becoming an expat is stressful. Beginning a new phase in your life can bring up old fears that you thought you had dealt with years earlier. Naming these fears, and examining the coping mechanisms that worked up until you arrived at this stage of our life are the first steps towards developing effective new behaviors which will increase your self confidence and allow you to fully utilize your potential to enjoy life.
Here are five tips to you can use today to help you tune in to your inner compass when your world is spinning and your confidence is low.
1. Remember Who you are: Remember what it takes to make you happy.
The secret to being a successful expat depends on how you answer the question, “Can I still be me?
To answer this question, write ten “I am” statements about yourself — anything from “I am a cat-owner” to “I am friendly and outgoing.”
Before you move, ask yourself, “How will this list change after I move?” You may still be a cat-owner…but will you create that role the same way?
2. Keep your emotional first aid kit close to hand.
Chose coping phrases to repeat when you feel frazzled:
“Let go and relax.”
“I can deal with this.”
“I face the future with confidence.”
Download music that uplifts you, and helps you visualise yourself calm, cool and confident.
Use all your social media links, but most of all have with you phone numbers of trusted confidantes (for moments when you really need to hear a familiar voice)
3. Plan for downtime.
Your new job may fill your days, but long evenings and weekends on your own can drag you down over the first few months as a expat.
Plan to fill this downtime with meaningful projects. What about taking on a challenging creativity project. Writing a novel. Completing a painting?
Do some regular physical activity, anything from weight-lifting at the gym to joining a dance class, to taking walks around your new city.
When you nurture yourself, you communicate strength and confidence to others.
4. Take your time as you make new commitments.
Most expats need two to five years to make lasting friends. During your first six months, avoid joining organizations (let alone running for office). Sign up for short-term options so you can test the waters.
Don’t expect to find long term friends straight away, but each social contact you make can supply a valuable piece of your social life, and help you make contacts with more new groups.
5. Celebrate everyday life.
Reward yourself when you achieve something new, especially when its in a new culture and a new language. Think small. A walk around the lake. A perfect cup of coffee in a nearby coffee shop. Listen for the moments when you say, “I could get used to this…”. They will come more an more often.