5 Tips to Help Expat Women Manage Anxiety
Having been both an expat woman as well as a psychotherapist working with expat women all over the world, I’ve had lots of experience helping expat women manage anxiety while living abroad.
Why just women? Because women have different triggers for anxiety than men do, and express it in different ways. Next article will be on helping men manage their anxiety.
Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety for expat women and some tips for managing anxiety while away from home.
- Anxiety caused by moving and settling in to a totally new environment.
These are actually 2 issues that I’m incorporating into one as the common ground is feeling overwhelmed. We all know that moving is stressful, as is coming to a new country, where you might not speak the language or know anything about the cultural norms.
Tip # 1: Break everything down into manageable tasks.
The easiest way to decrease anxiety caused by feeling overwhelmed is to abandon the big picture and make lists of what needs to be done, then honing it down to daily tasks. Then it’s simply a case of putting one foot in front of the other and doing just what needs to be done in the moment, or in the day. Anytime you start to feel overwhelmed, come back to you list for today and breathe!
- Anxiety caused by comparing yourself to others.
This is really a plague among expat women. While everyone at time compares themselves to their peers, there seems to be a belief among expat women that ‘everyone has it all together except me.’
In 15 years of counseling and coaching expat women, I’ve yet to meet one of these women who thinks she has it all together, yet the phenomenon persists.
This is partly due to the fact that expats tend to be Type A personalities, as several studies have shown. Type A people tend to have a perfectionist streak, and anything short of perfection can come up lacking.
Tip # 2: You are unique. There is no one else with your particular mix of strengths and talents. So when you find yourself comparing yourself unfavorably to others, stop and make a list of your strengths.
And know that almost everyone else around you is feeling much the same way you are.
- Anxiety from feeling isolated.
Many expat women are ‘people pleasers’ and are used to having lots of people around them. Suddenly, you may find yourself in a situation where you don’t have close friends and family around, and have not had the time to make new friends.
Tip # 3: This too shall pass.
It’s really important to have some perspective and know that this is likely a very temporary situation. If you’re a working expat, you’re likely to make friends with your colleagues. If you’re an expat spouse, get involved!
Whether it’s your kids’ school, volunteering or learning something new, just make sure it’s something that involves other people.
- Anxiety caused by feelings of hopelessness and depression.
If you’re a person who has a history of depression, chances are you’ve developed some strategies for dealing with anxiety and depression over the years. You probably know some of your triggers, which are often life changes.
Tip # 4: Sometimes just identifying the fact that you’re undergoing a major life change can relieve anxiety.
To the extent that you’re able, get involved, and if that doesn’t work seek help. Either from your therapist at home, who may work using Skype, or at your local embassy, where they usually have a list of health providers they recommend.
- “Free floating anxiety.”
This is anxiety with no apparent cause that seems to come and go on it’s own accord.
Tip # 5: It’s helpful to notice what you’re telling yourself about yourself at these times, as that’s probably making you feel worse.
Meditating on your breath can also help quiet your thoughts and relax your mind, and is useful for all 5 types of anxiety. You can visit www.expatcounselingandcoaching.com to get a free copy of the eBook, Top Ten Tips for Daily Mindfulness.