How to Beat the Expat End-of-Summer Blues
For many expats, the end of summer is a particularly poignant and difficult time as we are frequently returning from time spent in our home countries with family and close friends. When we return “home” to our host country, we may find ourselves feeling depressed, lonely and a little out of sorts. It can be a challenge to realign yourself and make the most of the coming year when you’re already feeling a bit lackluster. The following are some tips for how to beat the expat end of summer blues.
How to Beat the Expat End of Summer Blues, Tip # 1: Ask what matters most to you and what you’re missing:
Ask yourself what really matters most to you at this time. Is it your relationship with your spouse and/or children? Having friends to confide in? Becoming involved in something that is truly meaningful to you? What don’t you have that you’d like more of in your life?
This may involve taking an inventory than you’re not feeling quite up to making. You may think that some questions are better left unasked, particularly if they reveal what’s lacking in your life. But acknowledging the problem is always the first step toward solving it.
If we try to keep negative feelings down, they fester, just like a dirty sore that’s covered up with a bandaid. But if they’re exposed to the light of day and cleaned out, the natural healing process begins just as it does with the body. I can promise you this, although it may not happen immediately.
How to Beat the Expat End of Summer Blues, Tip # 2: Take one concrete step:
Pick the area of your life that matters most to you right now. Then take one concrete step toward getting more of what you want in this area. It doesn’t matter how small the step is. What’s important is to do it. If there are several areas where you’d like to see improvement, prioritize them, and take one small step toward realizing each goal.
Limiting beliefs are those things we tell ourselves about ourselves, usually negative, that get in the way of acting on our own behalf.
Recently Lauren, a 34 year old expat mom, came to see me because she was feeling isolated, lonely and worried about depression, as she had a family history of it. I asked her if she had a support network here and she said no. When we began to look at the issue more closely, she told me that she had recently met a woman at an event that she liked but couldn’t bring herself to call and suggest getting together.
When I asked her what feelings came up when she thought about calling, she said fear and anxiety. As thoughts always precede feelings, I asked her what she was telling herself about herself when she felt the fear. She thought about it and said that she didn’t think this woman would like her. When I asked why not, she said that she really wasn’t all that clever and funny.
So now we had her limiting belief: The potential friend wouldn’t like her because she wasn’t clever and funny enough. I then had her say, “I tell myself that she won’t like me because I’m not clever and funny.” This creates some distance between the belief and the truth. If it’s just something I’m telling myself, then maybe I can tell myself something else instead.
How to Beat the Expat End of Summer Blues, Tip #4: Ask what is really true in this situation:
When Lauren looked at the naked truth, she realized that she didn’t know whether this woman would like her or not. And that her mother had always told her she wasn’t clever and funny and now she believed it!
So it was necessary for Lauren to be willing to hang out with not knowing, (which was the truth) as uncomfortable as it was for her, in order to make the call. Often I find that most of us are more comfortable holding on to a negative belief than we are with being in the unknown, as crazy as it sounds.
How to Beat the Expat End of Summer Blues, Tip # 5: Go back to step number 2. Take a risk and one small step:
The next week Lauren came back to see me and reported that she had called her new friend, in spite of her fear, they had met for coffee and she was feeling more courage about reaching out than she ever had before. It had been illuminating for her to recognize that her limiting belief was simply a belief and nothing more.
How to Beat the Expat End of Summer Blues, Tip # 5a: Act in the face of fear:
I am reminded of a recent research study done with multi-millionaire entrepreneurs. The researchers asked their subjects a range of questions regarding their thoughts, feelings and actions. They then administered the same questionnaire to a control group of random people.
One fascinating finding was that both groups reported the same amount of fear in the face of risk taking behavior. The difference between the two groups was that the multi-millionaires didn’t let fear keep them from taking action where the control group did. For the millionaires, fear was something they took for granted when taking a risk; it didn’t occur to them to allow the fear to prevent them from acting.
It is normal to feel fear in the face of risk taking and trying something new. Everyone feels it. And the end of summer and the beginning of the school year is deeply imprinted on us as a time for new beginnings. So this year, make a decision to fully engage in your life. Identify what you want, see if there are any limiting beliefs getting in the way and if so, identify them as simply beliefs instead of truth. Then take a risk and one small step toward getting what you want. Let the year begin!
Dhyan Summers is a California state licensed psychotherapist and was in private practice with the expat community in New Delhi, and around the world using Skype for the last 9 years. She has recently relocated to Ashland, OR. where she continues to work with the expat community worldwide using Skype and FaceTime. Visit www.expatcounselingandcoaching.com to learn more.