What stresses expat men and what are some tips for reducing this stress?
- Work-related stress.
At this point in time there are more expat men working abroad than expat women. This is in a state of flux however, as more expat women become employed overseas.
Most expat men are posted overseas either to open or run a country office for a large corporation, and there is extreme pressure to succeed. Typically these offices are in developing countries where the work ethic is likely to be different from that of the home office.
The manager is often in the position of trying to convince employees to work faster and more efficiently. The home office is pressuring him to deliver on production and deadlines. He often feels unsupported and misunderstood by superiors who can’t imagine the reality on the ground, and frequently his efforts to change work patterns in his host country fall on deaf ears.
Tip # 1: Slow down and breathe!
I know this sounds counterintuitive. When there’s a lot to be done in a short amount of time, the tendency is to rush around as fast as you can. But the act of rushing itself creates more stress and anxiety. The antidote for this is to slow down and breathe. By this I mean close your eyes, put both hands on your belly, right below your belly button to begin. As you breathe in, feel the belly expand and as you exhale feel it contract. Do this several times to get a rhythm going.
Then put a count with each complete breath. So it’s one, inhale, the belly expands, exhale it contracts, two, inhale expands, exhale contracts and so on. If you have time, do this till the count of 10. If there’s less time even 3 counts will make a huge difference. It only takes a few seconds.
As you get the rhythm of this, you can remove your hands from your belly, and if you’re not in a private space, you can look down as opposed to closing your eyes. This really does work, so give it a try.
- Work/life imbalance.
This is usually discussed in relationship to women managing work and family life. But I think it’s a huge issue for men as well, particularly expat men, who may have to be on the phone half the night with their home office thousands of miles and many time zones away.
Tip # 2: Plan weekend or other times reserved for spouse, family, and/or your own personal enjoyment.
This can take the form of a date night with your partner, play times with your kids, or time out for a sport, work out or event you enjoy. What’s important is that you stick to it, baring any unforeseen emergency.
If you have a family, plan one night a weekend to have a family meal together, whether at home or going out. This will help you put your life into perspective and spend time with the people who are most important to you.
- Financial pressure and uncertainty.
Many expat men feel a huge financial pressure. You may be living a great life right now, but who knows what will happen when this post ends. There may be a fear of not having the job or the pay you want when you go back home. Or if there are job cuts, wondering if you will be affected.
Tip # 3: Make friends with the unknown.
Again, I realize this may sound counterintuitive. Who wants to be in the unknown? Knowing what will happen equals security, right?
Wrong. Both men and women cling to the illusion that they know what will happen in the future and are therefore safe. This is plain silly. The truth is we never know what will happen in the next moment. Anything can happen and frequently does. It’s the old joke of when God wants a good laugh; he looks at men’s plans!
There are so many examples of best-laid plans that never come to fruition for a myriad of reasons. I’m not suggesting that you don’t plan. That would also be silly. But be conscious of the fact that you’re in the unknown all the time anyway, and this situation is no exception. And do the breathing exercise above while contemplating this thought.
Tip # 4: Exercise, exercise and exercise.
This is really a no-brainer, but I include it here, not for the health benefits, that’s a given. But because when you exercise dopamine is released into the bloodstream. This is a brain chemical that creates a sense of well being, and is a key to many anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications on the market.
It’s one of the most important things you can do for yourself to decrease stress, anxiety and depression.
If you follow these tips, you’ll find yourself feeling more calm and relaxed no matter what the external pressure is. You’ll be glad you did!
To learn more about Expat Counseling and Coaching Services visit www.expatcounselingandcoaching.com.