Depression and Expat Women; 3 Strategies for Overcoming Depression
As a psychotherapist working online primarily with expat women and their spouses, I’ve seen my fair share of depression. As an expat woman myself (until very recently) I’ve had my fair share of depression. I therefore feel uniquely qualified to write about this phenomenon.
The psychological literature tells us that women in general suffer depression more than men. Personally, I think depression shows up more in women because it gets expressed more overtly. I’d like to speak to some of the reasons why expat women get depressed and what they can do to overcome it.
Expat women who are not working have a tendency to isolate, particularly when they first move to a new country. It can feel quite overwhelming to learn a new language, get kids, if you have them, settled in school, and find friends to connect with. When this goes on for a while, depression can ensue.
Strategy # 1: Find something you truly would like to do, preferably something that involves other people and go do it. No ‘should’s’ here, and no fudging.
Try something that tickles your fancy, something you’ve always wanted to do, or something that feels like a challenge that you’re up to. Just connecting with other expats isn’t always enough. But connecting with people that share an interest with you is.
As mentioned above, this can frequently exact a toll. When it feels like there are more things to do than you could possibly accomplish, some of us would rather get into bed, pull up the covers and turn the electric blanket on to 10! Sometimes it fees like doing nothing beats having to run races with yourself.
Strategy # 2: Try the 10 breaths exercise.
In fact, when you’re feeling overwhelmed it helps to slow the mind and body processes way down, before tackling what needs to be done. I suggest the following exercise:
Breathing normally, (this is not a deep breathing exercise) put both hands on your belly, just below your belly button, and close your eyes. As you breathe in, feel the abdomen expanding and as you breathe out, feel it contracting. Do this for several breaths till you have the rhythm of your breath.
Then give a count to each complete breath. So It’s one, inhale, belly expands, exhale contracts, two belly expands as you inhale, contracts on exhale, and so forth. Continue till you reach the count of 10. When you notice your mind wandering off in thought, just gently bring it back to your belly, your breath and the count.
By the end of this exercise you’ll feel more calm, relaxed and better able to prioritize what actually needs to be done today and what can wait. If you’d like to download my free eBook, Top Ten Tips to Daily Mindfulness, visit www.expatcounselingandcoaching.com and hit the download button.
- Judging or criticizing yourself.
Studies have shown that most career expats and their spouses are Type A personalities. In other words, they tend to have unreasonably high expectations of themselves and they tend to be perfectionists. Anything short of perfection is reason enough to get down on yourself.
Also, many expat women pride themselves on appearing to have it all together. Many expat clients have told me that everyone has it all together except them. I’ve yet to meet one of these women who thinks she has it all together, but that’s another story.
Strategy #3: Become conscious of your negative beliefs about yourself, and replace them with what is actually true.
Since it’s impossible to know what is really going on with another person, I suggest that as much as possible, you throw comparisons out the window!
If you’re feeling depressed, or down, try remembering what you were thinking that triggered your bad feelings. A thought always precedes a feeling, so try and follow the thread back to the thought that triggered the feeling. It takes some practice, but you can do it.
When you have the thought, say, “I’m a mess and Jane always looks so cool and collected,” try and notice this as a thought in your mind and nothing more. A thought is a belief, which is just a brain wave going through your mind, that’s all.
Then ask yourself what is actually true in this situation. Not sugarcoated, just the pure truth. Maybe it’s “I’m not always a mess, and I don’t really know how Jane always is as I only see her occasionally.” Right away, you’ve dropped the negative belief in favor of the facts, which are never as bad as a negative belief.
If you follow these 3 simple strategies, doing more of what you really want to do, following the 10 breaths exercise daily, and monitoring your negative beliefs, you’ll be surprised at how much better you feel.
For more information, or to book a free 30-minute session with Dhyan, visit www.expatcounselingandcoaching.com.