How to Minimize Stress Before the Summer Break; 3 Top Tips
This is the time of year when many expats start to think about leaving their host countries either for other postings, or to return home, for vacation or permanently. It is an extremely stressful time of saying goodbye, packing up, and dealing with strong emotions. Even if you are returning at the end of the summer, chances are that some good friends will not. In many expat communities, it is estimated that there is about a 30% turnover rate each year.Here are 3 top tips on how to minimize stress before the summer break.
Typically non-working spouses and children will return home for the summer, leaving the working spouse/parent behind. This can create separation anxiety, particularly for young children who may not understand that they will reunite with their parent in the near future. And 2 months is not even a concept that younger children can begin to understand.
It is important to reassure children that they will soon see their parent and can Skype or be in contact with him or her frequently. Just knowing that they will be able to actually see the parent they are leaving will help reduce anxiety in young children
And for adults, here are some tips that help:
How to minimize stress before the summer break, Tip #1: Make a Plan
It is especially important now to plan for how you can reduce stress during the summer months. If you are the working parent left behind, try not to fill your time only with work, however tempting that may be. Exercise is crucial as is contact with supportive friends and colleagues. And don’t neglect finding ways to have fun, which is the greatest stress reliever of all.
Although the non-working spouse and kids are frequently going to be with relatives who will offer support, it is not the same as co-parenting. It can be stressful to be a single parent when one isn’t used to it, even if just for the summer. Planning for alone time is important, as is taking time to be with other adults, especially close friends and family who you don’t get to see the rest of the year.
Many expats, whether single or married, have a house in their home country but many do not and stay with friends and relatives. Not being in your own home and in familiar surroundings can be stressful no matter how much you love the people you’re staying with. If this is the case, try to find some things you love to do away from home, even if it’s just going out for a coffee. Again, exercise ALWAYS helps
How to minimize stress before the summer break, Tip #2: Make a List
Simply the act of having to pack up, decide what to bring, what to leave behind and what to sell or give away, in the case of those leaving permanently, can be daunting. Many expats tell me they get stuck in this phase as it involves making decisions that only they can make and cannot delegate to others. It is a good idea to make lists, and plan to work on one room at a time. Breaking a large task down into its smallest components is known to reduce stress.
Also, working backward from the date of departure, figure out what you need to have done by when. You can then convert this information to weekly or even daily lists to help relieve anxiety.
How to minimize stress before the summer break, Tip #3: Make Time
Making the time to say goodbye to friends who are leaving is important for expats who will be returning after the summer. Many of us make life long friends when overseas and it can be heart wrenching to say goodbye. Yet the importance of saying goodbye cannot be overstated. Let friends know how much they’ve meant to you, and share special moments, not just at goodbye parties, but also by getting together and doing things you’ve both enjoyed.
If you are leaving permanently, it can be even more difficult to say goodbye. You may feel like you would rather just slink out of town, but in the long run this doesn’t help. If you’re not returning, it is important to acknowledge the people who have made your time in your host country a positive experience. And this often includes acquaintances as well as close friends.
It is especially helpful to remember that if you hadn’t made good friends, you wouldn’t feel badly about leaving. And the ability to form these friendships is something inside of you and something you take with you wherever you go. So cherish this bittersweet time, remembering to nurture yourself in the process. And if you can share this with your children, you can help them relieve some of their stress as well. Bon voyage and have a wonderful summer!
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