Relocation & Emotion – Understanding Why You’re Nervous
Moving to another country for work brings about a whole host of challenges.
Of course, we all know of the practical challenges: finding somewhere to live, finding a school for your children, organising your finances, meeting your new colleagues and trying not to eat the wrong food and fall gravely ill.
But every one of these challenges brings about a whole host of emotions and doubts. Our brains are complex and intriguing things; when we’re focussed on completing an important task, we can garner extreme focus and poise – “Sorry anxiety, I am far too busy to deal with you right now! I’ve got to figure out where I parked my rental car!”
It’s very easy to undermine the importance of a healthy mind in high-pressure environments and high-stakes assignments. Especially when important tasks need to be taken care of and need the utmost attention. In these situations there isn’t much time to reflect or understand what you are feeling.
The point of this article is not to scare anyone off or even to warn you of the negative emotions involved but instead want you to ask yourself: “Am I ok?” Whether you are going on assignment, thinking about it or are already there. Am I ok? If you find that the answer is “no”, then take action. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or assistance from those around you.
We’re all familiar with the feeling of being out of our comfort zone.
It’s uncomfortable and it can make us feel like we don’t belong.
Our bodies release different chemicals into our brain to prepare us for something harmful, uncomfortable or frightening. Our palms get sweaty, we feel nauseous, our mind is racing with “what ifs”…
But why do we feel this way when we move to a new country or city? Even if it seems like everything is organised and going to plan, you still might get that feeling in the pit of your stomach which tells you “something isn’t right”.
And then there are all those doubts: “Have I made the right decision?”, “Do I belong?” … this leads to a feedback loop in your mind which can be continuous unless you know how to deal with it. You may start feeling like a fraud, or maybe you’ll think that you are weak and not cut-out for the remote-working life. These aren’t the thoughts of a weakling or a coward—they are the thoughts of a human! Don’t be hard on yourself; there are ways to deal with these negative thoughts. You might not be able to control them, but there are ways to alleviate their effects on you and your productivity.
Are you feeling anxious? You’re not alone.
Have you ever been driving down a road and suddenly found yourself in a panic? Or maybe you’ve been at home, looking for your favourite sweater and you start to feel shaky and sweaty.
It’s easy to feel silly when this happens—after all, you know that the world isn’t ending just because you can’t find your favourite sweater or because you can’t figure out how to turn on the cooker. But your brain doesn’t know any better. When it thinks there are threats around every corner, it reacts accordingly by firing up its fight-or-flight reflex. And that means feeling afraid, panicked, or even just plain stressed out.
Anxiety is a natural part of being human. It is our brains’ way of protecting us from potential threats in our environment. But sometimes our brains get a little overzealous and start reacting to things that don’t really warrant a life or death situation—like getting lost in an unfamiliar place or not being able to find your favourite sweater. We’d like to tell you that we have an easy fix for this problem, but unfortunately it’s not something we can just fix. You need to work at it, and the best way to do this is by learning how to recognise when your anxiety is getting out of control.
Stress. It’s a word we hear every day, but what does it really mean?
Stress is different from anxiety. Very different. Stress can be made up of anger, sadness, shame, hatred, disenchantment, boredom… they all stress us out!
So what do you do when you’re stressed? Figure out what you are stressed about. If you try hard enough, you can home in on what is upsetting you. It may be that you are angry that your desk wasn’t ready on your first day of work; sad because you miss your family; or shame because you wore your best suit on dress-down Friday. Whatever it is, it can be dealt with! There’s no point in just accepting that you are stressed—you really need to find out why and then tackle it.
You will most likely find that it is something totally out of your control or related to one of the first two points mentioned above. It’s worth mentioning that everyone gets stressed especially when moving to another country for work (and even more so if English isn’t your first language). If this doesn’t happen for you then tell me your secret!
So how do you deal with stress? Well, there are many different ways but one thing that is always effective is to get some fresh air. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a 5-minute walk around the block or a hike in the mountains—just go outside and breathe!
Are you ready to talk about the Expat Blues?
A common phrase around the travelling forums is “expat blues”. Which can be quite simply translated as “loneliness and reflection”.
Why do we want to go and work abroad for an assignment? Answers differ, but mostly it is to further our career, meet new people, see the world, look good on Facebook etc. Whatever the reason, it is always a positive one. But we fail to think about the negative things and like all things in life, there are negatives. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.
So, be realistic and expect the lows. The “expat blues” kick in usually after the few weeks or months. Once the excitement dies down. The moment when you find yourself at home, by yourself, with nothing to do. All of the welcome parties are finished, and the settling in period is done. You’re not preoccupied so now it’s their chance to remind you of the bad things: “your family aren’t here”, “your things are still in transit”, “you can’t afford to travel back home often”. It is then that you realise that life as an expat is not all sunshine and rainbows.