10 Strategies for Coping with Loneliness and Isolation as an Expat

10 Strategies for Coping with Loneliness and Isolation as an Expat

Coping with Expat Life

Maybe this is your first international move, or maybe it’s your fifth. But, one thing is certain and that is when the honeymoon phase of moving to your new location, it can be super overwhelming and feel awful. You may have been excited about this expat assignment. Perhaps you’ve always fantasized about the glamorous life you would live in London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, or Singapore or how calm and at peace, you would be spending all of your free time walking along the beach in Barbados, Thailand, or even the tiny islands of St. Kitts and Nevis. However, now that you are there, you may question why you made the decision to move.

Coping with Expat Guilt

Image of an expat with flags around her. This image could depict someone who is needing online therapy for expats. Get connected with an online therapist in the United Kingdom to start expat therapy today!

Maybe you’ve missed another family event, your children are growing up without knowing their extended family, or perhaps your parents are aging and the emotional pull home is getting stronger. Regardless of what is causing it now, you feel guilty. Guilty that you missed another birthday, guilty that your child hates their new school, or guilty that you can’t seem to enjoy all of the opportunities or the beautiful locale of where you now are living. Emotions, like life, are complex. While you can have mixed emotions about your decision to live away from your country of origin, it does not mean that you are doing something wrong or that moving back will magically change those feelings. However, it can be helpful to get support from a professional that truly understands how difficult it can be to manage the emotional conflicts that arise with living abroad.

As a therapist who has done multiple international moves myself, I understand that while this lifestyle is immensely rich in experience and rewarding, it can be incredibly difficult as well. In online therapy for expats, it can be helpful to identify your values and learn how to balance our competing values, knowing full well that not all can be completely honored.

10 Strategies for Coping with Loneliness and Isolation as an Expat

It’s not just the expat who recently moved to a new location and is struggling to get settled that experiences loneliness. Even the expat that has lived in their current country for several years can feel lonely. The expat community tends to be transitional. But instead of you being the one moving, this time it’s the community you’ve built that is leaving. The idea of putting yourself out there again is exhausting to think about. You don’t want to have to meet new people or tell your story again. Unfortunately, sitting at home and waiting for new friends to show up in your life isn’t how it works.

This is where intentionality can be helpful.

Whether you are a newbie or not, several tips can help to cope with the isolation and loneliness you might be experiencing as an expat.

Name it and practice a bit of self-compassion. It’s hard feeling lonely and missing the familiar. Acknowledging the feeling, many people would feel this way if they were in this situation and you are not an exception. Show yourself a little love and then start doing something about it.

Here’s some tips:

  1. Find a new outlet for a hobby you enjoy or take a class. It doesn’t even have to be something that you love or good at or even one that you never thought you would be interested in doing. Perhaps you may even find a new hobby that you really enjoy!
  2. Commit to being more active in an existing community where you belong.
  3. Join or rejoin an association/club- Many cities have expat groups and try joining a local/non-expat focused group too. The London area has multiple clubs available such as InterNations and American Women of Berkshire & Surrey (AWBS).
  4. Host a get-together and request that guests bring a guest you don’t know.
  5. Practice self-care. Get some exercise, get out of the house, avoid overindulging in alcohol, and make time for activities you enjoy. I’m a huge fan of trying new hikes in the beautiful Surrey Hills or spending the day in Windsor.
  6. Connect with other expats online. Expat groups can be welcoming and a great way to connect with others. Coffee with a new friend can be just one post away. I know a number of people who have met good friends this way, myself included!
  7. When feeling lonely we often want to connect with friends and family from back home. While maintaining those relationships is important, spending too much time engaged with people back home can actually be counterproductive to combating loneliness. Connecting during these times focuses our attention and energy on what we are missing instead of what we have now. Try limiting the time spent calling “home” and directing your energy toward building a life in your new city.
  8. Give yourself an assignment of talking to one new person a day.- Remember that you had the courage to move to a different country and that same courage is there to help you introduce yourself to someone new. The vast majority of our relationships have started with a simple greeting. You may be one “hello” away from meeting your next friend.
  9. Share that you are struggling with loneliness. Sometimes we have a community building around us that wants to support us but doesn’t know we are having a hard time.

Begin Counseling for Expats

Image of a woman smiling on her phone. This is an image of someone who could be going to online therapy for expats. Learn more about expat counseling with an online therapist in the United Kingdom.

Above are some tips to use when struggling with the challenges of expat living including loneliness and guilt. I hope you find them helpful to begin taking steps to feel more connected. It’s also important to recognize that speaking with a professional can help. As an expat therapist and expat myself, I understand how the challenges that expat living can bring. If you are interested in learning more about online therapy for expats please schedule a free consultation to see how I can help.

  1. Fill out the contact form!
  2. Meet with a therapist who understands ex-pat life.
  3. Start thriving in college and gaining all the new experiences you deserve!

Other Services at ChangeWorks

Expat life is rewarding, but it’s not for the faint of heart. In therapy for expats with me, I can help with other things too! If you’re struggling through other life transitions, I offer therapy for life transitions. If those life transitions are giving you anxiety, I also offer online anxiety therapy. Other specializations I offer include mindfulness therapy, therapy for college studentstherapy for women’s issues, and CBT for insomnia. Let’s get started today towards your whole-person healing.