Being an Expat and Moving Again?! How to Manage from an Expat Counsellor in London
You’ve finally adjusted. You made friends, identified the grocery stores you need to go to for the ingredients in your favorite recipe, and figured out the coffee shop that gives you a little taste of “home” when you need it. It took a while and was hard, but you eventually found your rhythm. And just when you feel settled… *gulp* you’ve learned that you are moving again. Perhaps it is a new job opportunity or your situation has suddenly changed, but regardless of the reason, you are moving and the to-list is starting to swirl in your head along with a bit of anxiety.
Regardless of the reason, you are moving and the to-list is starting to swirl in your head along with a bit of anxiety.
Does this sound familiar? There can be a range of emotions that are experienced from sadness and anger to excitement and curiosity. Those feelings may change from hour to hour or feel like they are being experienced all at the same time.
Questions can start piling up. How are you going to tell your friends the news? Where are the kids going to go to school? What do you need to do to close out your bank accounts? It can be overwhelming. And, ugh, you are going to have to work to make new friends…again. Do you have the energy for that? The good news is, you’ve done it before. You know that you have the ability to do it and can do it again, even if it doesn’t feel that way at the moment.
Here are some tips that can help in your expat transition.
Give yourself a moment
It’s ok to feel sad, uncertain and stressed. Allow yourself to feel the “feels” and reflect on your time in your current country. Acknowledge that there are going to be challenges as there are with any transition. Naming the challenges and practicing acceptance allows one from moving from being “stuck” in the difficult emotion to working through it and problem-solving can begin.
Acceptance is one of the 9 attitudes in mindfulness practice and can assist in changing our perspective. Acceptance doesn’t mean we have to like it. It means recognizing what is happening in this moment and letting go of the fight that we don’t want it to be this way.
Wishing something to be different does not create change, it keeps us stuck in difficult emotions. For me, the phrase “it is what it is” best encapsulates acceptance. It is seeing things as they are without adding additional judgments to the emotions that we are already feeling. From here, we then can identify what would be more helpful. Perhaps celebrating your time and connections created would be more helpful. One way is by creating a bucket list to plan to enjoy your favorite restaurants, that hike that you still haven’t gotten to doing yet, or visiting the art museum that you love. Another idea is having a professional take your/your family’s photo in a location you love. What other ways can you honor your experience?
Saying “see you soon!”
Let’s be honest, it’s not about the places or things that you appreciate most in your current country. A big part of why you feel more at “home” in your current country is the connections you’ve made to others! You want to enjoy the time you have left with these amazing people, so definitely plan some lunch dates and get-togethers. It’s important to realize that these dear friends will not cease to exist just because you won’t be in the same country soon. However, relationships do take work. Talk about how you and your friends will stay connected. Schedule monthly video chat dates or plan a meet-up somewhere in the next year and commit to that date.
Break Down the To-Do List
Yes, you have to get through the tasks on the list, but you don’t have to do them all today. Have a master list, but break down the list into smaller pieces. Focus on what you have to do this week. Keep the master list somewhere, but keep it out of sight so that every time you walk into the kitchen you see it you start to feel overwhelmed and anxious. By weaving in the to-do list tasks little by little it can feel more manageable. Then you can go to the master list at the end of the week and mark off all of the progress you’ve made.
Prepping for the move can bring up mixed emotions. When making the transition from your current country to your new one, see if you can get curious about it. It’s natural to try to compare but comparison rarely helps. Your new country will be different. Do a little research to identify some new places to explore or groups to connect with others. This can help in creating a sense of excitement and positivity.
Begin Expat Therapy Abroad with a London Counsellor
If this blog was helpful to you, read more about how to cope with loneliness and isolation as an expat. At ChangeWorks, I offer therapy and counselling services to a wide range of people all over the world. However, I recently moved to London and am excited to now be offering mental health support to people in London and throughout the United Kingdom as well. I have historically seen clients throughout the United States as well as some expats in places like St. Kitts or Nevis.
I specialize in offering counselling for college students, expats, women’s issues, anxiety & insomnia (using CBT-I). So, if you’re looking for a counsellor in London and are interested in learning more about how I could help you, please don’t hesitate to reach out.