Expat Mental health and easy steps to managing.

Living abroad can be an exciting and enriching experience, but it can make coping with life’s challenges more difficult, which can lead to depression.





But regardless of how great or how rough your situation is abroad, there are other steps you can take to help prevent and cope with expat depression.

1. Get enough sleep

Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night – and staying well-rested can help give you the energy you need to keep the blues at bay. But the exact relationship between sleep and depression is complex – some people may develop depression after not getting enough sleep; others may have trouble sleeping – or sleep too much – after becoming depressed.

“It’s important to have stability and rhythm,” says Truman. “Safeguard your sleep. It can help you stay on track.”

2. Get out and exercise

With all the new demands and routines that come with life abroad, it’s easy to feel you’ve lost control of your own life. But carving out some “me time” for exercise can help.

“Being active can help you regulate your own experience in a new environment,” says Truman. And numerous studies show that regular exercise can help give a boost to people suffering from depression.

3. Keep alcohol intake in check

Living outside the community we know best can sometimes bring about a more relaxed attitude to alcohol or drug use.

“Being connected to a community helps bracket our behaviours. People know who you are,” Truman explains.

Losing that structure can make it easier to feel like we can break other norms and rules. Indeed, Truman’s study found that expats had a higher risk for substance abuse problems compared to US- based workers. Bottom line: think twice before opening that next bottle of wine.

4. Join groups to connect

When depression starts to set in, it becomes even harder to find the motivation to get out and engage with others.

“Things become smaller, you’re unhappy. You basically lose your mojo,” Truman explains.

Back home, we have existing social network that help us activate, but expats need to put in extra effort to create new ones. Join a sports club, find a new hobby, or if you have kids, get engaged in club for them – all of which can be mechanisms to help you connect with other people and help pull you out of the doldrums.

5. Don’t overdo it on social media

Social media has radically changed the way expats can relate to friends and family back home or networks from other phases of in life.

“It does provide a connection,” says Truman. “The problem is that it’s a connection with very low bandwidth based on an idealized version of our lives that fails to capture the reality.”

Thus, spending too much time scrolling through your Facebook means less time making real-life connections in your new country. While cutting social media out completely may be extreme, it’s good to exercise some moderation.

6. Let people know they can help you

While there may be less of a stigma associated with depression that there was 20 years ago, that doesn’t necessarily make it easier to talk about – especially for expats who don’t have access to their normal support networks or face other pressures.

“Often, an overseas assignment is a chance for rising star to prove themselves on the way to a C-suite. They have to exemplify stability and confidence.”

Regardless, Truman says it’s important to open up and invite people to help you. Many of them will.

7. Seek professional help

Therapists exist for a reason, and can be a huge help in aiding expats with the mental and emotional toll of living abroad.


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