The original version of this article appeared here on January 14th, 2020.
Being an expat has many upsides and can be quite exciting. The ability to live, work and explore another country and culture is what dreams are made of for those of us who are global wanderers. However, there are downsides to this life and lifestyle. It is not often that expats share about the less glamorous side of expat life. In my case, as a single and solo expat, the challenges are not the same as a family. Being single and solo in the expat sphere, you will need to manage some emotions and feelings differently.
It is not uncommon that there is a sense of loneliness and isolation that can occur during your expat journey. Many of these feelings are normal, given you are away from your core support of family and friends. These feelings are also part of the cycle of cultural adjustment that you might experience during the first 6-8 months of being in a new location. You might also have these feelings during the holiday periods that most resonate with you.
We all can get to a place of not having the energy or motivation to be social. But let’s face it. If you did not have an adventurous side and the confidence to do things solo and single, you would not have become an expat. However, we can all get worn down by stress and anxiety when we are in a place that is not fully our comfort zone.
Since these feelings are bound to occur, it’s best to create a plan that could help minimize these effects. Whether you are a social butterfly or chill-at-home person, there are some simple coping actions you can take to reduce your feelings.
Break the routine of working, eating and sleeping. Get your endorphins active. Yes, exercise! No, you do not have to go to the gym unless that is what you enjoy. You can get the same benefits by walking, dancing or doing yoga. You just need the natural stimulants in your body to be active and do their job of keeping you mentally and emotionally healthy.
Do What You Love
Find your spark, even for a few minutes so you can get yourself out and about. Find something you enjoy doing and go do it. It could be a movie, going to the nearby art gallery you have always wanted to visit or playing a round of golf. And yes, also try to listen to something more artistic such as a live band or poetry reading. Also, it has been well documented that laughter improves your mood so consider an evening out at a local comedy.
Another good way to change your perspective is by giving back. Finding a one-time or on-going opportunity in your local community or country to volunteer your skills and time can bring inner satisfaction. Seeing the impact of a simple act of kindness or generosity can help change your mood. In the process, you could gain new friends, build trust, and foster human understanding.
Loneliness and isolation can occur at any point in time during your expat life. You can have these feelings even if you are with your family on this expat journey. I encourage you to tackle these feelings upfront. Find ways to improve your mood. If the mood persists for a lengthy period of time, you might consider employing another coping strategy by seeking professional therapy. Individual or group counseling can provide the guidance we need. Sometimes, having an objective person to help you find the right coping plan can be your best coping tool.
Whichever steps or actions you choose to manage these feelings, remember this phase of the journey is temporary. You already have or can gain the inner confidence to enjoy your expat experience to its fullest.