Tips for expat stress management

August 07, 2018

Moving abroad to work as an expat can be a fantastic experience but it brings with it several major life events:

This makes those of us working as expats particularly susceptible to stress, from a multitude of sources:

  • New workplace
  • Changes to home and family life
  • New cultural environment

Our bodies reaction to stress is similar, no matter what the source. Some of the most common symptoms of stress according to the Mayo Clinic include:

  • Disturbed sleep
  • Inability to relax
  • Upset stomach
  • Aches and pains
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of motivation
  • Over or under eating
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Angry outbursts
  • Social withdrawal

If you are experiencing some of the above symptoms then you may well be experiencing expat stress.

Although you may be tempted to ignore the symptoms of expat stress, have a coffee and push through, this may have a negative impact on your health in the longer term. Emotional pressure, over a long period, can result in chronic stress which has been associated with health conditions like high blood pressure, insomnia, heart disease and expat depression.
We know this may seem counter intuitive when you are feeling tired and anxious due to stress, but having a second cup of coffee or a post work glass of wine could be exacerbating your stress. Caffeine may increase anxiety and alcohol may leave you feeling worse the next day, both will further disturb already difficult sleep.
Physical activity is shown to have a very positive impact on stress. Pick what works for you, it could be a gym session, a walk around the block, a swim at your local pool or hike up your favourite hill or mountain. Although the activity changes none of the things going on in your life, the feel-good endorphins produced will help lower feelings of anxiety.
When you are feeling stressed try to eat as well as you can. Often the temptation is to ‘comfort eat’ high carb foods when fresh fruit and vegetables will help your body deal with the physical symptoms more effectively.  
Meditation is flexible. You can meditate in a moment, ten minutes or over three hours, if you have them to spare. Studies show taking only 10 minutes out of your day can reduce stress, lower your blood pressure and build the resilience needed to deal with the modern world.
Reconnecting with family and friends can help improve your stress levels. If you are under pressure in your new role or facing challenges at home, try to make time to be together and do something fun as a family in your new country. If your family aren’t with you, pick a hobby you enjoy and join a group or class. Having a support network while abroad is important for stress management.

Working as an expat there are many places you can seek help for stress:

Look after your physical and mental health with a flexible and affordable expat health insurance plan tailored to you. Get in touch if you have any questions.