Are you an Expatriate trapped abroad because of Covid19?
I was totally unaware that Covid19 was about to strike when we said our goodbyes to my family in the UK at the end of 2019. Almost a year later international travel is still on hold.
Having missed our summer trip to the UK and now planning a Christmas away from home, we are starting to feel a little trapped.
It’s ok to feel trapped. It’s ok to feel angry. It’s ok to feel scared.
Whatever we feel it’s ok. There is no ‘normal’ way to feel as an expatriate during a pandemic. Because this situation is not normal.
But we do have a choice how we respond and process these emotions so that we can survive and maybe even thrive.
Here are 5 things I do every day to help me deal with the roller coaster of emotions and feel less trapped.
Exercise – Just do it
With all the uncertainty in the world it’s likely that we all feel as though we are living on the edge. Our bodies are probably in some level of fight or flight response and adrenalin is pumping around our body. The purpose of this adrenalin is to protect us from a perceived threat. But the threat of Covid19 is ongoing. This means our bodies will keep pumping adrenalin and our bodies don’t know when to relax.
The good news is regular exercise helps to balance this adrenalin. It also raises our levels of serotonin which boosts our mood and overall sense of well-being.
I get my exercise fix from 10 minutes of you tube yoga each morning and I run around the car park. I even ran my first 10km during Covid19.
Make daily gratitude a thing
If you are looking for a quick simple fix to your ‘stuckness’ try gratitude. It’s impossible to feel depressed and grateful at the same time.
We may feel trapped but what can we be grateful for?
Every morning I write down 10 things that I’m grateful for. And every evening I ask the kids to share what was the best part of their day. Even with home schooling they can always find something they have enjoyed.
Gratitude literally shifts your brain from one state to another. The more you practice the easier it will get.
Play to your strengths
As a Clifton Strengths Coach, I had to mention this one! Every day I make sure that I am physically doing things that I naturally do best. Focusing our time and energy doing things that we are already strong at makes us feel stronger. Who doesn’t want to feel emotionally stronger at this time?
Learning comes naturally to me. So, I have thrown myself into learning new things including how to unicycle!
What makes your feel strong? What comes naturally to you?
One way to figure out your natural talents is to notice when time flies. What activities do you get so absorbed in you could forget to stop for lunch?
If you want to figure your top 5 talents out why not take the Gallup’s Clifton Strengths assessment?
To feel less trapped ourselves let’s release the talent that is trapped inside of us.
Get a best friend
The Gallup Organization studies employee engagement and have discovered that people who say they have a best friend at work are twice as likely to be engaged in their work as people who do not say they have a best friend at work.
Whether or not you work as an Expatriate, I’m sure you would agree that it often feels like a job. Whether you are figuring out how to pay basic bills, navigate the city or survive home schooling there is no denying it is as stressful as paid employment.
I would therefore assume that having someone that we can regard as a best friend on our post will impact our level of engagement. The transient nature of expatriate life means friends come and go. It’s always good to have at least 3 friends so that you never find yourself alone.
Having friends that you can share your thoughts with is precious. Try walking and talking… you will notice all your subconscious thoughts will come bubbling up to the surface.
Start a journal
When I first became an expatriate and I felt angry, sad, frustrated, confused I turned to my husband as a place to vent. But I soon realized there is a limit to how many times I could vent to my poor husband. These day’s my go to place regardless of the emotion is journaling.
There are many ways to journal. If you find your emotions are connected to a person try writing a letter to them which you will never send. Get really angry, say all the things you would never say to their face and if you feel like crying then cry!
If your emotions seem to be centering around a situation try expressive writing. Set yourself a timer for 10-15 mins. Put pen to paper and start with “I feel…” Let the words flow and don’t stop writing until you hear that timer buzz.
Why does Journaling work? It’s a safe place to get all your anger out without hurting anyone. By keeping your thoughts trapped inside you are only hurting yourself.
Don’t forget once you are done with journaling throw the paper away. This is therapeutic in itself!
Give meditation a go
If you had asked me a year ago if I meditated I would have laughed in your face. I could not see any benefit in ‘wasting’ time sitting around doing nothing. That was until I read Emily Fletchers book “Stress Less, Accomplish more”. She explains in plain English why meditating for as little as 15 minutes a day can have a profound impact on your whole day and state of mind.
I now meditate twice a day and it is a game changer. I honestly can’t imagine doing home schooling without having meditated before and after. It feels as though doing meditation is the equivalent of pressing the reset button.
By releasing trapped emotions through meditation, I feel less physically trapped.
As an Expatriate we tend to be naturally resilient and good at dealing with change. We put a brave face on and put the needs of everyone else ahead of our own. But this is not normal circumstances. This is a time to stop and check in with your emotions. It’s a time to choose activities like those suggested in this article to help you process and respond to your emotions.
We may be trapped, but we always have a choice how we respond to that feeling. How will you respond? What will you do?
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