Expat Burnout — What It Is and How to Get Through It
The feeling of being burned out can hit hard, especially as an expat dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic while being away from the support network of close friends and family. Here’s an explanation of what expat burnout really is and some helpful tips to help you get through it — let’s bring some joy back into your global experience!
Expat life provides you with so many amazing opportunities, making it both rewarding and worthwhile. However, the harsh reality of coping with a move abroad can set in soon and the excitement of living in a new city can wear off. Especially during this global pandemic, when social distancing rules, local lockdowns, and quarantines are the norm, you might feel isolated and overwhelmed at the same time.
This is where expat burnout can happen. Hitting the ground running with your new life in a different country is a great way to settle in quickly but signing yourself up to everything and anything can become exhausting. And in a time of a global pandemic, you can get there even faster than usual.
Expat burnout brings with it a number of negative effects such as physical and emotional exhaustion, feelings of being pulled in different directions, being constantly frustrated with your expat experience, and wanting to return home for good. Before deciding to leave your expat life behind, we have a few suggestions to help you overcome expat burnout and get you back to living your best life abroad.
Stop Saying Yes to Everything
Living in a new country is an adventure but it can also bring a fear of loneliness as you’re away from your friends and family. At the beginning, it’s good to make the most of any opportunities to meet new people, even if it’s only online. Having a calendar full of activities can be a real mood booster at first but after a while, it can also get overwhelming to be continually busy, especially if you also work full time. If you’re constantly thinking about the next exciting activity, you don’t get to enjoy what is actually happening in the present.
By giving yourself time to breathe, you will be able to enjoy the time you’re spending with friends even more. It can be hard at first to not try to please everyone around you but over time you’ll learn that saying no is not the end of the world and that your friends will understand. It’s just as important to make time for yourself as it is to make time for your friends!
Make Self-Care a Priority
Being busy can stop us from checking in with our own emotions. However, it’s important to take care of yourself first, which might mean you need to change your priorities a little and move self-care to the top of your agenda. Taking time to actually recognize your feelings and check in with yourself is something which you should do regularly. Give yourself time to relax, slow down, and look after your mental health as it’s possibly even more important than prioritizing your physical health. If you’re feeling worn out, then listen to your body and take the hint — ignoring the signs will only make you burn out even more.
Lighting a few candles, having a bath, and cooking yourself something delicious for dinner are simple, yet effective, ways in helping you to relax and check in with yourself.
Set Aside Time for Hobbies
Friendships, exercising, and leisure activities are all aspects of your lifestyle which you shouldn’t have to sacrifice. For a lot of people, the first thing they give up when they’re feeling burned out and overwhelmed with their busy schedules are the things that they enjoy the most, but this can have a negative impact on your mental health.
Set aside some time during the week for you to enjoy your hobbies, whatever they may be. Whether it’s playing your favorite video game, painting, watching a show on Netflix, or simply reading a good book — spending time away from it all and focusing on something else can help you to switch off and unwind.
Staying active also helps to reduce stress, boost your mood, and keep fit so it’s a good idea to make time for it too. This could be regular walks around your neighborhood or in your local park, going to the gym, if possible, practicing meditation or yoga, or trying out a new (online) exercise class.
Talk to Those Around You
Moving abroad is a big step and your friends and family are probably going to want to be updated on how life is in your new city. Even though it’s great to have a support network, you might feel a bit of pressure to love every minute, especially when you don’t want to worry your loved ones. It’s difficult not to feel as though you should be living your best life but naturally nothing in life is perfect and it’s a completely normal part of the process to have a few bumps along the road!
Putting pressure on yourself to constantly be happy is not only tiring for you but also unrealistic. We all have bad days and it’s normal to feel a bit down sometimes. Don’t be scared to open up to close family and friends! They’ll be more worried if you cut yourself off from them completely. Calling a loved one from home for a chat and letting them know how you feel can help to put things into perspective and talk things through.
Get Away from It All
If you’ve hit a wall and you’re struggling to find a solution, then it might be time for you to get away from it all. Space can sometimes be what you need to put things into perspective and clear your mind. If you have the opportunity, book a weekend getaway to another city — spending time in a new place helps you forget what you’re struggling with at home. If lockdown rules or local safety measures make a weekend trip difficult, you can also just take a day trip out of town, ride your bike along some country roads, or go hiking. Although it’s a temporary solution, it might be just what you need to reflect on your feelings and give you a fresh, positive outlook on your expat life!
Although expat burnout can happen to anyone, the COVID-19 pandemic has made things even more difficult. At a time when expats feel isolated and simultaneously eager to experience life abroad, you might be more prone to expat burnout than before. Take care of yourself and seek professional help if necessary!