Expat Mental Health – Getting Out of the Valley of Tears

Mental Health for Expats

Living as an expat can be an exciting and rewarding experience but can also come with challenges. Adjusting to a new culture, language, and environment can affect your mental health and well-being. However, by prioritizing your mental health and implementing some practical tips, you can maintain a healthy mindset while living abroad.

1 – Understand Intercultural Adjustment Better For Expat Mental Health

Intercultural adjustment is a psychological process that requires a lot of energy. It usually has a phase that I call the “valley of tears.” In this valley, you will naturally want to move away from the host country and everybody else. While I understand the need to pull back and recharge, I would challenge you to go on little mission walks that will give you a feeling of familiarity. Although I’m not from the US, I used to have this ritual in Frankfurt I would plan a “New York day” and it had a visit to Starbucks, long walks and sushi on the menu. You could think of little treats that make you feel at home. I think it is also important that you talk to someone in the host country for example an Intercultural Coach (“Expat Coach”).

Understand the cultural differences in how to write an application and how a resume typically looks for the host country. What are the usual ways of getting a job? How critical are personal introductions? Who should sponsor your spouse? Getting a social life and making friends together will help transition into the new culture. Try to make time for events so that your spouse feels that you are on this adventure together.

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2 – Build an Alternative Family System

Building a support system is crucial for maintaining your mental health as an expat. Surrounding yourself with people who understand your challenges can provide a sense of belonging and emotional support. This can be friends, family, or fellow expats who have gone through similar experiences. A support system can help you navigate the ups and downs of expat life and provide a sense of community in your new environment. Think of building an alternative family of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and a lot of cousins in your new location so that when your doggy needs a walk or your baby is sick, you have someone you can count on. Be aware that in Switzerland, there are commercial sites that offer this kind of support, too.

Liste der Wunsch-Grosis

Hier finden Leihgrosseltern Familien und Familien Leihgrosseltern

Alternative Family Systems

Alternatives to Patriarchal Family Systems

3 – Engage in Light Exercise

Regular physical activity is not only beneficial for your physical health but also for your mental well-being. Exercise releases endorphins, known as “feel-good” hormones, that can boost your mood and reduce stress. Find activities that you enjoy and make it a priority to incorporate them into your routine. This could include joining a local sports team, going for walks or hikes in nature, or trying out new fitness classes. Staying active will improve your mental health, help you meet new people, and explore your new environment as an expat.

I’m convinced that walking daily and practicing yoga regularly can enhance your well-being significantly. I also teach active meditation, guided meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation methods. Light exercise could also be Feldenkrais. You might want to add cardio, jogging, and dancing, depending on your fitness level and age.



4 – Prioritize Self-Care

As an expat, it’s important to prioritize self-care and make time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Engaging in hobbies you enjoy, practicing meditation, or treating yourself to a spa day can all contribute to maintaining a healthy mindset while living abroad. Taking time allows you to recharge and rejuvenate, reducing stress and promoting overall mental well-being. Remember, self-care is not selfish but rather a necessary part of maintaining your mental health as an expat.

Expat Self-Care

5 – Learn the Local Language(s)

Learning the local language is essential in adapting to life as an expat. Not only does it help you communicate with locals and navigate daily tasks, but it also helps you feel more connected to your new environment. Learning the language shows respect for the culture and can open up opportunities for deeper connections and friendships. Whether you take formal language classes, use language learning apps, or practice with locals, investing time and effort into learning the language will greatly enhance your expat experience and contribute to your overall mental well-being.


You can contact us at any time via angela@globalpeopletransitions.com if you have any doubts about your mental health or need someone to talk to.


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