Strengthen Expatriate Mental Health and Resilience with the RockMeRetreat
Mountain View

As I have mentioned in this post, my mother could not find yeast during the early days of the pandemic. Her village in Southern Germany had a yeast shortage. We didn’t have a shortage of anything here in Zurich, neither toilet paper nor yeast, even though demand for both was higher than in “normal” times. My mother likes baking, but I felt she needed to bake even more during these times. 

I went to SPAR and bought five packets of dry yeast. The man at the post office laughed when I told him what was in the small parcel—my second delivery since the beginning of our lockdown. The price of the stamps was higher than the value of the goods, but hey, this was the only thing I could do for my family from here. I was so happy that I could help them with a small gesture. This year, I did not order anything online for Easter: I used my social media skills to locate the flower shop in my mother’s village, and we actually talked on the phone (I know, bizarre…). Once she understood my relationship with the village’s eldest woman (my grandma), I think she completely trusted me, and I trusted her. We agreed to her delivering flowers that I would pay via bank transfer. No credit card, no contract, just trust, and five minutes of small talk. She understood that this gesture was important to me. I only live about two hours away from my family, but I might as well live in Cochin or Costa Rica.

I’m an accidental “expat.” I didn’t really think of myself as an expat since I’ve lived the closest to home for the last 11 years. Coronavirus “expatriated” me. I’ve worked with expats most of my professional life, lived abroad, and been on international assignments. I’m an expert in Global Mobility, but it took a virus to make it hard to return to my passport country. 

I feel your pain and your stress. We are all experiencing varying levels of emotional and mental turmoil. There is no solution to the root causes of that anxiety, but we need to maintain our mental health like we do our physical. The World Health Organization, correctly anticipating that the longer the pandemic lasts, the more it would impact mental health, has spent the last couple of years publishing support and guides for people to follow. I have been following them, and they have proven helpful in centering me and giving me better control of my mental health.

Pause. Breathe. Reflect.

Take some slow breaths, inhaling through your nose, then slowly exhaling through your mouth. 

Slow breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress because it signals to your brain to relax your body.

Connect with others

Keep in regular contact with people close to you and talk to them. Talking to people you trust can help. Tell them how you are feeling and share any concerns, or discuss everyday things.

Keep to a healthy routine

The emphasis here is on both healthy and routine. That means not using alcohol and drugs to deal with fear, anxiety, boredom, and social isolation.

Instead, focus on establishing consistent sleeping patterns, maintaining personal hygiene, eating regularly and having healthy food, and improving time management to include exercise, work, and personal time.

One thing that works for me is to take regular breaks from on-screen activities and go offline.

Be kind to yourself and others

We are human and thus not immune to doubt and anxiety. Don’t expect too much of yourself on days that are more difficult than others. Instead, accept that some days, you may be more productive than others.

One way to practice self-kindness is to reduce how much you watch, read or listen to news that makes you feel anxious or distressed, especially news from your home country. Limit news to fixed times in the day and listen only to trusted sources. 

If you can help yourself and have the capacity for it, helping others can be good for you too. If you can, offer support to people in the expat community who may need it. Because as expats, we have learned to be resilient, we have survived previous crises, and we have managed to turn our lives around in the oddest situations. But now, we are not so sure anymore. When will this pandemic end? And how will we live when we get out of it? Which part of the world still feels safe? Will our children ever be able to catch up on the school lessons they have missed? 

I miss having offline workshops and what I love about this retreat is that we can be offline most of the time and connect with our inner creators again. We can work on our relationships with people who are important to us. We can build a community of people who help each other (irrespective of their cultural or religious background but based on shared values and deep love for people).

Like we need yeast to bake bread, we need energy and love to work and live with people around us. We might think that we can just stay at home and send our avatars to work, but who would we then be? 

We need to get dressed in nice clothes, have a commute to work and a distance between “work” and “leisure.” Otherwise, we lose our fire and inspiration, and lose touch with our inner creator. I look forward to hearing from you!

I wish all of us to support each other in communities, and I’m convinced that an OFFLINE RETREAT will most certainly create miracles despite the wonders of technology. Because of the travel situation and insecurities around the world, I have decided to offer the RockMeRetreat in Switzerland at the Ilanz monastery. I have been on a retreat there before, and it’s a humble, yet quiet and comfortable place, and the sisters are extremely warmhearted and welcoming, and the mountain view is just amazing.

We will offer the RockMeRetreat from 17 to 23 November 2022.

I hope you will join us in Ilanz. I will be happy to set up a meeting with you to discuss your participation. 

Richard Harvell, a Bestselling Author and Publisher and Diccon Bewes, also very famous author of “SwissWatching” and other books about living in Switzerland as a foreigner contacted us to announce this great pilot project they are conducting. They will hold an all-inclusive cultural integration retreat weekend in Bellinzona on 17-19 June and thought Global People Transitions might have exactly the right candidates to benefit from this exciting experience!

Cultural integration has been proven crucial to the success of an expat’s assignment, but it has often been overlooked. This kind of crash course (it’s not a course really, rather a touristy weekend where you also learn lots!) allows the participants to learn about their new setting in an informal and enjoyable way. This transition period (from the moment you decide to accept the assignment, to the preparation, to settling in your new place and job) is stressful enough; this weekend is designed to help you ease in and be ready to bounce back. Employers will also benefit from this retreat: having better integrated and less stressed employees, prepared to become more efficient faster can only be positive. Switzerland has long struggled with this challenge, and Richard and Diccon are here to make change happen!

Registration is now open here.

https://www.immerse-swiss.com/bellinzona

The Expert Guide to Your Life in Switzerland (trailer)

Resources and further readings

NewInZurich

Looking at the whole family in the expatriation process

Our epic blog posts

Global TV Talk Show with Ed Cohen:

Interview with Ed Cohen on Minority Expats

Join our Global People Club

I'm on a Mission to Bring the Human Touch Back into Global Mobility.



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