Mental Health Tips for Expats
Mental Health Tips for Expats
One in four people will experience a mental health issue at some point in their lives. Some disorders – like depression – can be partially genetic, but our lifestyles can trigger these issues too. We got in touch with Jeanine Souren, a psychologist and head of international affairs at U-center, to talk about what expats can do to manage their mental health.
“I think that expats are more prone to mental health challenges,” she told us. “The average expat is high-performing, and under a lot of stress because on top of their work challenges, they have the relocation stress and cultural adjustment stress. We find sometimes that their focus is on work and not so much on their mental health until the signs can no longer be ignored. That doesn’t help with burnout.”
Despite the risk, Jeanine found that expats are often reluctant to seek help. “There are stigmas, and these are higher within the expat community,” she said. “For an expat to fail their job assignment or underperform, there’s a lot to lose. As professionals working with expats in the field of mental health, we find they tend to seek help at a later stage than average.”
U-center offers an integrated and short-term clinicalprogram to treat mental health issues like depression, burnout, trauma and addiction. Usually, people suffer from several issues at the same time. U-center’s state-of-the-art facility in Epen is staffed by English-speaking professionals and guarantees peace and quiet, as well as the latest evidence-based treatment. The effectiveness of the treatment results are constantly measured and keep U-center at the top of the list in Europe.
Anybody who wants to take control of their mental health can start today. Jeanine gave us her top ten tips to maintain good mental health.
Learn how to deal with stress, practice good coping skills
Stress is a part of life, and can motivate us to perform better. However, persistent stress can take its toll on the body and mind. Learning how to manage this stress is key to avoiding burnout. Accepting that you can’t control everything, avoiding triggers, and maintaining a positive attitude can all go a long way towards managing stress.
Learn how to quiet your mind. Practice a form of mindfulness that suits you
In difficult times, Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote that “no retreat offers someone more quiet and relaxation than into his own mind.” Making your mind a place of calm and quiet can be the perfect antidote to a stressful life.
Find a form of meditation or other mindfulness exercise that works for you, integrate it into your routine, and you’ll see a payoff in your professional and personal life.
Set realistic goals and manage expectations
Overpromising and under-delivering, whether it’s to yourself or others, can be a major cause of stress and worry. Instead of overextending yourself and risking burnout, resolve to do your best and approach tasks with awareness and methodically.
Keep alcohol use to a minimum and avoid other drugs
Alcohol alters the brain chemistry, and even though a few beers might feel relaxing, regular alcohol use can actually increase anxiety and stress. Regular drinking also lowers the levels of serotonin in the brain and can cause or exacerbate the symptoms of depression and disrupt sleep
Hard drugs can cause their own laundry list of mental health problems too, and are best avoided. Even soft drugs like cannabis can sap motivation at best and bring underlying problems to the surface at worst.
Seek professional help when you need it
Therapy isn’t just for Tony Soprano. Everyone can benefit from talking to a professional when times get tough. Even the simple act of talking about your problems produces therapeutic effects in the brain. Regardless of whether your problems are life-altering or not, therapy can help you dissect them and cope with them.
Take care of your body
Exercise releases endorphins and can ease the symptoms of depression and anxiety and boost cognitive function. Plus, seeing your body get stronger and fitter does wonders for your self-confidence. Combine regular exercise with a healthy diet and reap both the physical and mental benefits.
Treat yourself and others with compassion
Research shows that performing acts of kindness to others can positively impact your own health. Small gestures of warmth and compassion can brighten up both yours and someone else’s day. Don’t beat yourself up either. Self-compassion is healthier than criticizing yourself and can boost your sense of self-worth.
Take a digital detox
All the time we spend glued to our smartphones, Ipads and laptops could be taking its toll on our mental health. Technology can also be addictive, and the constant interruptions of messages and notifications can seriously affect our ability to unwind. Even the harsh glare of a screen can interrupt melatonin production and affect our sleep patterns.
Time away from our devices can help us reconnect with the real world. Start with a few hours every night and reclaim your life.
From her time working with expats, this is the single most important piece of advice that Jeanine would give any international. “Sometimes it’s difficult for expats to fit in,” she said. “Their social support structure – family, friends they grew up with, etc. – aren’t there.”
“Build relationships,” she advises. “Human beings wither away without feeling connected.”
A good network can make you feel at home in a foreign country and knowing that your friends will support you can lessen the burden of whatever problems you face. Talk to colleagues, attend international meetup groups, and start building that network.
Everyone can benefit from these mental health tips, but some people need more intensive treatment. U-center deals with those people at its live-in facility close to Maastricht and its outpatient facility in Driebergen.
“People come to us when they’re really stuck,” Jeanine said. “If you have a minor problem – like you’re afraid of spiders – then U-center is not the right place. But if you are dealing with depression, or if you have a burnout or trauma or an addiction, if you’ve tried to get unstuck without luck and you are ready for an intensive therapeutic journey in a healing environment, then U-center is the right place for you.”
Know where to look
Do you know how to access mental health information and treatment? Daan de Jong is a grad student working at U-center and is carrying out a survey. Take five minutes to fill it in here. Results from this survey will be used to set up a platform where people with mental health problems or substance dependency can read more about their illness and how to take action. All contributions are anonymous.
Jeanine and her team at U-center are experienced, professional, and offer comprehensive treatment packages in English. If you need help with your mental health, visit their website, or call +31(0)343556400.
The content of this article is for information purposes only. Expat Republic cannot provide any medical advice.