I have talked about my adventures since I started this blog, but living abroad is no bed of roses. There are many reasons why one might struggle when living abroad. I can think of “bringing your emotional baggage with you” off the top of my head. Some might think leaving their country will be paramount to happiness and relief. However, it’s so easy to forget we bring ourselves wherever we go.
Another reason why people struggle abroad is that they aren’t ready for what awaits them in a new environment. They are full of dreams, hopes, and expectations about that place, but once the novelty wears off, they start seeing things as they are. And they don’t like it. They find it difficult to believe that problems can occur in every corner of the world.
My struggle was a medley of both. While going on fantastic adventures and having a whale of a time in Japan, I also had my fair share of problems. They weighed me down and made me consider leaving the country. It took me some time to learn how to take better care of my mental health while living abroad.
So, I’m writing down the things that helped me cope with my problems here in the hope that they will also prove helpful to you!
Writing is how I have expressed myself naturally since my childhood. It’s not like I don’t know how to talk about myself and my problems. I can speak for hours if I want to, but I prefer not to tell others how I feel unless that person is a mental health professional. If you also think talking about your feelings and thoughts with others is complex and not something you feel capable of doing, you can try journaling.
Although I am not new to it, I have started journaling more intentionally this year and felt much better. When I put pen to paper, I used different writing prompts, talked about the ups and downs of my day, and finished off my entry writing down at least one thing I was grateful for that day. It might sound effortless and mechanical, but I was surprised to discover that every day I journaled, it helped me become more introspective and self-compassionate.
Writing resurrected my thoughts and emotions, and I could feel that I was one step closer to myself when I put pen to paper. I could see what made me tick and why I felt the way I did. Seeing my flaws and good intentions helped me form a better relationship with myself and feel compassion toward myself that nobody else had shown me.
Mindfulness and meditation
When I first started meditation, I doubted it would work for me. I used to make fun of people meditating. How could it help me? I don’t remember what made me decide to take mindfulness classes, but I started taking them last year and have now been meditating for a while. But, as many rookie meditators would say, I am not flawless and do not meditate regularly.
I remember my first time sitting on the cushion: full of doubt, anger, sadness, and disappointment. I spent the first few minutes trying to settle on the cushion, and then it happened. I had a fuzzy feeling in my belly and felt warmth enveloping my whole body. I was in my body exploring it for the first time in my life. I was home.
I cried during and after my first meditation session, not because I was uncomfortable but because I marveled at the comfort and familiarity I felt in my body. Where had I been living until then? Why hadn’t I felt this level of comfort before? There are free and paid options if you want to try mindfulness and start meditating. I enrolled in an introductory course by Oxford Mindfulness Foundation and loved the course and the instructor.
Listening to music
How can something as simple as listening to music help someone living abroad? Music has been an integral part of my life for many years. I have never played an instrument or had any aspirations to be in a band. Yet, I have always loved music and believed in its healing power. Last March, I discovered a challenge: listening to the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. I found a great, random album generator and ventured into it. The list contains albums I am unfamiliar with or genres of music I don’t enjoy listening to.
However, the gems I discovered through it are worth the trouble of having to listen to the not-so-great ones. Some albums lift me up, and I’m grateful to the generator for giving them to me. For instance, I was hiking Mount Tateyama in June and listened to Elbow’s “The Seldom Seen Kid” album. Never underestimate the power of good music! I was going through a rough patch, and the song “One Day Like This” healed me significantly that day.
There are many instances in my life where good songs came in and saved the day. So, if you enjoy listening to music and spicing up your playlist, give this challenge a try! One friendly reminder, though. Please be forewarned that some albums will make you question the entire list, but be patient because there will be an album or a song that can save your day, too!
Reading more selectively
I have been reading since I learned how to. I can’t think of a single period in my life when I stopped reading. I can’t. However, I used to have that horrid habit of not being able to quit reading a book even if it wasn’t my cup of tea. I started reading books that only gave me joy, but I also stopped trying to finish them if they didn’t meet my expectations. You can’t imagine how such a simple decision helped me read better books more selectively.
I no longer hesitated to pick up a book because I knew I could always give it away or remove it from my Kindle if it didn’t suit me. I was in charge of my library, and it wasn’t the other way around. I was becoming a selective reader and exploring different types of genres and authors, and I was also learning when to quit. Would it be an exaggeration to say I discovered my boundaries through reading?
I have read great books this year and quit reading quite a few. To surprise my readers, I should write a separate blog post about the books I stopped reading this year! I’m into memoirs and historical fiction, but I plan to read more sci-fi to discover new worlds and expand my horizons. If you are an established bookworm, try reading different books this time to get out of your comfort zone. If you don’t like reading or have stopped reading for some reason, remember that it’s never too late to read.
It’s not easy to talk about one’s problems when living abroad. People often don’t realize how difficult it can be to live in another country behind all those adventures and fun moments. So I tried to be as honest as possible while writing this blog. I genuinely hope my readers living abroad are okay and coping with their problems effectively.
Do you live abroad? What kind of difficulties do you experience where you live? What kind of help do you need most?
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