How I Took Better Care of My Mental Health This Year While Living Abroad

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. 

Photo by Ümit Bulut on Unsplash

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. 

Photo by lilartsy on Unsplash

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

Photo by Katerina May on Unsplash

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

Photo by hosein zanbori on Unsplash

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? 

Photo by Nathan Aguirre on Unsplash

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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  1. Nícia Cruz

    i’m not a traveller (yet) but i do find these tools very helpful when dealing with challenging times. i will take your advice on ditching a book whenever i don’t like it (i, too, force myself to read until the end). and surely i have problems on setting boundaries, so it would be great to get some development on that! (p.s. so glad to be reading you again!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahanur

      Thank you for dropping by, my dear friend ❤️ And do ditch those books that don’t spark any joy in your life! (I Marie Kondo-ed all the books that didn’t make me happy, and guess what? I don’t miss them!)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nícia Cruz

        MK’s strategies are great not only for organisation, but are life lessons indeed! i tend to search for joy everywhere, but books were always a soft spot haha (how did you deal with the guilt of ditching books?)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Bahanur

        I didn’t feel any guilt! I think the main reason was switching to Kindle. I no longer buy paper books if they have Kindle editions 😊


      3. Nícia Cruz

        That’s a good strategy! Some time ago I did a clean up on my books and decided to keep only my favourites and/or the ones I was sure I’d revisit. I’m also reading through (free legal digital books) and if i really like the book, i have the option to buy second used books (the money they receive will then be used to buy books for children). And, yes, it’s way easier to “forget” those books and start reading another. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Nícia Cruz

    also, what album generator did you use? music is part of my daily life and it would be awesome to discover new favourites 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahanur

      Dear Nícia,

      It’s always lovely to connect with you ❤️ I use this album generator for the challenge:

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nícia Cruz

        Thank you so much, can’t wait to expand our horizons (mine and L.’s) and we’ll certainly make it part of our education project 💛

        Liked by 1 person

  3. kegarland

    I totally agree with what you’ve written here. When we leave the country for eight weeks, this is always the case. I never think I’m going to have any mental health issues abroad, as if everything just dissipates when I get on the plane lol Now, I know better.

    Also, I’ll be checking out these 1001 songs. This is a fascinating idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahanur

      Thank you for your comment! 😊 I’m always glad to see you here. I always had the illusion that my problems would stay where they were, but once the plane took off and the novelty wore off, I would see them sitting next to me. It might sound like a cliche, but we do take ourselves with us wherever we go.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. kegarland


        Liked by 1 person

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