As countries across the globe continue the battle against Covid-19, a ‘second curve’ is threatening millions of people – the consequences of the pandemic on our mental health. For expats, feeling isolated and lonely are often very common emotions. These feelings are likely to intensify by the travel restrictions that are preventing us from returning home.
It is vital expats look after their mental wellbeing while social distancing in order to stay focused and healthy. Here are some ways for expats to address their mental health whilst isolating in their homes.
1. Establish a routine
The first step is to establish a daily routine that you can realistically stick to. Its easy to get into the habit of waking up late, not getting properly dressed, as well as eating and sleeping at irregular times. Having an active daytime routine, and sleeping regularly at night, has been proven to improve overall mood and cognitive functioning. A good night’s sleep has also been shown to decrease the risk of developing depression and other mental health disorders.
If you’re an expat working from home, try to maintain normality by waking up at the same time and sticking to a regular schedule throughout the day. Not only will this help your productivity levels, but it will also help you to maintain a work-life balance. It is also extremely important to set aside time every day to go outside for some fresh air. This will help with mental health but will also positively affect your productivity and creativity.
2. Pick up a new hobby
If you’re in need of a distraction to fill the hours outside of work, picking up a new hobby can be a great solution. This may not apply to those working remotely and looking after children and their remote learning. However, this could be really great for those with extra time after working hours.
Some hobbies to adopt might be trying out yoga for the first time or using online videos to learn the basics of a new language. If you enjoy reading, set up a virtual book club with your family and friends, helping you to stay connected with your loved ones simultaneously. Other calming hobbies include meditating, sewing, reading, gardening, journaling, baking, and much more.
3. Avoid the news
Many expats will feel the need to keep up with developments both within their host country as well as back home. However, the bleak news cycle can be very damaging to our mental health.
If you’re reading or watching the news regularly throughout the day, try cutting this down. Maybe instead of a constant flow of news limit it to once in the morning or evening for under 15 minutes. This will be more than enough time to see if there have been any important changes you need to be made aware of without falling into a spiral of reading or watching too much negative news. For those who enjoy catching up on global developments, try searching online for positive news stories instead to help boost your mood.
4. Stay in touch
Under normal circumstances, expat life presents its own challenges of visiting family. Availability and the cost of travel have always been obstacles for expats. However, with many expats across the globe still not being able to travel, the possibility of visiting family and friends can still seem like a distant reality.
With research showing that 9 in 10 expats often feel isolated, it is important now more than ever to reach out for human contact. Whether by video calling a family member, texting a friend, or catching up with a colleague, there are many ways to integrate communication with others throughout your day. In fact, with evidence regularly telling us that loneliness can have long-lasting, detrimental effects on both our physical and mental health, reaching out to others should become a part of your daily routine.
If you’re a busy expat, trying to set aside times throughout the week for catching up with family and friends, can seem daunting. Persist. It is important to keep the lines of communication open. Keep dates and times in your calendar for when you are due to call different family members and friends back home.
If you’re an expat in a country such as the UK where lockdown rules are being eased slightly, you may now even be allowed to meet up with a select number of individuals in an outdoor space, or even visit another person’s household. If possible, use this opportunity to catch up with some colleagues or friends while keeping your distance and wearing a mask. The last thing we want is carelessness to keep social distancing in place for even longer.
5. Accept help
If you’re struggling with your mental health during this time, it’s important to understand this is entirely normal. Undergoing such drastic changes to our daily lives is likely to have negatively affected many individuals so it is important to reach out and accept help. Being isolated abroad may have encouraged many expats to keep in touch more regularly with family and friends back home, but for many taking the first step can be difficult.
Speaking to a medical professional about any concerns you may have about your mental health is still a viable option available despite being locked down at home. Especially during these uncertain times, consider using virtual health care services, some of which can be easily accessed if you have a global healthcare plan in place. Virtual health care services allow you to discuss your physical and mental health worries from the safety of your home. This will ensure you get the help you need while maintaining social distancing.
Reaching out to a healthcare professional or trusted confidant is the best way to address any issues you might be facing. These strange and uncertain times are likely to be challenging for the vast majority of us. Supporting each other throughout this pandemic by providing mental and moral support will be vital.