“How could you possible be upset? You’re travelling and living in another country!”. This is what a lot of expats think when they start to feel depressed. The truth is, expats suffer more from this depression than you might think. The WHO’S 2017 annual World Health Day focused on depression and encouraged people to talk about it, so let’s take their advice. As an expat, being far away from your family and friends is often hard, but here are a few things to keep in mind to cope with depression.
Avoid too much online time
Nowadays, with computers and smartphones, it’s a lot easier to stay in contact with people back home, but overusing them can have its downfalls. If you’re feeling down or homesick, don’t spend too much time looking at pictures on Facebook or Instagram of your friends back home. Seeing all of the things people back home are doing might make you develop FOMO (Fear of missing out), which will not help your situation.
Meet other foreigners
You might feel lonely once in awhile when you move to a new country, and meeting foreigners who are living in your host country can help you cope with this. They might understand certain things or emotions that you’re going through that people back home or your local friends don’t understand. Many cities have associations or language exchanges for international people, where you can meet new people and if you’re lucky, great new friends!
Think ‘carpe diem’
Don’t stay cooped up at home all day. Part of the experience of going abroad is seeing new things, so go out and explore! Remember that your home will still be there and waiting for you when you go back. Seeing small villages outside the city or going for a hike in the nature might help you feel a bit more peaceful and joyful, while soaking up the sun and vitamin d, known to be an antidepressant.
Learn the culture
Instead of comparing everything to your home country, try to indulge in the new culture. Of course, there are certain things back home that you prefer, but who knows, you might be pleasantly surprised by some cultural things in the host country. If you like art or dancing, explore their museums and try out a new dance style. If, on the contrary, you prefer sports, you could always sign up for a local sport that you didn’t even know existed. For all the foodies out there, try grabbing a bite to eat in a local restaurant.
More greens, less beers
Speaking of grabbing a bite to eat, be careful of what you eat and drink! As strange as it sounds, this can worsen your state of mind. Many people tend to forget to eat healthy when they go abroad and end up gaining weight. Try to avoid this by staying healthy, which is one of the best remedies to fight depression. Drinking is also a habit many people tend to take while abroad, especially students. Going out drinking with friends tends to become one of international students’ favorite hobby – which can have its upsides – but be careful not send your body into a downward spiral. Try to not make it a daily activity by also finding other activities, or try to control the level of alcohol while going out.
Keep track of your feelings
This might be one of the most important things to do. Chart not only your bad, but also your good days. By comparing them, you might find out what triggers your depression and also what helps it. Whether loneliness, feelings of guilt or missing out, it is important to know what is causing you to feel this way before being able to get better.
And most importantly…. Talk about it!
The worst thing you can do when depressed is keeping everything bottled up inside. Reaching out to people, whether in or out of the country, can help you deal with the illness. This might just give you the support you need. If after you are not feeling any better, seeking professional help could be the best way to go.
Every expat knows that living abroad can be an emotional roller coaster, and depression can be found along the ride. But just remember, If you are suffering from a depression while abroad, don’t fight it; deal with it.
Image: Ryan Melaugh