The addendum to why not being selfish is in fact, selfish. Part Three in the series ‘From Struggle To Success, From Miserable to Magnificent’ for fulfilled Expatriate living.
Yesterday I shared with you a personal story of my own realisation about my self-care. Today, I look at common signs of poor self-care whilst living abroad. Self-care is not a luxury commodity. In the busy, multi-responsibility world we live in, it’s a basic necessity if you want to perform at your absolute best – not only for yourself but for everyone around you. Care for yourself and you send a message to the world that you are hot stuff, you value yourself, take yourself seriously and so should others. Be the inspiration by taking care of you first.
Basic Safety. Your car is poorly maintained or your driver smells of alcohol when he picks you up. You are lacking mosquito nets or the water/electricity/gas in your apartment is poorly maintained. When we move abroad (to emerging economies particularly) we sometimes encounter very different views about the value of life and safety – so do what you can you make sure you are comfortable with the safety of your environment. Take pictures, communicate and don’t let it go until you have satisfaction or that you feel everything has been done as well as possible given the cultural environment. The HR department back home probably have limited understanding of what life is really like where you are and the locals probably think you are mad to ask for certain safety features. If this is a worry for you then determine your own levels of comfort around this and communicate from there.
No Support Network – you live in a foreign country yet don’t have health insurance, a dentist, a doctor or you don’t know the emergency number for the country you live in. You may not have anyone you can safely leave your kids with for a few hours in case you have a health appointment. Make it a priority this week to sort this out. It will ease your mind knowing that should something happen, the net is there to catch you. Take away the worry at the back of your mind.
Avoiding social situations – this is an indicator that something is not ok. We are social animals and generally do need social interaction. Some Expat loneliness is part of the course, but do not allow it to define you and certainly don’t let it continue for long periods. If you feel out of your depth or just plain unhappy make contact with one person each day – reach out to your consulate, a neighbour, counsellor, coach or local leader of an expatriate social group or online community. Please don’t struggle alone, there are many other ways.
Lack of sleep. You are too wired to sleep, jet-lagged, brain still on-charge, thoughts going around like a stuck record or you have a small baby that needs attention or snoring partner or are just simply burning the candle at both ends (too many Inter-Nations parties??). Not enough sleep is a slippery slope which is connected to poor cognitive functioning, unhealthy weight-gain and depression. If this is you everything in your power to get more sleep. Most adults need between 7 and 10 hours sleep (I personally need about 9 to be truly on top form). If you could choose only to do one thing differently, make it this one. For helpful ideas go to http://huff.to/bR4CFb
Over-committing – financially, socially to work or domestic chores, whatever. Thinking you can do it all or have it all. You can’t. You don’t have time or you don’t have the same financial resources as some others in your social group. We are all different. Get over it and decide what it is you really do want (think either/or rather than ‘and’). Prioritise. There will always be things that won’t get done, purchased or attended. You will NEVER do it all.
Refusal to delegate – If it’s not hero status you are after then this could be a simple case of lack of trust. Sometimes you have to let go. Yes, others will make mistakes but unless you let them have the space to do so, you’ll just keep yourself at the centre of all the work (and the pain). Train people and train them well, whether co-workers or your maid – sure there may be a challenging period of transition when things get worse before they get better (or not – who knows?) but think of this as the ‘chrysalis time’ – after all this work a newer, more beautiful thing will emerge . Share the load and watch your health and sanity improve in spades. Don’t try and be the hero – no one wins and you may miss out on some amazing experience – isn’t that why you moved here? Remember also that if you are in a position of responsibility that your behaviour will likely set the culture around you – be careful of what you create.
Difficulty saying no. An absolute must if you are serious about your own health, and that of your nearest and dearest. Say no to your boss when appropriate, and your co-workers. Say no to your children. Start saying no more and standing in your power. The worst that can happen is they hate you, judge you or have a serious discussion about your future, so pick your battles well and prepare accordingly. Just take it as a sign that things are changing. We humans really don’t like change. Send the message up and send it LOUD. You are a person with limited daily resources and you cannot do everything or be everything to everybody. You need rest too, to refill your tank so you have something to give back. Moving abroad is a stressful time, so ensure you add-in extra time for self-care – do your best to get the first few weeks there as holiday/admin time to ensure you set yourself and your family up well, otherwise its goodbye weekends or you end up doing personal stuff during work hours.
‘That’s Just The Way It Is’ is the number one phrase I hear from people who are so deep into behaviours of self-sabotage they cannot see another way of life. This is our internal saboteur working flat out to keep us in pain – and it’s working. If this sounds like you and you are happy, great – carry on and get what you have always got. If you are bored or suspicious of this thinking then get some help to create some new perspectives and brainstorm alternatives. Hire a coach or get a trusted friend to tell you what they see (choose your most plain-speaking one if possible).
Sugar, Alcohol, Caffeine and Cigarettes – we all have our favourite dirty little habit, and hell, life would be so dull it we were all perfect. If you go to these things to help you ‘get through the day’ then you likely have some self-care issues, probably related to tiredness and stress. When we are very tired our body starts to want glucose and crave the energy kicks that these stimulants give us. Their impact is fleeting sensations of wellness, followed by worsened feelings afterwards. Life is a balance but if you think these habits are getting out of balance to the point where you are abusing them, it’s time to take stock. Get help from your doctor, health practitioner, pharmacist or support group. More health is available to you if you want it.
Non-Specific Health Problems. Frequent trips to the doctor with lots of different complaints, none of which amounts to anything specific. It could be a sign of an underlying condition such as depression or it could be a change of lifestyle, exercise or diet that is required. Connect to your internal wisdom to help cipher what’s going on and pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you. Addictions to alcohol, drugs and sex are commonplace within all communities, but it can be easier to fall into and harder to climb out of if you are living abroad.
Repetitive Negative Thoughts, Worrying, Regrets and Comparisons. Imagine you start going into a gym and exercising. You have a nice little routine, you push some weights, do some circuits and it feels a bit uncomfortable at first but then, after a few sessions you need heavier weights or more repetition to get the same results. Now imagine that instead of weight and going to the gym, the same thing is happening every time you THINK. You are building mental muscles with THOUGHTS. Negative thoughts and positive thoughts. You push them round and round your mind, going over and over your circuit, sometimes adding more weights, and before you know it you have built up a habitual pattern of thought. The more you think about them, them more natural they feel, and the more easily your mind goes to them because the neural pathways are fresh and easy to find. It feels normal. What are your prevailing thoughts – are they negative or positive? To break patterns that do not support your self-care programme, you need to know what they are. Keep a journal. What are the patterns/triggers/outcomes of these thoughts? How would you like to change them? Expatriate life is a time for change – you get to reinvent yourself so go for it – how could you better support yourself if you changed your thinking?
For help creating a personalised expat self-care plan, contact me on +44 (0)20 7193 7251 or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are running a free group coaching and mentoring programme for trailing spouses and accompanying partners starting in May for 12 weeks. This is the only time this programme will be free so sign-up now to get more information. Places are limited so register your interest below NOW!
Take care, have fun, grow and flourish, wherever you are!
To book a free 40 minute session with me to work on creating your personal expat success plan, email me on email@example.com or telephone +44 (0)20 7193 7251 now.