We all want things to go a certain way or people to react in a certain manner and when this does not happen we experience disappointment. It’s normal and we experience different levels of disappointment on a normal day ranging from making a bad cup of tea, a friend cancelling, not completing all the tasks that you wanted to or someone slipping a hurtful comment.Give yourself some space.
These are all normally dealt with pretty easily as forgiveness runs freely and you generally understand that people’s actions are determined by their schedules and pressures and that it’s really not personal. You might not even have felt disappointed on a normal day, in your normal country and normal routine, but now it’s different. The problem is that as an expat your coping reserves are already running low. There are so many small challenges in a normal day that small disappointments can really catch you off guard. It hits hard and it breaks your stride. Suddenly everything is too much, too hard, too far and too different and it all comes crashing down.
Perspective, you need perspective. It’s a journey.
Work through your thoughts a bit and try to determine what is really upsetting you. It’s often a bunch of small challenges, rather than one specific thing. Maybe write them down on a page or draw them in topic bubbles. Writing them down can turn the “mountain” into a small heap again and make things manageable. It can also be helpful to explain to your partner or friends what you are going through and why one small thing can lead to you feeling completely overwhelmed. If your partner or friends are not expats, then it might be difficult for them to understand how normal daily activities can become overwhelming.
Also write down the emotions that you are feeling. It is important to pinpoint them so that you can manage them or they will end up managing you. An emotional outburst can also indicate that you are bottling up emotions and not properly dealing with certain challenges. It is important that you allow yourself time to reflect on your feelings and journey. Make a list of the small victories that you’ve had this week and be proud of yourself. Remind yourself that it’s a process and that everything is going to be alright at the end and if everything is not alright then it’s not yet the end. You will conquer this one, just as you have conquered the others, one step at a time!
Picture credit: Lifehack
Often, too often, we allow emotions to cripple us. Emotions should warn us, but not control us. Too often our emotions become the problem because we don’t ask the correct questions: “where does the emotion come from? Or why do I feel this way?”
I have heard the expression many times that an emotion is like a warning light on the dashboard of your car. It goes on when something internal is wrong. In that moment we have two choices, break the light and ignore the problem or investigate the problem. The thing is, that sometimes the little light is scary, especially if we don’t know where the problem lies, how deep it is, how long it is going to take to sort out or how much it will cost you.
Let’s say that your “dashboard” shows a light of irritation, you may stop to think and realise that you are just hungry and it’s pretty easy to solve or you might realise that it’s something about someone else that irritates you and you might need to dig a bit deeper to find out where the irritation is coming from and why it is affecting you so much. Or you might notice your irritation, but have absolutely no idea what the underlying problem is. Don’t worry! You are totally capable of dealing with it and you don’t need to understand and fix it in an instant. Take some time out, even if it is just 10 minutes and just sit and think about where the emotion is coming from. Sometimes something as simple as irritation can be underlying fear, shame or sadness which can easily turn into frustration or anger if not acknowledged and dealt with.
Emotion should not scare us, it should rather guide us to become more self aware so that we can manage ourselves better and always be filled with joy. If we do not manage our emotion, it will control us and then we will start to act in ways which we do not wish to act. Be bold today and don’t be scared to look at what is lying underneath the emotion. Do not allow the emotion to control you, but be brave and face the emotion. Allow yourself to become more emotionally aware and set yourself free from controlling and exploding emotions.
Oh the terrible evil! Let me make one thing clear first. There is a difference between selfishness and putting yourself first. In our lives we need to put ourselves first in certain areas to ensure that we are emotionally stable and healthy. We need to look after our bodies and our hearts, if we don’t, then we’ll lose a part of ourselves and we would be less able to successfully support and help someone else. We become thinly spread and at the end drained, tired and unable to motivate ourselves or others. What you need to do to stay emotionally healthy will be different for each person and it is something that you need to decide for yourself.
Selfishness comes in when we put ourselves first at the expense of others. When we become self consumed and blinded to the needs of others. Selfishness is so sneaky, it creeps in so slowly and before you know, it’s all about me and in that moment you see yourself as the victim (because you are not being agreed with or treated as you think you should and this seems unfair to you). If you recognize this behaviour, then a red light should be flashing.
As soon as you start seeing yourself as the victim (self pity), everyone else’s actions will be amplified and any negative reaction from someone might be experienced as an attack. When selfishness increases, your grace for others start decreasing and soon patience and kindness go out the window. In short, selfishness does not make us more satisfied, it actually makes us unhappier, because it creates an insatiable desire which nothing and no one can still and it makes us feel that we are constantly being treated unfairly.
So how do we manage the fine line between selfishness and putting ourselves first? Firstly we can learn to define our boundaries clearly and then consider where we are overstepping boundaries onto other peoples’ lives in selfishness. Imagine your life as a field, if you keep living on other peoples’ fields then you are stealing from them and being selfish, but if you keep letting others steal from you by allowing them to pitch their tents (needs, desires, opinions) on your field, then you are not looking after yourself enough and you might be burdened and too thinly spread. Ensure that you live comfortably on your field by allowing time for resting, loved ones and lots of time to give, to love and be loved.
Picture credit: betterbasketballtribe.com
I thought that it’s about time that I write about interesting or almost embarrassing moments for me since living in a different country. It’s all part of the “inburgering” process I suppose! J
The first time that I went to a grocery store, I innocently walked with my basket of items up to the cashier. I put the basket down in front of her. She looked at me, I looked at her, she looked at me, I looked at her, but she didn’t ring up my items?! I realised that I must be doing something wrong, but it took me a few moments to realise that she was staring at me because I’m not unpacking my groceries from the basket! This was strange for me, because in SA they unpack your basket for you. So small, but so embarrassing! They also don’t pack your groceries into grocery bags, thus you have to do it yourself. So it looks like this: you try to unpack your basket, while she scans your items and slides them to the side. You then rush over to start packing your groceries into plastic bags (while you are actually supposed to pay), then you stop packing and pay. Then while you continue packing the next person’s groceries start sliding by. Talk about pressure! Thank goodness for the self scanning option which makes buying groceries easier these days.
I’ve never really taken a bus in SA, as I always drove by car, so the things that are obvious to bus users in The Netherlands are not obvious to me. For example, the bus comes at a certain time, but it actually only DRIVES BY at a certain time. If you want the bus to stop, you have to jump up and wave your bus card, otherwise it assumes that you are waiting for another bus and it just doesn’t stop. Super confusing when you wait and it just drives by because you didn’t signal.
Also, when you want to exit the bus, you have to press the “stop” sign in the bus just before your desired stop, if you don’t, the bus just drives past. I know it sounds incredibly obvious, but if you have never been on a bus, then it just isn’t.
I’m fortunate not to have too many embarrassing stories. At least you learn quickly by making mistakes and it is of course part of the adventure!
You might wonder what I mean by ‘mourning’ and how it can be applicable to you. Mourning is not just something you go through when a loved one passes away. It’s also a process that you go through when you lose something or go through significant change. For example, losing your job, losing a friend, losing abilities, leaving a community, divorce, changing your lifestyle and in my case leaving your country. The range is quite extensive and can also differ from person to person.
In general the process looks like this:
1. Denial – It is a defense mechanism that carries us through the shock. We deny the reality and facts of the situation in order to cope with the pain.
2. Anger – As reality starts to sink in, we still do not know how to cope with the change or loss. We feel guilty. We might cast blame or harbour resentment due to the intensity of the pain.
3. Bargaining – We struggle to let go. We feel helpless and this often makes us want to regain some kind of control. We bargain with the “what if’s” and the “buts” and how things could have been if…
4. Depression – Sadness, lack of motivation, craving comfort and support. We sense a void left behind.
5. Acceptance – We gain new perspective, peace settles in and though slowly, we start moving forward.
You might not experience all of the above for the same duration or intensity, but they will be present somewhere. The duration of the process also differs significantly from person to person and from situation to situation and thus the items should be viewed as guides through the process and not a fixed schedule.
It would be to our benefit to define the stages, realise what we are going through, properly work through each stage, deal with the emotions and remember that it’s a process and not a race. It also helps us to identify what our needs are during each stage of the process in order for our partners, family or friends to support and comfort us.
The stages are not intended to scare us. It is merely a tool to help us manage the stage that we are in and understand why we think and react the way we do. Take heart, the light at the end of the tunnel is knowing that the last stage is acceptance and that the process does not have to last forever. It is true that some aspects will never be forgotten, but hopefully through managing the process we can reach a point where painful moments can become beautiful memories.
Picture credit: myquoteshome.com
Give yourself a break and have some fun! Give yourself a break from whatever keeps you busy, even if you are the one giving yourself a hard time. We can so often become slave drivers to ourselves, not allowing for mistakes to be made or sufficient time to rest.
We cannot be the best version of ourselves, if we do not look after ourselves. It is not selfish, it is our responsibility. We need to look after our bodies and emotional well being so that we can be the best version of ourselves at work, socially or to our families. Sometimes we care so much about work, other people, our kids or our spouses that we forget to take time out for ourselves. At the end we become drained and a terrible version of ourselves and in actual fact, we only have ourselves to blame.
It might seem selfish to you if you do something relaxing like read a book, go for coffee with a friend or watch a movie by yourself, but in actual fact you are just giving yourself the reboot needed to be the best version of yourself for the rest of the week. In this way you feel appreciated and loved by yourself. It is surprising how much love we can show other people, but how little we sometimes show to ourselves.
It sounds strange, but it’s true. We need to show love to ourselves. You need to show yourself that you matter, that you are loved and appreciated. You were made to live life and life to the fullest. It is important that we find joy in our daily lives. This can be difficult if you are in a new country, but think of things that you enjoy and find something similar that you can do for yourself. Spoil yourself and go find some fun!