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7 Top Tips to Practise Good Mental Health as an Expat

Moving to a new country is the adventure of a lifetime. But it comes with its fair share of challenges. For one, there’s the hassle of uprooting your life and settling in an unfamiliar place. Then, there’s the anxiety of making friends and building a support network with people who have traditions you’re not accustomed to while battling homesickness. Not to mention the stress of finding a job – if you don’t have one already!

When the only constant is change, it inevitably takes a toll on your mental health. That’s why, as an expat, taking care of your mental well-being is more crucial than ever before as you navigate a new culture, build a support network, and adapt to a completely different way of life.

Here are seven tips to help you practise good mental health and thrive as an expat in Australia.

Homesickness and mental health

Affecting the mind and the body, homesickness is detrimental to mental health. Studies show that homesickness is associated with strong feelings of anxiety, depression, and other clinically significant symptoms that make it difficult to eat, sleep and interact with others.

Homesickness affects mental health to such an extent that almost 20% of US managers sent abroad returned home early as a result of difficulties adjusting to their overseas assignment. So, if you’re feeling homesick, anxious, or even a bit depressed, remember that you’re not the only one and that these feelings can be effectively managed.

Practising Good Mental Health

Taking care of your mental health is just as important as keeping physically fit and healthy. Here are seven of the best ways to take care of your mental health as an expat in Australia:

1. Prioritise self-care

Self-care is the foundation of good mental health. In a US survey, 64% of Americans said that self-care improved self-confidence; 67% said it increased productivity, and 71% said it boosted happiness. 

An effective routine is proven to help reduce stress, which can lead to better mental health, more time to relax and less anxiety. Block time each day for self-care activities. Whether it’s in the morning, during lunch breaks, or in the evening, create a routine that includes activities you enjoy and that promote self-care.

Likewise, regular exercise is beneficial for both your physical health and mental well-being. Find activities that get your heart racing and make you feel great afterwards. Whether it’s jogging, yoga, swimming, or dancing, incorporate them into your routine at least three times per week.

Nourish your body with a balanced diet and ensure you’re fueling your body with healthy and nourishing foods. Eating a balanced diet contributes to your overall well-being and provides the energy you need to navigate your expat journey. 

Finally, prioritise sleep. A good sleep routine is crucial for your mental and physical health. Establish a bedtime routine, create a sleep-friendly environment, and prioritise getting sufficient restful sleep each night.

By making time for activities that nourish your mind, body and soul, you’ll reduce stress and promote a positive mindset that will support you as you settle into a new life down under.

2. Cultivate social connections

Time and time again, research has proven the importance of human connection. Connecting with others on a physical and emotional level helps to improve our health and well-being, cultivating a vital sense of belonging in the world we live in. 

Building a strong support network is vital for your mental well-being as an expat. Seek out social opportunities through local community groups, clubs, or expat organisations. Australia is known for its vibrant festivals which present fantastic ways to connect with both locals and fellow expats. Cultural and hobby-related events are great platforms to meet like-minded individuals and establish a sense of belonging in your new community.

Social media platforms and online forums can be valuable resources for connecting with other expats in Australia. Join expat groups, forums, or online communities where you can ask questions, seek advice, and connect with people who are going through similar experiences.

Building social connections requires effort and a willingness to step out of your comfort zone. Be open to meeting new people, initiating conversations, and accepting invitations. Attend social gatherings, and networking events, or even invite colleagues or neighbours for a coffee or meal. Remember that many people are also seeking connections, so don’t be afraid to make the first move.

3. Learn about Australian culture

Understanding the culture of your new home can help ease the transition, foster a greater sense of acceptance and integration, and alleviate the symptoms of homesickness that affect many expats’ mental health.

Thankfully, one in four of Australia’s 22 million people were born overseas, making it one of the most culturally diverse locations in the world. This makes it a welcoming place where expats from all over the globe can immerse themselves in the diverse culture.

One of the enriching aspects of living as an expat in a foreign country is the opportunity to engage in cultural exchange. Engaging in cultural exchange fosters understanding, empathy, and a broader perspective on the world. Expats willing to learn about Australian customs and social norms can better connect with the locals and find ways to participate in traditions that foster social connection. 

Take the initiative to learn about the diverse cultures and backgrounds of the people you meet in Australia. You can do this by participating in local events and festivals, heading out to try different cuisines and engaging in conversations with locals.

By embracing cultural diversity, you not only expand your horizons but also create meaningful connections and a sense of belonging within the multicultural fabric of Australia.

4. Practice mindfulness and stress management

Living abroad can bring about unique stressors, but it is also associated with a clearer sense of self. With vast landscapes and breathtaking natural wonders, Australia is a fantastic place to reconnect with the self in solitude. 

Practising mindfulness techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga, can help you stay grounded and reduce anxiety. The Smiling Mind app is Australia’s leading prevention-focused mental health tool. Dedicated to helping every mind thrive, Smiling Mind is a great way to practise mindfulness each day. Better still, the app is completely free to use.

Other stress management techniques like journaling, yoga and exercise can help to further ease the transition and alleviate feelings of homesickness. No matter which methods you choose, remember to be patient and kind to yourself as you navigate new challenges.

5. Stay connected with loved ones

Maintaining connections with family and friends back home can provide a sense of comfort as you navigate the pressures caused by change. The friends and family that are supportive of your move can offer support, guidance and reassurance, strengthening your connections back home.

Schedule regular video calls or plan visits to maintain those relationships and share your experiences. Though it’s tempting to hide all the bad parts and pretend everything is going perfectly, remember that a problem shared is a problem halved. Your friends want to share it all with you, and their support will help to ease feelings of loneliness and homesickness.

Homesickness and expat mental health

6. Explore the outdoors

Australia is renowned for its stunning natural beauty: Tasmania has the cleanest air in the world, the Great Barrier Reef harbours around a quarter of all marine biodiversity, and Australia is abundant with land, wind and solar resources.

Spending time in nature has been found to help with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, making Australia a fantastic destination for expats suffering from homesickness.

Take advantage of the great outdoors by exploring local parks, beaches, and nature trails. Spending time in nature has been shown to reduce stress, enhance mood, and boost overall well-being. Soak up the sunshine, breathe in the fresh air, and engage in outdoor activities that bring you joy.

Here are some of the must-see beauty spots in Australia:

  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain
  • Fraser Island
  • Uluru
  • Daintree Rainforest
  • Ningaloo Reef
  • The Twelve Apostles
  • The Whitsundays

Check out my travel Australia posts for many more ideas on things to do when in Aus!

7. Seek professional help

If you find yourself struggling with your mental health, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Australia has a well-developed healthcare system with accessible mental health services. Reach out to specialist mental health therapists, local doctors, psychologists, or counsellors who can provide guidance and support tailored to your needs.

Expat Mental Health

As an expat in Australia, taking care of your mental health is vital to fully embrace and enjoy your new life. 

By prioritising self-care, building social connections, understanding the local culture, practising mindfulness, staying connected with loved ones, exploring nature, and seeking professional help when necessary, you can cultivate good mental health and make the most of your expat experience in Australia.

Remember, it’s okay to ask for help and take the necessary steps to prioritise your well-being. If you find yourself struggling with your mental health, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. There are numerous resources available, including therapists, counsellors, and support groups, who can provide guidance and support tailored to your needs.

By implementing these strategies and making mental health a priority, you can create a fulfilling and thriving expat experience in Australia. Practising good mental health as an expat is an ongoing journey, and being proactive about your mental well-being will ensure that you can fully embrace the opportunities and joys that await you in your new home.

If you do find yourself struggling with expat guilt and homesickness, check out this post.

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