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Create a Plan to Overcome Anxiety as an Expat

Stressed businesswoman
Credit: Milanmarkovic78 | Fotolia

Being an expat sometimes means having a hectic lifestyle, adapting to a new culture, having to make new friends, changing Fahrenheit to Celsius and finding a reliable school for your kids. I have a few suggestions to help you create a plan to overcome anxiety as an expat.

Often simple tasks become more difficult just because you are in a new environment, using a new language and everything is unfamiliar to you. This can cause anxiety and frustration because you are out of your comfort zone, especially in the beginning.

Anxiety can strike at any given time, anywhere and this is why so many people get even more anxious. Anxiety can present itself at a party, sleepover, work, family gathering or on a first date. Everybody has anxiety in one way or another and the intensity and frequency in which it occurs in your everyday life is what makes it an issue.

Having a plan for those anxious times will make all the difference. As a coach I work with clients to prepare a specific plan for each individual need. In developing the plan, I consider:

  • Personality
  • Previous ways used to successfully resolve anxiety attacks
  • Belief system
  • Attitude towards anxiety
  • Level of self-discipline

Therapy seems the right place to design your personal plan when anxiety strikes. So, here are my general recommendations for dealing with anxiety:

1. Come to your five senses, which means focus your attention on anything you can touch, smell, see, eat or hear. Anything physical like a candle or an oil, depending on your personality.

2. Practice deep breathing techniques such as 4-7-8 inhale in four seconds, then hold it in seven and exhale on 8 seconds. Repeat three times the 4-6-4 inhale in four, then hold it in six and exhale in four on a three times repetition, depending on how often you practice meditation and breathing techniques.

3. Measure your level of anxiety from 1 to 10 and assign a number that represents your level of anxiety.  If the number is below five then try a second deep-breathing technique. If it is above five, continue with the questions to confront the origin of the anxiety in order to drop the level.

4. Question the veracity of your anxiety. Thoughts dictate feelings and emotions. If the focus is placed on thoughts of fear, worry, stress, past events or conversations, or perhaps things you hate, the emotions in your body will be stress, tension and difficulty to breathe. You can reduce your stress levels by focusing on positive emotions, such as love, self-confidence, a loved one, a comedy, a party where you had the best time and coffee with your best friend, all positive emotions that produce laughter, joy, giggles and smiles.

So, here are three very helpful questions you can use to help tame your anxiety: First, is the thought true? Just because you are thinking about something does not mean it is true. Second, is my thought constructive and positive? in other words, is this thought uplifting and will it bring positive energy to my life? Third, can I substitute for a true and positive thought? is this thought uplifting enough to bring positive energy to my life?

By answering these three questions, you can choose what thoughts to have by choosing how you want to feel. This will help you win control over the anxiety you are experiencing. The more you practice how to lower your anxiety, the faster and easier it will be the next time it happens, until there is no next time.