Even at the best of times, moving overseas is a highly stressful experience. Living away from loved ones is often the most challenging part of being an expat. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenges faced by expats. With the government introducing travel restrictions, social distancing policies, and other stringent measures to impede the spread of the virus, millions of expats are now isolated from their friends and family. Lets find out how expats can deal with the difficulties of being away from their loved ones.
When we realized that the global pandemic would bring unprecedented disruptions to daily life, expats, thousands of miles from home, found themselves in a particularly difficult situation. While some have taken this time to develop new skills, reflect, and even come up with ways to reach out to loved ones, many struggle with uncertainty, isolation, loneliness, frustration, anger, acute stress, and anxiety.
In this article, we will look at some of the problems expats are facing during this difficult time and how to deal with them. Read on.
Stuck Due To Covid-19
Since the onset of the pandemic, many countries have been calling upon nationals in foreign countries to go back home if possible. However, many expats cannot travel for various reasons, one of which is that they simply can’t afford to return to their home countries. Many expats are already struggling to survive and don’t feel traveling is a financially viable option and choose to stay put.
Due to the inability to move freely between countries, many people working and living in foreign countries are finding themselves in difficult situations. Here are some of the issues faced by expats and other people stuck and away from family due to Covid-19.
When entire nations go into lockdown, a feeling of loneliness is inevitable. The sense of isolation and loneliness is far more advanced for expats who may not feel at home in a certain country. Many expats also struggle with not knowing when they will be able to see their loved ones again.
Lockdowns in your region can be severe, and as an expat, you may find yourself subject to rules and restrictions that would not be tolerated in your home country. Life is set to become more challenging for expats.
Mental Health Issues
People are social beings, and we need social connections to survive. Social isolation can wreak havoc on an individual’s mental and physical health. Research shows a link between loneliness and various mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, and declining cognitive health. The uncertainty surrounding when travel may resume or when the pandemic will be over can take a toll on the mental health of any person stuck in a foreign country due to Covid-19.
Rising Cases of Xenophobia
The Covid-19 pandemic has sparked a rising tide of xenophobia across the globe. Expats, migrants, and refugees have been wrongly blamed and vilified for spreading the deadly virus. In many parts of the world, locals’ attitudes towards expats and other foreigners have suddenly hardened, even in places where business expats were previously accepted with open arms. In some cases, we have seen the stigma and hate speech toward foreigners escalate to violence.
Ways for Expats to Cope with Confinement and Feel More At Home
Due to coronavirus, millions of people across the world share the same fears. Many fear for their loved ones and their own health and well-being, not to mention concerns about the future of their work and economic prospects. It’s a natural instinct to want to go home and be with our friends and family when we feel threatened. But with countries taking desperate measures to contain the spread of Covid-19, many expats are unable to visit their friends and families.
Many expats have found it difficult to endure the severe lockdown regime. Here are a number of things you can do to feel more at home and alleviate the stress of strict confinement measures in your host country.
Stay Connected With Friends and Family
It’s been over a year since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, and we’re still keeping social distance. However, for expats, the distance between you and your loved ones is a little more than six feet. Many expats are separated from friends and family by oceans and time zones. Keeping in touch with the people you love can help you ward off loneliness, and thanks to innovation, staying connected has never been easier.
Technology provides plenty of ways to stay in touch with loved ones even when we are far apart. Video calling apps make it possible to connect with our family and friends during these turbulent times. In a video call, you can see and hear the person you are talking to, which is much more engaging than a regular voice call. Most smartphones and computers can make and receive video calls.
Social media is another excellent way for expats to stay connected with those they love back home. You can check in with friends and family, share a funny video or a nice photo, and engage with loved ones all through social media. Try finding a regular time for social contact at least once a day through Skype, phone, or social media to overcome the stress of living in isolation far away from home.
Use A VPN to Enjoy TV and Sports from Home
One of the best ways to link up with family and friends from abroad is through film, TV, and sports. You can even plan a virtual movie night where you can watch a film together as you chat live. The problem is that streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video offer different shows and movies in each country. The content available in your home country is probably not accessible in your new home.
Using a Virtual Private Network is the best way to get around geo-blocks and watch content freely anywhere in the world. A VPN can disguise your IP address and make it appear as if it’s coming from your home country, even when you are abroad. VPN providers have servers in multiple locations, which allow users to change their IP address at will.
Establish a Routine
The Covid-19 pandemic has turned our home, work, and social lives upside down, and we have to find new ways to live. As an expat living in a — relatively — foreign country, managing the enormous disruption to your normal life is one of the biggest challenges you’ll be facing throughout the pandemic. Establishing structure in your daily life can provide some stability at a time when so much seems out of control.
Building a routine will give you a sense of control and make long days spent in isolation more manageable, even if it’s simple things like when to get up, chat, eat, or go to bed. Create a plan for each day and set times for different tasks. For instance, if you enjoy having meals in the company of loved ones, schedule your meals to correspond with your daily social contact, such as Skype calls with friends and family.
Manage Your Stress
Various stress management techniques can reduce stress and promote mental health. Exercise is one of them. Any form of physical activity, including a morning run, a yoga session, or weight training, can reduce your stress levels. Mindfulness exercises and meditation have also been shown to have a calming effect. Practicing mindfulness, even for a short period, can lower your stress levels significantly.
Take a Social Media Hiatus
Today, social media is the biggest source of news and information. In moderation, social media can go a long way towards helping us stay informed and cope with difficult situations by keeping us in touch with loved ones. However, overexposure to negative news online can also raise stress levels, and there is a lot of negative Covid-19 news on social media.
Taking a break from the news and social media can go a long way. If scrolling through your timeline gets you feeling overwhelmed by all the negative stories you see, consider a brief social media hiatus. Don’t forget that not everything you see online is factual. Only get your news from reliable and scientific sources to stay up-to-date with the rapidly evolving events.
Several coronavirus vaccines have been developed. However, the rollout has been slow, and new Covid-19 variants are emerging quite often. The point is we don’t know when things will go back to normal. The future of global mobility and business travel is still uncertain. All we can do for now is do our best to cope by managing our stress levels and staying in touch with friends and family through technology.