Self-care has become a buzzword of our time. You can find advice on self-care from a simple Google search. I’m not going to give you advice on how to do your own self-care. However, I can’t emphasize this enough: You need to take care of yourself when you’re doing an international move. If you need Me Time, whatever that involves, take it. Want to eat a certain food? Do it! If you can’t bear to pack your books before reading some of them, go for it! Need to sleep 12 hours a night? That’s okay! You’re exhausted and your body is telling you how much sleep it needs.
Problems I have had:
I exhausted myself when I was preparing to repatriate to the US from London. I would spend a long day packing and dealing with logistics. Then I would pig out on Chinese food watching House M.D. and then sleep for 12-14 hours. That wasn’t the way to handle the move. I had two months to get ready to move, but I could still have made time to take care of myself. By the time the move was complete, I was burned out. That experience made me indecisive about moving to another country again.
What I do now:
It’s not about the amount of the things you have to do before you do an international move. It’s about how you plan to do those things and taking care of yourself along the way. When I was moving to the US, I was not good at taking care of myself. If anything, working myself to death was a badge of honor. Now, I know how to take care of myself, so I’m more consistent about planning relaxation into my day. I take regular breaks and treat myself now. So far, that has helped me immensely in coping with any unpredictabilities about moving abroad.
To be honest, writing this blog is a good self-care thing for me. It’s a common thing for me to need to sleep a lot when I’m moving. Making time to chill during the day doesn’t completely alleviate my fatigue. That can be scary because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I have been staying at home, but I still worry if my fatigue is normal preparation fatigue, or if I’m sick! So far, it’s been my paranoia talking. I love listening to an audiobook or music while I’m packing.
Nature is a great stress reliever as well. Sometimes I forget to go outside and get some fresh air regularly, so I keep some photos on hand to enjoy. I have included them in this post for you to enjoy as well.
The hardest things for me to deal with during an international move are a sudden change in plans. Normally, I am adaptable, but being fatigued about moving tries my patience and adaptability. Sometimes I need to vent, cry, or express any feelings about notifying another company that I’m moving overseas because it was unexpected! I let myself do it though. Sometimes, certain unexpected things aren’t emergencies, so I can watch a movie, take a nap, or read until I feel better and then take care of the problem. If it’s a high priority item, I can grit my teeth, sort out the problem, and treat myself afterward.
When I am packing I set small goals for a day and remember to treat myself. If I don’t know the next step with packing, I take a break until I know what I want to pack next. I don’t spend a whole day packing anymore because there will always be time to take care of it.
A Word About Unsupportive People:
One thing I would suggest as a self-care move to anyone moving internationally is to reach out to other expats or have someone you can talk to. International moves create their own set of problems and pet peeves that only people who have been through the process can understand.
Sometimes, people can be unsupportive or ignorant, even if they don’t realize it. When I moved to London when I was 10, the people I told usually responded with, “You’ll hate it!” but they would never say why I would hate it. It can be hard to tell people why you want to move to a new country. There is always someone else who finds a reason to disagree with you. It’s hard to express your hopes and desires for what you want to achieve in your new country, because those same people tell you something along the lines of, “You can do that here!”
On behalf of expats, I would just like to say to those people’s faces, “I’m glad you think so”. I also want to say, please don’t do this. It’s unsupportive because our feelings and reasons for moving are not up for debate. It’s starting to become common knowledge to use language to listen and not dismiss people’s feelings and experiences, so please apply what you know about that. You don’t have to understand why people want to move to another country. You just have to be supportive of people’s reasons and listen so they feel heard.
To my fellow expats past, present and future, hang in there! I know it’s stressful to deal with this stuff from people who don’t understand, even if they are your closest friends.