This month on Everyday Expats we’re talking about Stress-Management and Self-Care. I’m sure I’m not alone in having faced some major ups and downs while living between homes, countries and cultures. I’m thankful that with each passing year I learn more about what it means to take care of myself, to recognize when I need a break and to see what it takes to step back and reevaluate how I can best thrive in this unpredictable life. I know I’m not alone in this experience.
In this month’s interview, I talk with Bego Lozano about what stress management and self-care mean to her. I decided to ask Bego to join me this month because she is, like all of us, someone who has faced significant ups and downs, stressors, set-backs and amazing highs while living around the world. Even with all those challenges, I’ve come to know her as someone who always comes back to a focused, thoughtful approach to caring for herself. And, I’ve seen how well those skills have served her in managing stress. I’m so happy to have her here to share those reflections and tips with you all.
Read her responses to my Everyday Expats Questionnaire below and watch her Everyday Expats interview for our conversation and her tips for how to handle stress in your life, no matter where you go.
Everyday Expats Questionnaire
Tell us a bit about yourself? Where did you grow up? Where have you lived? What currently occupies your time, mind and heart?
I grew up in Mexico City to Mexican parents with a big Spanish influence. Lived there all my life until I married. I have lived in Paris, Miami, Seattle, New York City, Mexico City, São Paulo, and now Burlingame, CA…and who knows where next? I’ve been happily married for almost 23 years and am a mother to two wonderful kids and a dog that responds to commands in three languages!
Currently my mind, head, and heart are occupied by tons of things. Our son is going off to college in the fall (to the Boston area), so there are many things to get ready – both physical and emotional. Our daughter will be a junior in high school. I’m busy planning my next professional reincarnation and thinking how to best manage and budget my time between family, volunteering, doing yoga, meditation, and now returning to running while doing business development and working.
When do you first remember realizing that you’d live an international life?
I’ve never really thought about this. Thinking back, I know when my now husband and I started dating we talked about wanting to live abroad for a while and when the opportunity came we immediately jumped for it. My Mom used to describe me as her “nomad daughter.” After a while of living in the US we decided to go back to Mexico City, so our kids would have a similar experience to the one we had growing up: family, friends, familiar places and routines. Probably the decision to move to Brazil was when we decided to intentionally live an international life and embrace it.
What is your absolute favorite part of living a globally mobile life?
How your mind and your heart grow. Meeting new people, trying new foods, listening to new music, reading new books, experiencing new rituals, immersing in a new culture and taking what you like and making it yours. My life is richer and deeper thanks to these experiences. A part of me is from all the places I have lived, and I like to think I left a part of me as well. Understanding we are all interconnected, and seeing the world is bigger than just my little vision and comfortable corner AND understanding that I have a responsibility to the world.
What’s your least favorite part?
It is two-fold: leaving friends behind and all the administrative things required when leaving and starting over. I read somewhere that friends are either for a season, for a reason, or for a lifetime. It is very hard when you think you have made lifetime friends and you know your worlds will probably not intersect again.
Doing all the administrative things gets to be tiring and repetitive, and it is honestly hard work. Before leaving: paperwork for the movers and insurance, closing out accounts, cancelling services. Upon arrival: inspection of whatever broke or got lost during the move, new medical insurance, setting up all the services, bank accounts.
What have you most learned about yourself because of this lifestyle?
I have learned quite a bit about myself. I never knew I was so strong in the face of adversity, and how resilient I am. While living in Brazil I had cancer (thyroid) and my son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes (an autoimmune condition that can be properly managed, but for which there is no cure). I read somewhere that the hardest things to do in a different language is get a haircut and go to the doctor, and yes, I can attest this is the truth. I still have a tough time distinguishing in English between a dull and a sharp pain – it hurts, that is all I know! I have also learned that I truly enjoy this lifestyle of opportunities, building, trying, trying again, learning from others and from past mistakes
What do you consider to be your “everyday expat” super powers?
This is a hard one! (Impostor syndrome, right?) I think my everyday expert superpower has something to do with remembering to build support systems and be part of somebody’s support system. I see support systems as both internal and external. By internal I mean finding what brings you joy and doing it often, have “me” time, taking care of the basics: exercise, sleep, quiet time, eating well. Living far from family and people I grew up with, it is important to build a support system: people you can celebrate and cry with, people who will give you their honest feedback, people who will get your car from a parking lot when you have to catch an airplane (true story!).
I like to think about how the seemingly “everyday” choices we make in our expat lives are actually huge boosts for our mental health, physical wellbeing, ability to connect with others and sense of self in the world. The goal of this series is to bring these reminders to life. For this month’s theme, what 3 tips, suggestions or insights would you like to offer the World Tree Coaching community?
My 3 stress-management and self-care tips are:
Reach out and build a support system, ideally before moving. Don’t be shy about contacting the friend of a friend. You will get insight that only locals have -they did the legwork, take advantage of it. And keep tapping into it when you run into issues or unknowns – there is someone that has gone through what you are facing.
Remember to prioritize yourself and build your internal support system: if you do yoga, find a studio, if you like running, find a trail, sleep well, eat healthy, have quiet time.
If you don’t do anything for yourself or by yourself, find something. Try different things until you find what sparks joy for you: take a class, get a massage, meditate…figure out something for you and only for you. (Which in turn will benefit those around you).
And sneaking in a number FOUR
Be self-compassionate. Living an expat life can be hard: acknowledge what you feel, be kind to yourself, and remember you are not alone. This is all part of being human.