Somebody pinch me. We’re moving again. I recently thought it would be kind of interesting to count how many times I’ve moved in my life. I gave up around 28. I figured more than that and I was probably splitting hairs. At any rate, this summer will be my sixth international move, my fifth with my husband, and our third with children.
I’ve written a lot about the weird combination of normalcy and complete disruption that permeates this lifestyle. Personally and professionally I see expats deal with incredible stressors and keep on thriving. What is it that makes some people seem to ride this mental and emotional roller-coaster with such ease?
In my experience, people who handle transition the best are often using what I like to call The Three R’s – Rest, Regroup and Reclaim.
- Rest – Okay, so this one might seem obvious. All of that packing and moving and traveling and (jeez, what a nightmare…this list could go on forever) is exhausting. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but it really is tiring beyond belief. And it’s not just because transitioning makes you busy. It’s also because mentally and emotionally we’re constantly stretched to our limits. However, individuals who are able to maintain a certain degree of down time get through this process so much easier. I’m not just talking sleep here. This can be taking time for exercise, going out to dinner or coffee with a friend or your partner, neglecting the to-do list for an afternoon or quietly reading a book. Our minds, our hearts and our bodies need this time. It’s essential to maintaining clarity and a sense of calm in what is often an incredibly un-calm place to be.
- Regroup – Transition can throw us into a sort of tunnel vision. We get our “shoulds” and “have tos” stuck in our heads. Sometimes we don’t even really pay attention to our to-do list, we just do the things that are on it, automatically, absent-mindedly. However, the most successful expats I’ve worked with are ones that regularly and willingly take a second look at that long list of tasks and throw out the things that aren’t necessary. They’re also the people who take time every few days to ask themselves, their family members and their partners if they’re still on the same page. They’re incredibly open to admitting if Plan A isn’t making sense anymore and they then move thoughtfully to Plan B. Expats who regroup are able to reduce stress because flexibility and openness are a natural part of their transition process.
- Reclaim – I love this one! There are so many seeming rules to this lifestyle. For every person that tells you to make local friends, there will be someone else who encourages you to create a community of fellow expats from your home country. For each parent who swears by the local school system, there is another that cannot imagine anything other than an international school. We’ve all been trapped in the middle of these competing narratives. In my own experience, however, the most well-adjusted expats are the ones who are able to reclaim their own narrative. These individuals are able to view the competing options and opinions as pieces of information, but don’t feel compelled to make decisions based on the views of others and they repeatedly reclaim their story when they feel like they’ve swayed from what is most important to them.
So, what does this mean for most of us – especially if we read this and realize we’re not exactly living by The Three R’s?
Here are some things you can do to give your Three R’s a boost:
- Write The Three R’s on a sticky note and place them somewhere visible as reminder to reevaluate on a regular basis. Or, click here to print my snazzy reminder notecard.
- Spend time each day, even just a few minutes, thinking about how you feel about where you are and what you’re doing. If you like to write, journal about this. If writing’s not really your thing, then just go for a walk or a drive or even just sit for a while and think about The Three R’s.
- Ask yourself some questions like the ones listed here.
- Make a coffee date with your partner, best friend or confidant. Talk it out.
- Work with a coach. Learn more about my work here, see what packages I offer here and check out my latest summer discounts here.