This is a curious time of year for the newly arrived... after a couple of months of frantic activity that was probably exciting and frustrating in equal measure you have done your initial tasks. You've packed, moved, unpacked, got all the utilities working, bought and cooked food and if you have them, settled the kids into school.
You might even be experiencing moments of peace, followed by feelings of unease, because ... what do you do now? It's often around now that many expat spouses / accompanying partners start wondering "what about me?" or "what have I done?"
This can be a very disconcerting for the previously sane, very functional person as they begin to wonder if they're losing it slightly. Don't worry, it's a very normal reaction, your life has changed beyond recognition and most of the people who supported you are in a different country. The two biggest problems reported by expat partners are "Missing my support network" and "Not feeling like myself anymore". These two are inextricably linked. Our close circle of friends and family strengthen our inner positive feelings about ourself. When we feel good about ourself, it's easier to reach out to both strengthen our existing relationships and connect to new people. It's a virtuous circle. So what happens when you've moved away from your close circle, don't feel very positive and are finding it difficult to connect with others?
What I see many people do to attempt to overcome this, is become either:-
Effusive - Throw themselves into making a perfect plan for the new 'them', networking like crazy and make lots of new 'friends', only to find themselves exhausted and a bit empty.
or Reclusive - Hide away, busying themselves with the minutiae of home life, not connecting with anyone new and being over reliant on old friends back home, becoming sadder and lonelier.
Instead, become reflective and consider your strengths. Your strengths are likely to be things that you enjoy doing..... so focusing on them should make you feel happier and as they're familiar, you'll feel more like your self.
Try out this challenge:
Grade, Improve, Connect.
Take one of your strengths, give it a current grade on a scale of 0 to 10, (zero being 'not at all present', ten being 'couldn't possible get any better'. Work out how you can improve the score by 1 point, here and now in this new country (seriously ONLY 1 point). Now add the important bonus - add some form of connection with others. So for example your strength might be 'cooking asian food' and you might give it a current score of 4 because you don't know where to buy the spices in Lisbon. You improve it to a 5 by researching and going out and buying the spices. You add the bonus by making some food and sharing it with your neighbours.
This challenge works because it's simple and quick so it avoids endless navel gazing and procrastination. It makes you take action and do something achievable which gives positive feedback that you can make things happen here and then go on to do bigger things. And most importantly, it gives a reason for connecting with others.
I've worked with many women who have used this simple challenge to begin the process of finding themselves and integrating into new societies. Their strengths have ranged from painting to book keeping, from coding to dance. Once you've taken a strength and improved it by 1 point, you can keep going and improve by another 1 point or add variety and switch to a different strength.
Give it a go! Leave a comment below and share your success.