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Expat Women Confession: Overcoming Negativity

Overcoming Negativity


Extract from book: Expat Women: Confessions

Q. I am becoming increasingly negative and pessimistic and cannot help but be cynical and contemptuous toward everyone and about almost everything. This is my second posting overseas with my husband, and I know I am becoming more and more impossible to be around. I find myself uncontrollably ranting negatively about everything here in Israel. I used to be such a relaxed and pleasant person to be around, but now I am spiraling out of control and I have no idea how to return to my usual self. Can you help?


A. According to the Brookfield Global Relocation Services' Global Relocation Trends 2010 Survey Report, sixty-five percent of employer-sponsored expatriates who fail to complete their assignments, cite spouse or partner dissatisfaction as the primary factor. This means that you are not alone in your feelings, and we hope you will not be too hard on yourself.


Choose associates with care. As to why you have become cynical, your response may stem from a general feeling of loss of control–a very typical experience for expat partners. It may also have to do with the people you are associating with. A trailing spouse once told us about her first luncheon with an international women's group in a new posting. She had been in town four days and was very enthusiastic about being there and meeting some people. The first question she received upon arrival was "What did you do to deserve this?" followed closely by "How long is your sentence?" No surprise, she came away very demoralized. She subsequently decided that this particular group of women was not for her. She did not want to associate with or be surrounded by such overt negativity.


Watch your reaction to problems. If you are not particularly "busy" in your new life, it is very easy to spend your unoccupied time focusing on all the things that go wrong. This is true of life in general but is exacerbated in expat life because of the unfamiliarity of everyday living and the different challenges you face abroad.

For example, an Internet connection problem in your home country may be just a matter of over-the-phone technical support to very quickly solve the problem. By contrast, an Internet connection problem in a foreign country, with a foreign language, may involve several attempts to get someone to help, and may not be fixed for days, if not weeks. In the meantime, the nonfunctioning Internet connection means it is not as easy to connect with friends and family at home. It also means you are cut off from easy access to virtual services that expats rely on, such as banking, world news, travel, education and more.

Challenges like this can send any rational, self-controlled person into emotional despair. Unfortunately, they can also incorrectly feed your mind with thoughts that everything is wrong with your current location.

Nothing will change the situation you are in, but you can change your reaction to each situation. That is something you do have control over.


Environmental triggers. The environment can have an impact on your mood too. Have a look at your daily routine, take note of what really annoys you, and modify your actions accordingly. If it is being pushed and shoved by crowds of people on the streets when you do your shopping, look for alternative places to shop or try to change the time of day you visit the shops or market. Perhaps check whether the major shops offer delivery services, so you can avoid the crowds altogether. If it is the heat and humidity that pushes your buttons, try to plan a holiday away during the worst weather and/or do your outside chores in the early morning or in the late evening, to avoid the intense local heat. If you are not the coffee-morning type, look for different associations or networking groups that you can join to associate with like-minded people instead.

Equally, take note of the things that make you feel good and put you in a positive frame of mind, and do more of those things! Exercise can be one of the main saviors for people suffering from negative and depressing thoughts. That is because exercise stimulates the release of endorphins and makes you feel happier. If you do not do so already, try incorporating exercise into your daily routine. Make being active a priority and focus on improving you.


Investing in your health. Finally, do not be afraid to get help if you need it. There is no shame in investing in a life coach, doctor, professional counselor, psychiatrist or other medical specialist to help you get through patches in your life where some external moral support and direction could be beneficial.

In particular, if you are finding that your feelings of extreme negativity have been going on for several weeks and you are losing interest in your hobbies, friends, family and everything around you, it is possible you may be suffering from depression. In this case, we urge you to seek professional help sooner rather than later. Turning to a professional could genuinely be one of the wisest investments you will ever make in yourself and in your relationships with your family and friends.

We believe that (perhaps with some help) you can turn your expat experience around into a much more positive one. Make sure you believe it too.
 
 
October 2011
 
 
This Confession is an improved and expanded version of the original. It is included in the book Expat Women: Confessions – 50 Answers to Your Real-Life Questions about Living Abroad by Andrea Martins and Victoria Hepworth.
 
Andrea Martins co-founded and ran ExpatWomen.com until 2014. You can now find her at Launched & Noticed (a course to help bring your business idea to life) and Story Resumes (extraordinary resumes to help get you noticed for your dream job).
 
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*Disclaimer: This column is intended to be of general interest to ExpatWomen.com visitors. Its suggestions and/or inferences are generalizations and do not address the needs of individuals, nor should they be relied upon in any shape or form. Please seek professional advice/counseling/therapy if you genuinely need assistance to talk through issues in your life right now.





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