Healthcare Basics

Expat mental health: 10 tips for your wellbeing

Life abroad can be challenging at times, but these top 10 mental health tips for expats will help you look after yourself in your new home.

Expat mental health

By Christian Lapper

Updated 15-3-2024

As any expat will tell you, moving abroad can be something of a rollercoaster ride. Meeting new friends from around the world. Trying exotic foods and flavors. Forging your own path in a culture that’s completely foreign. All of these things make being an expat a truly rewarding and unforgettable experience.

However, like any rollercoaster, there are high and low points along the way which make the journey all the more exhilarating. But without your family, friends, and trusted support networks nearby, life as an expat can be challenging, particularly for your mental health. So, to give yourself the best chance of keeping your well-being in check, here are some helpful tips for maintaining your mental health as an expat.

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1. Keep a piece of home

One of the best things about moving to a new country is how much your life changes overnight. From the language you speak at the local supermarket, to the TV programs you tune in to watch, everything is new. However, while change is a great part of expat life, you still need a touch of home from time to time.

family photos on a wall

So, when preparing for your move abroad, be sure to include a few sentimental knick-knacks – even if you’re packing light. These familiar things will not only help you stave off homesickness but also ensure that you remain centered whenever you find your new life challenging.

2. Stay connected with loved ones

With the advancements in modern technology, it’s now easier than ever to stay in touch with loved ones from home. Whether you’re messaging, Facetiming, or simply calling up for a good old-fashioned chat, there are loads of options for staying connected with friends and family at home.

mother and daughter on zoom

Maintaining these lines of communication is essential to keeping your mental health in check. After all, despite the distance, your loved ones can provide a much-needed virtual support network in your new home. And while these conversations might make you miss home, they can also help you appreciate the opportunities in your new life.

3. Limit your social media use

Considering we’ve just advised you to keep in touch with friends and family back home, limiting your social media usage might seem a little counterproductive. However, spending hours trawling through social media posts of friends and acquaintances far away is never a healthy use of your time.

instagram user

So why not try to avoid that nagging fear of missing out by restricting your social media usage. You could create your own rules too, such as setting a daily limit on scrolling time or only checking your timeline when you post your own updates. Just think of all that saved time that you could spend more productively on things like discovering new hobbies or getting out there and exploring your new home.

4. Try to integrate into your new home

This might sound easier said than done, but doing your best to settle into your new home can work wonders for your mental health. Whether it’s learning the local language, joining a club or interest group, or even simply getting out there and wandering the streets, there are plenty of options.

language lessons

Living in a new country can be challenging, which makes feeling that sense of belonging even more important to your mental health. However, depending on your situation, you may want to take these integration steps a little slower than you might be used to. That way, you’ll avoid overwhelming your senses.

5. Connect with other expats

As well as integrating into your new home, activities like learning the local language or joining a sports club can be a great way to connect with other internationals. Many cities will also have expat community groups – both online and in-person – to help you meet like-minded people.

meeting other internationals

While you may want to focus on making local friends, you might soon find that you need those connections with other internationals, too. After all, they are more likely to understand your situation, and are typically best placed to provide emotional help and support should you need it.

6. Avoid too many unhealthy habits

When moving to a new town or city, it’s only natural that you’ll want to explore everything it has to offer. For many expats, that often includes sampling the local nightlife with new friends and acquaintances. However, be aware that all those late nights can take a toll on your mental health.

nights out

Lack of sleep, hangovers, and excessive alcohol and drug intake can quickly impact your physical and mental well-being. This kind of lifestyle can also lead some expats down a slippery slope where they adopt addictive tendencies, which can then cause further issues. Therefore, try to keep on top of your mental health and avoid overindulging in any unhealthy habits.

7. Get plenty of exercise

As an expat, you might feel like your exciting new life is pretty non-stop. Meeting new people, exploring your new home, keeping in touch with loved ones online – it can all add up. But another important part of maintaining your mental health is making time for some physical activity.

running group

Building regular exercise into your everyday routine is an important part of establishing a new life for yourself in a foreign country. Whether it’s at the gym, at a local sports club, or simply going for a walk around the neighborhood, it can work wonders for your mind and body.

8. Be honest with yourself…

Living in another country can be a truly life-changing experience, and you’ve probably moved with a long list of great things you want to see, do, and experience. However, life as an expat isn’t always plain sailing, and it’s important that you learn to live with that.

self reflection

To help you out, it’s important to manage your expectations accordingly in your day-to-day life. After all, some days and weeks will be more challenging than others, and it’s important to recognize this and not beat yourself up too much about it. Just remember – downs are always followed by ups.

9. … and others

As well as being honest and open with yourself about your mental health, it’s also important that you share those feelings with those important people in your life. Expat life isn’t a competition, and everyone experiences ups and downs along the way, so talking things through can really help.

expat mental health

As we’ve mentioned before, other expats are often the best placed to help support you in difficult times in your new life. So, if you feel comfortable, try to open up about your feelings and emotions. And above all, remember that it’s okay to not be okay.

10. Seek professional help if needed

Just like you would do with your physical health, sometimes it’s important to put your mental health in the hands of professionals. Even as an expat, you’ll be able to access a range of mental health care and support in your new home, including psychologists, psychiatrists, and more.

therapy session

As an expat, it’s essential that you have the right healthcare coverage. These premiums can include mental health services, ensuring that you can access professional help whenever you need it. Don’t forget that your mental health is just as important as your physical health when living abroad, so give yourself peace of mind and find the right coverage for you.