Migration and Mental Health

People migrate for several reasons; some to further their education, others, for access to better opportunities while some migrate so their children have access to more opportunities than they did. Whatever the reason for migration, it is an emotional process that can affect the mental health and general wellbeing of the individuals involved especially if there is no stable support system available. Apart from being emotionally tasking, it is a huge financial investment as well.

In my experience, the first few months are usually more emotionally draining because you have to deal with a lot of things at once. The cultural shock, the struggle of settling in, having to learn new routes and directions which can be a frustrating process and the loneliness that comes with being in a new environment and not having friends around. After the euphoria of moving to a new place subsides, the void is instantly filled with nostalgia and most people experience withdrawal symptoms as a coping mechanism because a lot of things have not gone as smooth as they imagined. The emotional turmoil is full on and after a few months of handling the situation as best as possible, some people decide to return to their previous destination while for others who can’t due to financial or job commitments spend the rest of their time in a mindless state of depression. This goes on to affect the individuals’ functionality and productivity level. For instance, as a student experiencing financial challenges and simultaneously dealing with other issues arising from being in a new environment, his/her focus shifts from getting good grades and contributing in class to just managing to stay afloat and make ends meet which eventually affects their overall educational and social performance.

Sometimes in the middle of juggling all the necessities, we lose the very essence of being ourselves. We become completely devoted to and obsessed with making things work or return to the normal state we are comfortable with. This tends to lead to stress and if unaddressed, depression because the reality is nothing stays the same.

5 Steps to Building a Healthy Mindset as a New Migrant

  1. Acceptance: The earlier you come to terms with the fact that things have changed, the better you can integrate into the new system. The reality is if you wanted things to remain the same, there would have been no need to move to a new environment. So while migrating starts the change process, realising and accepting that nothing will remain the same eases the process. New environments always present new challenges that sometimes forces you to think outside of what you are used to for solutions. Acceptance opens up the mind to new possibilities and opportunities that are available in your new environment.
  2. Building Relationships: This is a very important step in developing a healthy mindset. The more you relate with people, especially those who have been in your environment longer than you have, the more you easily integrate into the system. This doesn’t mean you depend solely on other people to be mentally healthy, it means you have a support system round you that helps you to cope with your new lifestyle and not feel completely overwhelmed by all that is going on. I was speaking with a friend a few weeks ago and he told me the only way he has managed to stay sane through almost two years of working and studying was by making friends. He said whenever he felt overwhelmed or tired, he calls up some of his friends and they talk about random things or he drives to their homes just to hangout and relax. Building relationships helps us to maintain our sense of normalcy and optimism. Having a steady support system helps to improve our mental state and could be the best remedy for depression. There is a sense of rest we feel when we know that we are surrounded by people who are for us.
  3. Having Conversations: This is perhaps the most important aspect of building relationships. While it is great to hang out and relax, it is important to have certain conversations. Ask questions that are relevant to your situation, let people share their experiences with you, you might learn about a few things you should avoid or should definitely be involved in.You are only as good as the information you have. Build personal and professional networks to enhance your prospects and exposure. The key to moving forward in life is staying informed. Immerse yourself into your surroundings and relate with the people around you.
  4. Focusing on Yourself: Through the hustle and bustle of moving to a new place, we tend to forget about taking care of ourselves. If you are in good physical shape and are healthy, that’s less stress on your mental wellbeing. This means taking time out to do things that you really enjoy; see a movie, go out to dinner with friends you actually like, exercise as often as you can, volunteer to do things you genuinely care about. Most importantly, don’t take on responsibilities that are completely unnecessary. Don’t always feel obligated to say ‘yes’ to people. Learn and master the art of saying ‘no’ every once in a while. This is even more important to maintain a sane mind. Moving to a new country presents enough responsibilities and challenges, don’t make yourself available to take on someone else’s extra baggage.
  5. Don’t buy into the victim mentality: Learn to come to terms with your situation, analyse it and focus on possible solutions rather than the problem itself. I made a commitment to always stand tall wherever I find myself, not to focus on my inadequacies but my strengths in the present moment. The reality is not one single event or occurrence can define a person’s entire existence. You may be financially bankrupt but you have the capability to make an ingenious contribution to a media campaign at work, you can create a fantastic article based on your experience as well. So, while you may be going through a difficult time, do not become defined by it. Don’t be a walking magnet for people’s pity. Make the best you possibly can of every situation you find yourself in. Staying active, positive and optimistic is the best aphrodisiac for worry and stress.

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