Isolation, loneliness, and homesickness in expats
At times, we all feel lonely. It’s an unavoidable condition of human existence; but when you live in a foreign country, loneliness and isolation seem to be easily provoked and for many, become constant companions. These strongly link to homesickness.
Isolation and loneliness are like a vicious cycle: Once you start feeling isolated and/or lonely, you often lose your social confidence and refrain from reaching out. Thus making you feel even more lonely and less confident to reach out. This tormenting cycle is difficult to break and is a bullet proof way to loneliness.
By enhancing your understanding of yourself, your relational style, and how you contribute to this cycle, I can help you break it.
Why are expats more prone to loneliness?
Loneliness often stems from a general lack of meaningful connections with like-minded people who value you as an equal, share good times with you, empathically understands your struggles in life, and support you through grief and sorrow.
Everyone can experience loneliness, but as an expat, you’re no longer with your usual “pack”. Instead, you’re setting up a new life in a new place – and loneliness is often part of this process.
Becoming familiar with foreign ways of leading life, of dealing with everyday issues, and of connecting with people is an experience which only people who have lived it can fully appreciate. Therefore, there’s a greater risk for loneliness to be part of the experience.
You can feel lonely on your own or lonely amongst people. As an expat, you may experience loneliness because you feel different from others. You may experience constantly having to explain yourself to others because they don’t understand your life in your expat country, nor your home country. It may also be that you have difficulty making friends amongst the locals; or that the constant in-and outflux of other expats begins to takes its toll on you. Maybe you don’t feel rooted anywhere anymore.
Loneliness and homesickness can set in during all phases of expat life. However, it is particularly prominent when the honeymoon phase subsides or when big changes like a bereavement, divorce, redundancy, or identity crisis occur.
What consequences does loneliness have for your health?
Research shows that loneliness activates the pain-processing part of your brain, and that your fear response sets in which means you are living life from a state of heightened stress hormones. This compromises immunity, affects your sleep, and amplifies your risk of lifestyle diseases – all potentially compromising longevity, and certainly the quality of your life.
With loneliness, there’s also a risk of becoming stressed, anxious, or depressed. You might become more hostile towards others as well as find it difficult to break the vicious cycle of isolation and loneliness.
How can you alleviate isolation and loneliness?
Therapy can help you work through the debilitating aspects of isolation, loneliness, and homesickness and bring you to a more fulfilling place in life. You can read more about individual therapy here.