It is no secret that life can be stressful, especially when you live abroad without the usual safety nets and support that one has when they live close to home. Living in a city can feel like one non-stop hustle. A number of my psychotherapy clients in Berlin are self-employed freelancers or artists. This is not uncommon as there is a growing literature on self-employed foreign workers in Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Spain, Ireland and the UK. Some reasons for this are that immigrants in general are more likely to take risks, being the kind of people that leave everything they have ever known to move half way across the world to try their luck in another country. But it also makes sense for immigrants to be self-employed considering that they are more likely to face discrimination, language difficulties and have struggles gaining access to information. It is also true that immigrant entrepreneurs find opportunities for work and business within their own immigrant communities.
So How do you Deal with the Uncertainty of Living Abroad?
The hardest part of being an expat freelancer is that there are high levels of uncertainty and unpredictability and that is just a fact that we have to live with. Uncertainty in a small amount can help us make creative decisions but it can also be paralyzing in huge amounts. Moving abroad, especially in the beginning, is a period of intense uncertainty. There may be a new language, unintelligible paperwork and bureaucracy (hello fellow German expats!), and new cultural issues to master. It can feel like a very long path to feeling settled with the same anxious question always somewhere in the background, “What does the future hold?”
The truth is you never get used to uncertainty but you can learn to live alongside uncertainty.
Here are some ideas for how to manage stress and anxiety as an expat:
- Plan ahead-get organized
- Staying actively busy
- Working on projects, even if you feel they won’t have monetary value
- Reaching out to contacts
- Break down to-do lists into manageable steps
- Self care-meditate-exercise
- Journaling -A piece of paper gives no judgment towards you, which can be extremely freeing.
- Be mindful of what you feed your mind and body
- Ask for help if you need it
- Save money when you have a good month
- Verbalize what you’re feeling
Don’t forget that this is a tough time on the road to starting a new life. The hardest part is managing the uncertainty and not becoming paralyzed with fear or overwhelm. Step by step and slowly your roots will begin to take hold.