Supporting wellness abroad
Life abroad brings significant changes to our habitual environment and rhythms. Whether we consider ourselves immigrants, expats, or a digital nomads, we all need to care for conditions of safety and wellness dictated by our human condition. We are animals, social animals, psychological social animals in ever changing homeostatic relationships with the environment.
Here are a few basics, to reflect, regarding conditions of nourishment that can support our wellbeing as we change environments.
Psychology: we are psychological creatures, and develop a sense of wellbeing by feeling safe and capable of thriving. When adapting to a new environment, we need to secure resources, predictable routines, and experience successful adaptations. We need to feel competent and coherent. We are constantly monitoring our capacity to adapt and thrive. Think about how good it felt when you came back from the foreign supermarket with the basics for your meal, or when you successfully used the local gym, or when you obtained the (SUBE) mass transit card.
Caring for our psychological wellbeing also means caring for multiple dimensions that nourish us psychologically: play, spirituality, curiosity, creativity, and the moment-to-moment exchange with the objects of our attention. We inhabit and nourish from whatever is in our attention. More on this in another post.
Biology: as biological creatures, we are defined by homeostatic processes that require constant care to maintain balance. The food we eat, our hydration, exercise, sleep, and our exposure to the elements, they all affect our wellbeing. In my psychotherapy work with clients, I make it a priority to discuss the conditions for physical wellbeing. I can not begin to tell you the many stories of immediate improvement in wellness by people starting to exercise, cutting down their drinking of alcohol, or intentionally increasing sleep. For patients who suffer depression, exercise is an immediate resource for care, and this has strong scientific backing.
Social: we humans are deeply social. We create meaning, develop an identity, i.e. know who we are!, find safety, self-regulate, and thrive in relationship to others. Life abroad, with its various modes of social rooting: immigrant, expat, digital nomad, poses a drastic change in social belonging. It is imperative that we attend to, and care for, our social connections wherever we are, specially if we move often. Isolation and poor social belonging promote distorted self-experiences, increasing vulnerability, alienation, and a host of conditions associated with mental health problems and a loss of quality of life. Since the pandemic, we have seen significant problems associated with alternations in our social participation. The speed of de-rooting and changes associated with a nomad life requires that we pay close attention to how we care and nourish our social belonging.
I hope you found these concepts a good starting point for reflection. If you want to send me your thoughtst, I’ll be glad to receive your correspondence: [email protected]
Alejandro Pawliszyn, Lic.