This is my most recent article produced for IamExpat and I am super excited to share it with you here.
As a busy expat in Switzerland with family and a career to contend with, it can feel like your internal energy supply is being drained. However, this feeling is normal and can be reversed.
I can usually reel these articles off easily and in no time at all. In fact, I can usually do many things in the same, easy way – that is until I had my hand put into a plaster cast from thumb to elbow. Now, from one day to the next it feels as if all that I took for granted, from getting dressed to going anywhere, has become a time-consuming, mood-narrowing and exhausting circus.
When it comes to getting the support you need, you are not alone
If you are an expat feeling the frustration and exhaustion of all the things you used to take for granted suddenly becoming urgent points on your (not unsubstantial) list of things to relearn, you are not alone! Luckily though, when it comes to getting the support you need to live your best expat life, you’re not alone either.
Finding a way to recharge your batteries is highly personal
To help those that need to “recharge their batteries”, I have been collating some of the key issues I have faced as an expat and incorporated them with secondhand experiences from the many coaching clients who have worked through their transition with me. What I discovered is that while there are many themes that are similar, no two situations or solutions are ever the same for any two clients.
What might work for one person and situation doesn’t necessarily work for the next, and reflecting back on what made each client journey successful, even the goals and solutions have been contradictory! Everything from learning the local language, embracing the culture and “fitting in”, to recognising, developing and leaning into a person’s authentic self and celebrating differences can and have worked wonders.
Best to focus on the who, what, when and where
Looking at the list of common themes in front of me, the one piece of advice I would offer to everyone, regardless of language, culture or expat situation is to learn what recharges your batteries, recognise what drains them and take the time to find and maintain your personal balance.
Can you remember a time when feeling depleted held you back physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually? Wherever you are and whatever you are facing right now, you will get the most out of the experience with fully and positively charged batteries.
Here is a simple tool that I regularly use to support clients’ energy levels, whatever goals they may be working towards:
- Draw a basic flower with a circle for the centre and four petals around the circle. Leave enough space to write inside each of these five shapes.
- Label each of the four petals with What, When, Who and Where.
- Fill out each petal with each what, when, who and where that charges your batteries (For example, What gives you energy? When is your energy at its highest? Who helps to boost your energy? Where do you feel most energised?).
- Think of all the times in your life when you felt energised, when things flowed and when you felt positive and had a sense of “I’ve got this!”- even in challenging situations.
- Keep filling the petals with your own “battery chargers” until you can’t think of anything else.
- Choose something from your “What” petal and do it. You might even choose an energy-boosting time, place and person to do it with.
- Notice how this makes you feel when you do it consciously and listen out for any “notes to self” (it might come in the form of a word, a sentence, a mantra, an image or a symbol). This is the centre of your flower; your personal “charge your battery” reminder light.
Please take into consideration that there are different kinds of energy – sometimes it’s hard to understand why we are still exhausted after sleeping so much, for example. Consider that each what, when, who and where has positive, charging influences on all aspects of your energy; your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual energies.
Try to focus on things you can do, not resent what you can’t
A word of caution: right now, I notice myself feeling grumpy and exhausted because I can’t be in the woods (one of my recharging “wheres”) walking my dog (one of my recharging “whats” and “whos”). I can’t put my coat or walking boots on or drive above the fog to the sunshine that I know would recharge me (one of my winter “whens”). My English family and friends (some of my recharging “whos”) are not around the corner and can’t pop in to offer support and make me giggle.
It’s easy (and completely normal and understandable) to slip into regretting all the things we can’t do right now and resenting the things we perceive as ‘to blame’ for lower-than-normal energy and mood. Each of us has a different go-to defence mechanism here, whether it’s pushing ourselves to plough on through, or blaming others or the situation for the way we’re feeling.
You know your own special way of reacting to these problems so keep in mind that whatever you write in the centre of your flower, needs to maintain your positive focus on what you CAN do and the choices you DO have control of. The next time you sense your energy dipping, notice what kind of energy has sprung a leak and let your energy flower remind you of all the ways you can give yourself a boost.
Whatever expat situation you are facing, remember that there is no quick solution, but there is plenty of support available. Coaching is the quickest way of making the most of your expat experience because it meets you exactly where you are right now and delivers the energising what, where, when and who to partner with you on your own unique journey. To help you make the most of your own journey, please contact me, Gillian Walter, and for more resources on developing your own voice, visit Brave Voice Books.