While moving to London is one of the most exciting experiences, it can be easy to forget that all these changes affect us emotionally. Here’s 8 mental health tips for London expats, by Katherine Healy, M.Ed., NCC.
Between the highs and new London adventures, it is normal to find yourself existing in the mundane and even experiencing low moments. Here are eight tips to work on your mental health and care for yourself while living in a new country, in London and beyond!
8 Mental Health Tips for London Expats
1. Ask yourself reflection questions
With all the excitement and chaos of moving to London, we can forget to find the time to slow down and reflect on our experience on moving to a new city.
Reflection is vital for growth, so make sure to take the time to explore how you’re really feeling! Where are you spending your energy that isn’t serving you? Is it a negative thought pattern like “I’m missing out on so much at home”?
Replace it with creating a list of everything you’ve gained since living abroad. Is it a weekly chore that’s taking a toll (trying to get groceries without a car — a fun new problem I’m experiencing), maybe budget for a grocery delivery service. Is it trying to force friendships just to have people to hang out with? Go out and do things alone to meet people who align with your values and personality.
Taking the time to reflect will help relax your nervous system and change the trajectory of your experience abroad!
2. Prioritize your wants and needs
Learning to listen to your wants and needs is crucial for a healthy relationship with yourself — so use this opportunity to explore what you love doing and take yourself on a date!
Pick your favourite type of food and research the best restaurants in London, go see that West End show you’ve been dying to see, or explore a new coffee shop! While there are so many opportunities in a new place, thinking through your specific desires will allow you to get the most from your experience.
3. Ground yourself by getting in touch with home
If you’re moving to London from abroad, there’s no doubt that everything around you will be changing, and you might notice you begin to feel a bit disconnected from yourself.
It’s easy to feel like people should be keeping up with you while you’re gone, but the reality is friends and family at home are going through their real lives as well.
Instead of pulling back in loneliness, call them up to ask how work is, what they’re learning, etc. Ground yourself in the normalcy of home & your established relationships. Lean on your people to remind you of your strengths and to help you connect to your authentic self.
4. Seek out new inspiration
When your daily London routine sets in you may start feeling low from time to time, so be intentional about finding new forms of inspiration and excitement!
You can watch a vlog on your city and go explore those places from a fresh perspective. Sign up for a cooking or pottery class or join a group tour (Airbnb has an experience tab with many great options!) Whether it’s taking a day trip or walking around a new neighborhood in your city, falling in love with it with fresh eyes provides a newfound sense of joy and wonder.
P.S – If you want to find something new in London check out these hidden London spots!
5. Write a letter to yourself from younger you.
“The only people worth impressing are 5 year old you and 85 year old you.” This quote rings true when thinking about going abroad in the era of constant connection through social media.
Writing a letter to yourself allows you to focus on your joy, growth, and accomplishments from your perspective, and not through the opinions of others.
While it can be easy to get caught up on how incredible your travels look, remember it is most important to be proud of yourself first. Take some time to remember what that child wanted, and thank yourself for the ways you’ve served them as you’ve grown up.
6. Pursue connection
Community can be something we take for granted in our home environment, but it is equally important to exist in community abroad! We are designed for connection, so make an effort to seek out expat groups, athletic clubs, religious or cultural organizations, etc., while adjusting to your new home.
When you specifically connect with other expats, you are able to hear others’ stories about their trials and triumphs. This will not only normalize what you’re going through, but empower you to continue to live out your story in a new city.
P.S – If you’re a woman looking to make connections in London, don’t forget to join the @womeninlondoncollective!
7. Schedule weekly emotional check ins
When things feel off and you can’t pinpoint why, or when things are going great and you want to celebrate, it’s important to check in with yourself and process the week. Here is an example;
“The highlight of my week was __”
“Something that was hard today was __”
“I am feeling __”
“I need ___”
“One way I am going to care for myself emotionally is ___”
“I want to give myself permission to __”
8. Identify your circle of control
Living in a new place, especially a place like London, can introduce new challenges, many of which contain elements that aren’t in your control.
This may feel overwhelming, so a great way to visualise what you have power over is drawing out a circle of control. In one circle, the circle of concern, write out everything that is worrying you that you can’t control (i.e. language barrier, long commute to work, etc.).
In the second circle, the circle of control, list out each way you have control over those problems (i.e. taking a language course, finding a podcast to listen to on your commute, etc.). Utilising your energy to focus on what you have control over will help reduce stress and put you in a more positive mindset.
About the Author
Katherine Healy is an American living abroad in London who has a heart for travel and people. She received her master’s degree in Human Development Counseling from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, and now works as a counseling trainee for a community counseling organization in London. After also briefly living in Uganda and France, she realized the importance of prioritizing mental health while living abroad. She is passionate about pursuing truth, exploring every coffee shop, and vigorously checking the Skyscanner app for flight deals.