Change is difficult. Much of what we do as therapists is to help people adapt during major life events and big changes in their lives. Immigrants face some big challenges when moving to a new country.
Some typical struggles include language barriers, loss of support in the form of community, distance from friends or family leaving people feeling disconnected and lonely, and absence of recognition of out-of country qualifications, which can spark feelings of powerlessness. All of these struggles can induce a state of “survival mode” where one feels like there is no real plan, or feasible strategy, and they’re just trying to survive one day at a time.
In this new environment, immigrants may also experience sadness that may come about suddenly. Feelings of homesickness can be brought on by things that some of us might otherwise take for granted in our own towns or communities. Things like adapting to a new climate, or certain scents, music, and foods that bring back memories of home can all evoke feelings of deep sadness. When such situations occur, remember to be kind to yourself. It is important to recognize these events and the feelings they bring up, so that you can better manage them in a gentle and healing way.
Here are some tools that can help you cope with sadness and loneliness as it comes up, by strengthening your mind, body, and soul:
- Being mindful and present allows us to bring awareness to all of the experiences happening around us, not just the bad ones. We can get consumed by worry, so much so that it can be difficult to notice the joy in our lives. Mindfulness can help us slow down enough to enjoy the good so that we can create balance, and therefore resiliency to stressors as they come.
- Staying physically active can help your body feel stronger, and exercise triggers a release of happy hormones, which can in turn give you feelings of accomplishment. This may help you feel more empowered to tackle other tasks, like socializing.
- Finding creative ways to keep regular contact with friends, family, and loved ones is an invaluable tool for healing loneliness. Technology provides some easy platforms for long distance communication. Developing personal connections within a new community can prove to be a little more challenging. Many people immigrate as international students, and they have lots of resources available to them through the universities, and the added benefit of having classmates to form relationships with. But many others immigrate without any resources or immediate access to supportive communities. Luckily, Nova Scotia is very multicultural with lots of organizations that put together festivals to help introduce new immigrants to a diversity of traditions, while at the same time helping them stay connected to their own culture. One excellent example is Halifax’s Multicultural Festival (https://multifestns.ca/).
While you are working from within in managing your stressors, you can also reach out to organizations that help with some of the logistics of getting settled. The Immigration Services Association of Nova Scotia (www.ISANS.ca), and the Nova Scotia Immigration (novascotiaimmigration.com) are both amazing resources. Both of these organizations provide a variety of support, including help overcoming language barriers by offering translators as well as tutors for English classes, support for finding employment, and connecting people to services within their local community to help make this transition easier for them .
Settling in a new country, surrounded by new foods, new cultures, and new traditions can feel very daunting and lonely at times. But rest assured, you are not alone.
Written By-Maryam Savari, Registered Counselling Therapist-Candidate