Sooner or later, the excitement of living and working abroad fades, and it can be replaced by boredom, loneliness, and a lack of focus. How can you get—and stay— excited about work again? Here are some tips.
Remember why you’re doing this.
Why did you choose to work abroad? Go back to your objectives. Whether it was to boost your finances or because you wanted to experience life abroad, keep those reasons front and center. Write reminders on sticky notes. “I’m here because I want to become more independent.” “I’m here because I want to have a nest egg.” “I’m here because I want to build a global network.” Place these notes where you’ll see them every day: your bathroom mirror, your refrigerator, and your front door. If improving your income is your greatest motivation, set financial goals for yourself and track your savings. Consider rewarding yourself in small ways when you hit a milestone. The point is to be your #1 cheerleader.
Accept the highs and lows.
Understand and accept that this shift is part of life. As with any job, burnout and boredom is common, but feelings can be magnified when you’re living and working abroad. You’re more isolated in a country you didn’t grow up in, so there are less familiar things that may bring you comfort. You may not have as many close friends as you do back home, so you don’t have a trusted friend you can confide in. Managing and mastering your emotions is a challenge that will help you grow as a person and as a professional, and it will come with lessons that will serve you well in life.
Create a daily routine.
A lot of people view having a routine as being boring, rigid, or stifling—but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. There are many great reasons why you should create a positive daily routine. A routine can anchor us when life’s unpredictability can stress us out. A routine can bring consistency and structure to your life, help you with time management, and encourage you to build healthy habits. It can give you more energy and peace of mind, and make you healthier and happier. You can start with simple things: a quick tenminute workout every morning, a short walk in the park during your lunch break while listening to calming music, or making a gratitude list every night before going to bed. As you master these simple daily tasks, you can progress to creating a daily routine with specific personal goals: you can create a daily routine for a more organized life, to have better health and more energy, or to be more productive. “We become what we repeatedly do,” writes author and innovator Sean Covey. Who do you want to be?
Shake things up.
It seems contradictory to talk about routine in one paragraph and then spontaneity in the next, but life is all about balance. Just as we need structure to ground us, we also need new experiences to inspire and energize us. New things and experiences force us to think differently: it stimulates creativity and changes our perspective. It can boost our self-confidence and allow us to bring something enjoyable into our lives. Check out city guides and bulletin boards for events. Follow the social media accounts of art galleries and fitness studios, community centers, and theaters. Whether it’s a tango class, bungee jumping, or open mic night, set aside time to jump into the unknown and jumpstart your spirit.
The most basic things can be the hardest to do—especially when you’d rather drown your sorrows in a tub of ice cream or a bucket of chicken wings, or wallow on the couch instead of working out. But the fact of the matter is, physical and mental health are intimately connected. When you’re stressed, sad, or bored, a healthy lifestyle is the first to go out the window, but that’s precisely when you should be eating right and getting some exercise. Eating well and working out isn’t only about pounds and inches, strength and endurance: it can have a profoundly positive impact on your wellbeing. You’ll be more energetic throughout the day, sleep better, and feel more relaxed and optimistic about yourself and your life. Stock up on healthy foods that can lift your mood— bananas, oats, fatty fish, dark chocolate, berries, nuts and seeds. Keep these handy at home and at work, so you can reach for them instead of junk food. Start small with your exercise routine so you don’t feel discouraged if you fail. Set achievable goals—maybe a ten-minute workout every day—and build from there.
Find your people in this home away from home. Building a community can give you a support system and be a welcome distraction from the blues. Look up volunteering opportunities, sports teams, cooking classes, art groups, or music clubs—whatever your interests are, find people who share them. It’s an easy way to make new acquaintances that can turn into great friends. Reach out to your family and friends back home, too. You’ve known them all your life, and you know they want to be there for you. Share your highs and your lows, your fears and sadness. That’s what loved ones are for—to be a shoulder you can lean on. And in this life, we all take turns with that. Let them support you now. When they need you it’ll be your turn, and you’ll be ready.