We can all agree that 2020 has been less than, and the holiday season is making no exception. This year many families are making the tough decision to stay home, not to travel, and not to see relatives and friends (through a screen yes, but not in person). Alongside that tough decision can come guilt, loneliness, and feelings of having without. Being without family, without friends, and without a sense of holiday cheer. Yet, all is not lost. I promise.
If there’s any group of people who have first-hand experience with having distance from family, it’s expats. Now that we are in a pandemic, it’s not just expats dealing with the absence. Everyone is getting a crash course in distance from family and friends.
There is a saving grace. It’s hope and the fact that there are millions of people who are dedicated, ready, and able to support those who may need a bit of a boost of joy and help. In managing all the emotions that come with being away from loved ones.
In this Expat Dream Team post. A few expatriates who are in the health, wellness, mind, and behavior industries. Are providing advice and their services on how to cope with being far away from family this holiday season.
Coping Advice During The Holidays
Marianne de Kleer is a Canadian expat living in the French countryside with her French husband and Papillon, her cat. She helps expat women in their middle years avoid burnout, reduce stress and boost confidence through sophrology – a popular stress reduction technique in France – and holistic wellness coaching, both online and in person. Sophrology is relatively unknown in the English-speaking world but it has been a go-to wellness method for millions of people in Europe over the last 60+ years. Marianne’s goal is to continue bringing awareness of this effective mind-body modality to English-speaking women around the world.
”Being away from family during the holidays is never easy. For expats it may be a fairly regular occurrence, but with this year’s pandemic, it’s going to be a reality for so many more.”
”I moved to France in 2009 and haven’t spent one single Christmas with my family back in Canada since that time. In order to make things more bearable, I’ve had to search out connection and community in other ways. Sending cards, gifts and emails to my friends and family, in addition to scheduling facetime calls, has helped with feeling close to those who are far away. I’ve also come to really appreciate my friends and in-laws right here in France. Being fully present and generous with my time and interest close to home has really strengthened those ties.”
”Here are my top tips for feeling connection during the holidays this year:”
”1. Reach out to those people back home with whom you haven’t connected in a while.”
”Go beyond your “small circle” of friends and family and try to reach out even further. You can vary your strategies through phone calls, emails, letters, postcards, little gifts, video calls etc. Try setting a goal of 50 people and see how far you get!”
”2. Think of where you are now and who’s in your inner circle of friends and adopted family (in-laws, if you have them!).”
”What can you safely do together, given the current rules in your country? Can you meet up for a distanced walk or picnic? Can you have a virtual video aperitif and meal together? Maybe do a meal exchange, where you all cook a little extra and give each other some different dishes to try at home? Whatever it is, try and be as generous with yourself as possible. Show a real interest and propose activities to others, instead of hoping someone calls you with a plan. If you’re an introvert like me, this can be a big hurdle to get over, but it does make a big difference to reach out!”
”3. Use this time to really dig into some self-care and connection with yourself.”
”Winter in the northern hemisphere is a perfect time to slow down and strengthen your roots for the season to come. What does that mean to you? Getting out for a daily walk or at-home yoga stretching session? Taking time to plan and prepare a delicious meal, including searching out the recipes, buying the ingredients and cooking while listening to your favourite tunes? Or maybe it’s getting your thoughts out on paper, either through journaling, freestyle writing with prompts, or going through a year-in-review of 2020 and making plans for 2021. If I had access to my local pool’s sauna and Jacuzzi, they would definitely be part of my self-care plan!”
”Some other great options: reading, learning a new thing, painting, drawing, knitting, pottery, taking photos, going for a walk in a new place, listening to some online guided meditations, choosing one thing to declutter, doing puzzles, colouring, and watching your favourite holiday film. You can also try going for a Creative Walking Tour to tune into your senses and see the beauty around you!”
”Get creative and do what feels nourishing to you.”
Gabriela Encina is a licensed psychologist and certified coach, with more than 18 years of professional experience. She provides counseling and coaching online, helping more than 300 expats from all around the world to
cope with the challenges that expat life can bring.
Being an expat herself, she can understand what their clients are going through and provide them with the help and guidance they need to live a fulfilling life abroad, build meaningful relationships and reduce stress and anxiety.
Gabriela is an advocate of difficult emotions, as all are useful and providers of information, and speaks the truth about the B-Side of Expat Life.
“My top advice:
”1. Connection with the people back home. Connect with calls, and celebrations. Cooking together for Christmas over video conference. Letters and written christmas cards (not emails). Connection with the people that you know, with the people that you care about. The people that you love and those who love you. It’s never enough. If you feel alone, lonely and frustrated, seek for connections, search for this connection. Search for the profound relationship(s) that you have back home.”
”2. One of the triggers/causes behind loneliness is the need of connection. And if we can’t connect with our loved ones back home, or we don’t want to worry them, we can search for connection where we are. The first and most obvious advice is trying to find someone where you are (the city or country) to celebrate with. Search within expat groups, little celebrations.”
”3. Engaging in voluntary work. Because you are connecting with people that are alone too. You are also doing good for people too. By doing acts of kindness, we release different type hormones the endorphins. Like oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine. They are really good mood regulators. One of them, the oxytocin, is love hormone. They are filling us with energy and make us feel good. and we are fulfilling the need of connection and we are helping others too.”
”4. A mantra. Repeating that this is not going to last forever. Even if it feels like it or if it seems like it’s going to be until 2022. It’s not going to be forever. We are going to see our loved ones, we are going to hug them, and laugh. We should repeat, and repeat until we are tired of it because this is not going to last forever.”
Meet Nicole Annemarie
”My name is Nicole Annmarie, Jamerican (Jamaican +American) from NYC. I am currently living and teaching in Shanghai, China. This is my seventh year abroad; I spent my first five years teaching in the United Arab Emirates. My initial intention of moving abroad was to pay off all my debts and travel the world, little did I know that I would successfully attract that but also embark on a journey of self-discovery. As a result, it’s been my mission to empower women to do the same. I have a knack for personal development and spirituality so you can find me giving talks, tips and soon coaching women on ways to create and have a life they desire. I am here to help women who want to go from feeling unfilled to fulfilled and centered.”
”My 6 tips for Expats struggling with distance during the holidays.
- Acknowledge how you are feeling about the distancing with yourself first (journaling) then with a trusted friend/family member. Know that what you are feeling is totally normal.
- -a I suggest one of these people being in the expat country and one at home.
- Recreate a holiday ritual with someone at home and set a date and time using Zoom/Skype or Facetime.
- Have an intimate gathering with friends/colleagues and try to recreate some of the holiday customs shared at home.
- Join groups in your expat country with people who share some similar customs and culture.
- If you are feeling bold and, in your budget, treat yourself to a night in a hotel. Dress up and create your own holiday.
- Use the time to reconnect with yourself : Meditate, pray, journal. This is a great time to write down what your wishes are for the future. Take yourself on a date, watch a favorite movie.”
“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”
Instagram: @the_soulfulmind111 – messages to empower growth Instagram: @thesoulfulexpat – my personal and business page Instagram: @thesoulfulplaces – launching soon Website link: A Steve Jobs Speech Inspired Me To Move To The UAE
Meet Rachael Lynn
Rachael Lynn is a dual Canadian American currently living in Dubai. She is the author of the book, “At Home Anywhere: Feel At Home Wherever Life Takes You” – a guidebook for emotionally supporting yourself as someone who lives globally. She is also the creator of the Journaling Within digital course that teaches women how to use specific, guided journaling prompts to foster a feeling of home within themselves. She is currently working on a second book and hoping to start her global family soon ☺
”This will be my first time away from my family for Christmas. I had adjusted to missing birthdays, Thanksgiving, and even family events – and thought maybe that there was still a chance for Christmas.”
”There are ways we can focus on being there for and connecting with our families, but during this time my top advice is always to do whatever you can to nurture yourself‘:’
- Allow yourself to be and feel upset if you are. I still remember when I first moved to Dubai – two weeks after getting married. I felt like everything was different and was having a really hard time, but didn’t want to upset my family because I know it was hard enough as it is for me to be so far from them. For a couple of months, I pretended everything was fine. And I totally crashed and fell into a mild depression. It wasn’t until I was honest with them about struggling that I actually felt some relief. Being away for the holidays is no different – if you feel a little like crap, let yourself! Tell someone! You don’t need to hide it, and you give them the opportunity to express the truth about what they’re feeling too.
- Listen to your favorite holiday music, bake the cookies, order yourself that gift and get it gift-wrapped. If you’re not used to not being with family during this time, it can be easy to fall into thinking that you don’t need to ‘do anything special’ and treat the holidays like just another day abroad. But those little traditions are very comforting, and though it won’t be the same, you deserve to feel cozy.
- Delete Instagram from 24 hours + call your family or friends instead. I can go into comparison mode especially if I’m feeling down – and seeing friends and family of others (even random celebrities) celebrating together is really not helpful at all. I’ve deleting the apps off my phone helps me snap out of it. So if you need to, do it! Hop onto Zoom or Whatsapp and call someone to catch up instead.
- Journal to reflect on what you’re actually feeling. Open up a notebook or grab a piece of paper and simply start to write down what’s feeling overwhelming, frustrating, or anything you’re feeling in that moment. Having a journaling practice relieves stress and helps us let go of thoughts and emotions we may usually keep buried inside.
”Remember, whatever you’re feeling is normal. What you’re going through is very unique. Even if the whole world is having a challenging year, it doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to feel great, or terrible. We have an amazing expat community around the world who are experiencing very similar things. Happy Holidays!”
“Hi, I’m Michelle!! I’m currently living in my hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota in the US…a few years ago I wouldn’t have expected to say that. BUT I love this time right now at home!”
”In the past I’ve spent time living in Cambodia, Nepal, and visiting many other countries for service trips and visiting my expat friends abroad!”
”I’m a leadership coach and I focus on helping service-minded women who are returning home or relocating to use their experiences from being abroad to continue making a big impact in their communities! I love helping women communicate their international stories in a way that makes them feel heard, understood, and like they are making a difference!”
”Right now, I’m currently dreaming and working towards expanding my coaching into group coaching to help create community among my clients as they live in many different parts of the world but have a similar heart and vision to continue serving others and making a big impact! I’m also in the works of planning my next move abroad in 2021 and couldn’t be more excited!! Ahhh finally :)”
”Imagine yourself 10 years from now, what do you want to remember yourself doing this holiday season in 2020?”
”I’m sure there are things that came to mind that unfortunately just aren’t possible. Friend, can I just say that I see you and share in the feelings of disappointment. BUT I want to offer you some hope and encouragement today! You’re reading this for a reason.”
”Ok, stay with me here! Give it another chance to imagine yourself 10 years from now looking back on the holiday season of 2020. What do you want to remember doing that is possible even with your current situations and realities?”
”Here is my advice to you and are also some of the things that I want to remember doing to make the most of this year and create fun, unexpected memories…”
- ”First, be honest with yourself about the disappointments and challenges. It’s ok and it’s healthy to acknowledge those. Maybe you process well through journaling or talking with a trusted friend. Get your real honest emotions off your chest and don’t just stuff them.
- Next, I’d encourage you to do something active!! Get up and move, go for a walk, bake something that reminds you of home or a holiday treat you’re missing, etc. Whatever it might be for you to physically get up and move is a great start!
- Connect with your loved ones that may be far away by distance or you’re not able to be with in person. Schedule a video call, write them a letter, or connect with them in a way that will help you to feel like you’re still part of the holidays with them.
- Continue a tradition of yours. Depending on where you are and what that looks like, I know this will be different for everyone. Think about a special tradition and one that you can carry on and continue where you are currently. Even if it takes a little bit of tweaking…just do it! Oh, and also, take a picture/video or do something as a way of remembering this special way you’re choosing to continue your tradition!
- If you’re able to be with people where you’re at, do it! Everyone needs community and human connection especially during the holidays. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a local friend and make plans (as you’re able to do safely during this time). Maybe invite someone to join in your holiday tradition or teach it to someone for the first time. Or go for a distanced walk with a neighbor. Get creative and make something happen that is safe but with people. I can’t help but dream and think about the impact it would have on them too. We ALL need people during this season!”
”Friend, as you are missing loved ones, home, or usual traditions- this is my hope for you:”
”May you look back in 2030, ten years from now, and smile as you reflect and remember this holiday season in crazy 2020. I hope that you have cherished memories, were able to safely be with people, shared moments with loved ones, continued a tradition or began a new one, and grew a new perspective of hope amidst disappointment and challenges!”
”Like I said, we all need people during this year and especially this season. DM me on IG (olivebranch_coaching) with your stories, pictures of your new or modified traditions, challenges this year has brought, or something that made this holiday season unexpectedly sweet. I’d love to hear from you!”
”I offer individual leadership coaching, group facilitating, and speaking events. You can read more about my services and how I can help YOU at my website www.olivebranchcandc.com and my IG account olivebranch_coaching.”
Meet Katerina Detska
”My name is Katerina Detska and I originally come from Greece, but I have been living in Denmark for the past 4 years now! I am a colon cancer survivor in a young age (22) who turned into becoming a Longevity and Prevention Mentor for people with chronic health problems! I have a huge passion for helping and guiding people through their own healing journey by teaching them how to take good care of their body through food and self-love.”
”My top advice for those who are struggling with being far away from family and won’t be with them during the holidays :
Well, I myself am in that specific situation right now, so I think that I can totally relate with all the people who would like to spend their holidays with family but cannot for one reason or another! My best advice would be to just focus on the present moment. FOCUS ON THE NOW. How can you have the best holidays possible given the situation? Which people are you able to spend time with that can make these holidays beautiful? Take advantage of your time off, spend time with yourself, relax, take good care of yourself holistically and of course FaceTime your loved ones when you feel like this is what you need! And these days will be gone before you know it! ** Extra tip : invest some time on writing down your goals for the new year and all the things that happened in 2020 that you feel grateful for!”
Instagram: Kate_de_buba Business Instagram: @plantwaterflourish Website : www.plantwaterflourish.com The next round of my Group Program TEAM BODY LOVE starts the 18th of January! Contact me through IG or at email@example.com
Anka Grzywacz is a sexologist and Certified Sex Coach. In her online practice she helps women and couples from around the world nurture love and desire. Her current coaching programs focus on helping women with low libido and orgasmic difficulties. Originally from Poland, she lives with her husband, son and cats as an expat family in Switzerland.
”The pandemic has forced many couples into long-distance relationship lifestyle. Partners who work abroad cannot go back home whenever they wish. For some, this means living apart for months on end. And a lonely Christmas.”
”The idea of spending the holidays without your significant other may seem daunting. Here is how you can nurture intimacy from a distance:”
”1. Embrace each other with words”
”Do you know that warm feeling when someone says, “I love you”? Or when you open your heart and tell it to your partner? Make sure to do the sweet lovers’ talk as often as possible. Trust me, he or she will sense your affection even if your date takes place on Zoom.”
”It is so easy to get into focusing on the negatives here. Notice your patterns (like saying “I miss you so much” all the time) and try a different approach. Rephrase those sentences into something positive. Instead of “I can’t live without you” say “I can’t wait to hold you again, to feel your warmth and whisper in your ear”. Notice how focusing on the possibilities changes the mood between you.”
”2. Go down the memory lane”
”Strengthen your relationship by reliving the good moments you shared together. All you need is a screen share option and a collection of old photos and videos. If you have been together for a long time, dig out the pics from your time as high school sweethearts. Laugh at your fashion choices and hairstyles. If you’re married, watch the wedding videos and celebrate your bond and commitments that you made.”
”3. Get into the sexy mood together”
”How to you stay intimate when living in different countries? The sexual aspect of the relationship suffers the most in a long separation. Not everyone is adventurous enough to get naked in front of the laptop camera. Does this mean you have to give up on erotic expression altogether? Absolutely not!”
Big hug and happy holidays, everyone. You are not alone. This too shall pass. Breathe, take time and connect with loved ones.