How to Avoid Expat Burnout
I have been on holidays in Australia for just a little under a week now. It is truly wonderful for many reasons – the food, the family, the friends and the constant interaction with my dogs, to name a few.
There is one element of being home that has stood out above the rest. The fact that I have been well within my right to do absolutely nothing. I haven’t had a holiday like this for quite sometime – indeed, when looking back on the last twelve months of my life overseas, I can’t think of the last time where I wasn’t off-my-face exhausted.
Travel burnout is certainly something that many long-term travellers experience. It is hard not to, when you lead a lifestyle where you are constantly on the go. Many travellers have confessed to feeling burnt out when on the road. On the contrary, I hardly hear anything about expat burnout – yet it must be a thing, because I know the term perfectly sums up how I have been feeling!
After twelve months of burning the candle at both ends, I know I am ready for a change and this little sojourn home has helped in highlighting what needs to be done.
Make sleep a priority
I know this is where I fall short, time and time again and I am sure I am not alone in this regard.
I’ve written about the importance of getting a good night’s sleep before and I am going to harp on again about it now. Sleep is the cornerstone of good health. There is a scary world trend that is steadily gaining momentum, where it is both commonplace and expected to put sleep on the back-burner, to attend to work and social commitments. This is silly, because without sleep, you simply cannot function. You could be living the life that has consistently haunted your dreams, but if you’re not sleeping, there is always going to be that edge to your day; haunting you, exhausting you.
Take it from a serial insomniac – getting your sleep right is of utmost importance. Everything else is secondary.
Don’t underestimate the importance of establishing a consistent exercise routine
If you were an avid gym-goer in your home country, you are going to feel completely out of whack if you suddenly stop exercising when you move abroad. It can take awhile to find a suitable gym or yoga studio, but it is worth investing the time in doing so.
From a personal perspective: I went from being a total gym-bunny in Oz, to attending maybe one yoga class a week when I moved to London. I certainly felt the difference, both physically, when my biceps eroded away into nothingness and mentally, when I felt very sad about this.
If you’re working freelance and travelling a lot, it can be hard to establish a routine. However, it is definitely worth investing the time in at least trying to do so.
Avoid becoming a workaholic
When you are not travelling, you are going to be working, in order to fund your lifestyle. If you are living in a particularly expensive city, such as Singapore, London, Paris, New York or Sydney, you’ll be working even more, just to get by.
Let me ask you the question I routinely confront myself with. Did you move to x city to live in x city, or just to work? If you’re putting in the work for a specific purpose, such as furthering your career, then fair enough. However, if your job simply serves as a way to fund your lifestyle and pay the rent, the it might be time to re-evaluate your priorities.
Be careful not to eat or drink like you are on holidays
Oh man, I fall for this time and time again. I can have four cocktails after work! I am in mutha-flippin’ England! I think to myself, downing one glass after another, or “accidentally” eating ten desserts. Yep, I am in England, because I live in England – in a city where it is far cheaper to cook your own meals than constantly eat out.
Living off M&S meals is like eating very expensive plastic; it’s definitely not sustainable longterm for your health, your waistline or your wallet.
When moving to somewhere like Europe or Asia, you will find you suddenly have thousands of new exotic destinations almost at your doorstep. It can be quite easy to get caught up in the panic of trying to see and do it all. Guess what? You don’t have to. There is no written rule saying you have to go somewhere new every time you have a couple of days off (unless it is your deepest desire to do so, in which case full steam ahead!). Why not go exploring in your adopted city instead? There must have been something you liked about it, in order to have picked yourself up and moved there.
Downtime is essential
If you wake up one day and decide you simply cannot face the outside world… then don’t! There is absolutely nothing wrong with staying in your PJs and reading the collected works of Jane Austen all morning, followed by a lengthy afternoon nap. We all need and deserve time to recharge.
Expat burnout, like travel burnout, is avoidable. Be kind to yourself and don’t let the need to “do it all” get in the way of having a good time.