Relocate, repatriate, move here, move there… expat life can fun, but not always. Visa admin, helping our kids settle in or getting to grips with a new culture… expat life can be a full-time job in itself.
However as the old saying goes, we need to fit our own life jacket before assisting others. With this in mind, we spoke to life coach Kelly Burley about the importance of self-care and how to incorporate it into our expat life.
With a fast-paced career in law behind her, Kelly understands all too well the pressures of a busy lifestyle. Here she shares her top tips for incorporating self-care into your routine as an expat.
What is self-care?
Self-care means lots of different things to different people, however broadly speaking it is any action that you take in order to take care of your health and wellbeing in order to be able to live a balanced and fulfilling life.
There are several different types of self-care, which reflect the different spheres of your life: physical, psychological, professional, financial, social, and environmental.
For example, physical self-care would be getting enough sleep on a regular basis, psychological self-care might be engaging in an enjoyable hobby and professional self-care includes taking holidays and seeking out constructive feedback. There are a myriad of different ways we can care for ourselves.
Why is self-care important?
It is important to recognise that self-care is not selfish. It is integral to our health and wellbeing, because if we are not able to look after ourselves then we have nothing left to give to the other people in our lives.
When we are pushed out of our comfort zones (whether by choice or circumstance), such as moving to a new country without our normal support networks it is especially important to focus on self-care. This is because self-care helps to keep us grounded and able to rise to new challenges.
If we are depleted (whether physically, emotionally, socially or professionally) we are less able to tolerate additional challenges and react from a place of fear rather than curiosity and openness.
How to incorporate self-care into your daily routine?
The key to any self-are routine is to make it a habit. Research shows that on average it actually takes about 2 months or 66 days to form new habits, therefore the key is to start small to give yourself the best chance of continuing.
The good news is that missing the odd day does not affect the ability to make the habit, the key is continuity. BJ Fogg, a behavioural scientist at Stanford has come up with the following process which helps to create long lasting habits:
- Start small
Make a list of three new habits that you want to start, for example exercising more, eating healthier and meditating. BJ Fogg believes that tiny incremental changes are the best way to create new habits, therefore you should break these goals into the smallest possible changes, so that they are barely noticeable. For example, for your exercise goal plan to just walk for two minutes around the block or do two sit ups. For your healthy eating goal eat one bite of an apple or drink one sip of water. For your meditation goal plan to do deep breathing for three breaths.
- Link the habit to an existing routine
The next step is to link your new tiny habit to an existing habit in your regular routine. Firstly, think about all the current habits or routines that you follow everyday, these could include things like turning off the alarm clock, brushing your teeth, having a cup of coffee, turning on your computer, eating lunch etc. So for your exercise goal, do three sit ups (new goal) after you get out of bed in the morning (existing habit). Your healthy eating habit of eating an apple (new goal) could happen after you make your mid-morning cup of coffee (existing habit). Your meditation goal of taking three breaths (new goal) might link to after you put on your pyjamas at night (existing habit).
- Celebrate your success
Whenever you do a new behaviour and you feel a strong positive emotion about it your brain will respond and want to do it again because it will connect the positive emotion with the behaviour. This process will help to rewire your brain, therefore it is important to celebrate either during or straight after completing your new habit. This enables your brain to connect the new behaviour and the emotion together. You can celebrate any way that feels right to you, but it is important to feel positive, happy and uplifted about it. Examples could include saying ‘hurray!’ or ‘good for me’ out loud, doing a fist punch in the air, jumping up and down and smiling. Try it out and have fun with it.
It is important until the habit is established to keep the goal tiny and not to scale up too soon. Once it is established you will find that it scales up naturally. So, at the beginning set your habit small and any additional steps you take are simply a bonus, something worth extra celebration! Gradually, over time you can start to flex up your tiny habits to make them slightly longer as and when you feel you want to. Lastly experiment and have fun with it!
You can find out more about Kelly’s life coaching services here.