How to keep grounded when everything seems a little too out of your control.

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Expat living is a funny thing, you live in a place that’s not your ‘home’ even as you make it your home on a daily basis. You make friends, have jobs, buy seasonal candles, fill your wardrobe and decorate the walls of your physical home with the images that put a smile on your face. The place that you live, no matter for how long becomes ‘home’ and yet the sustainability of your time in that city or country doesn’t necessarily have a longevity that you yourself have any control over.

Lately, I have found that given the position that I and I’m sure many others are in, with visas which expire, the idea of feeling grounded is somewhat illusive at times. The concept of home is somewhere we should feel safe and settled, somewhere we are able to find balance and be grounded. So when that’s not the case what do you do instead? 

If you read my last post, which was a decent while ago now, you will know that Joe and I are going through a host of changes. We have been dealing with residency and visa questions as well as Joe moving to London in the short term for work. The lead up to all of these questions and changes coming into play was challenging both as an individual and as a couple in a romantic relationship. Now, by no means do we have everything sorted right now and honestly challenges are still popping up for the both of us but it’s not like we can just give up and call it quits. Well, actually, I guess we could, I could give up and go back to Australia, Joe could go back to Slovakia and the two of us could just throw in the towel with our relationship that’s just, ‘too complicated’. But that’s just not happening, our desire to be together outweighs all, no matter where in the world we find ourselves. We want to be together and we will make it work as a couple and as individuals. 

And so whist life keeps throwing hurdles for us to jump and the carpet gets pulled from under our feet on occasion we work harder to keep balanced and grounded. Now I can’t tell you what Joe is doing to keep his mind from going into meltdown when he gets overloaded by all the things in our lives that we have so little control over but I am going to tell you the five things that are saving me from overwhelm. Because I am still the girl that doesn’t believe in the word ‘stress’.

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  1. Write it down.

I hate overthinking about the things in life I can’t change. If I don’t pay attention to my thoughts I can find myself thinking about the same negative things over and over again replaying all the scenarios where things can go wrong. The reason why I personally feel such a lack of grounding right now is because I have a lot of fear surrounding my living situation. Now, there is nothing wrong with being afraid and if you have somehow managed to train your brain into never presenting you with an unsolicited negative outcome of a situation - I bow down to you my friend! But for the rest of us mere mortals I recommend you write your fears down. 

For example my journal reads along the lines of:

I am terrified that I am going to be separated from Joe, that we will end up in opposite hemispheres again. I am afraid of snakes and injections but I am bigger and smarter than a snake and I can deep breathe my way through injections. The idea what I will have to move away from Joe for an undetermined amount of time strikes true fear in me, so much so that I’m afraid I won’t be able to, ‘breathe through it’. 

Those words, before I wrote them down, they held power. They wove in and out of my mind, dropping their negative toxicity within me when I would least expect it. The thoughts and feelings these fears invoked were real, taking control from me in the simplest of ways. Yet, as soon as I wrote them down their power diminished significantly. 

I had to own the fear as more than a haunting thought. I wrote down what my fear was and where and why I felt that I had no control over this fear. I acknowledged my lack of control and the truth that my fear could come true and on the tail end of all the words of truth and fear I also found that it’s something that I could still work with. 

There are so many aspects of life that we will never be able to have total control over but there is so much that we can do to still make choices that are positive. If I let my fear own me I would probably end my relationship because it’s too hard or sabotage it until Joe ended things with me, who even knows. Fear makes people do crazy shit.

Instead I wrote it all down and soon as it was there on paper I could suddenly talk about it, to the point that I am sharing it, with you, a stranger. I’m not hiding away from my fears, they are valid and if Joe wasn’t important to me I wouldn’t be afraid. But there is a lot I can still do to make sure that even if what I am afraid of eventuates, we/ I will still be a-okay. 

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2. Take inspired action

When things get tough and you feel as if the ground keeps shifting beneath you, don’t just give up and roll over. Make a plan, make multiple plans, just don’t give in. 

Once you have figured out what you’re afraid of in your situation of being unsettled take action around it. Instead of a 'pro’s and con’s list’ think of it as a, ‘things I can’t control and things I am going to do instead list’. 

Things I can’t control: 

  • Not living in the same location as my partner at the same time as we are having residency and visa changes. 

Things I am going to do instead: 

  • FaceTime him daily. 

  • Communicate with him regularly (even the tough stuff). 

  • Brainstorm and create a plan surrounding being less location dependant for work because this long distance shit is rubbish! Never again mate. 

I know exactly what I am afraid of and I know all that I am going to do in direct opposition to it. I highly recommend you do the same, take the power away from your fears and take action instead. I know that there is a lot I can’t control in my life at the moment but I am very well aware that the only actions that I will ever be able to control are my own, so I’ll be damned if I don’t make the most of it!

3. Give your mind a break 

Know that it’s okay to take a break and to let your mind just chill and wander. This might come in the form of exercise or meditation. My healthy poison of choice is yoga, swimming and meditation but a kit-kat for my mind also comes in the form of reading and Netflix. Let your mind escape to somewhere else for a little bit, take the pressure off and allow yourself to indulge, just don’t get too lost in your escapism. 

I am once again meditating every morning and have started reading again every evening since well before Joe left for London. For me reading is what I love to do more than watching TV or Movies, it is my pastime of choice and so I do it every evening to help fill my cup.

Think of cosy meals with friends, long walks, playing with pets and hanging out with the people who’s company you enjoy. Oh and hugs. Say yes to hugs. They are very grounding in the toughest of times. 

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4. Feel free to cut back on commitments. 

I knew in the lead up to Joe moving to London, especially whilst we have so many other irons in the fire that my writing and social media would take a backseat. Each of us has our own priorities and I knew exactly where I wanted to spend a majority of my time before he left. And so that’s exactly what I did, I backed off of my blog and off social media. It’s true that I could have planned around it and maintained it at the same time but I didn’t want to because it honestly wouldn’t have been an authentic experience for me or for you. 
The same goes of social expectations, don’t agree to plans or make dates that your heart isn’t in. If you have a lot going on there is a chance you need to pick and choose just where your energy is going, believe it or not you don’t actually need, ‘to do it all.’

That shit is a lie. You can have quiet weeks and say ‘no’ to people when they want to meet up. Look after yourself and don’t expend more of your time and energy than you have to give. 

Living life abroad is the absolute best but being an expat comes with its own set of challenges especially when it comes to feeling grounded. Take the time you need to fill your cup when things are tough. It might be hard to explain to people what your situation might be or why visas are so challenging but the ones that love you will understand and they won’t ask for the explanation. 

Go out of your way to keep yourself well and balanced even when it feels like your world is moving and shifting beneath you. No one every said life would be easy but if you let it, it can be a rather great adventure.