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The Psychological Impact of Emigrating

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Experts think that the most stressful things in life are divorce, death and moving home. One life-changing event they missed off the list is migrating to Canada or Australia. These countries are often the other side of the world from most migrants and in a totally different time zone. The psychological impact of moving to such a faraway place and different culture is often very significant.

Moving abroad is not an easy decision. Lots of individuals and families prepare well for the task of emigrating overseas though there are some psychological aspects of immigration that it’s difficult to prepare for.

One of the hardest parts of relocating is undoubtedly having two feet in different countries. And as much as most families and individuals would like to keep ties with their home country, there are emotional drawbacks to living your life in different countries at the same time.

Immigration is as stressful as a divorce

Psychologists equate the process of emigrating to Canada for example, to the effects of divorce or this stress makes expats five times as likely to suffer damaging emotional and mental stress. As with other elements of divorce, the stress is not necessarily from having two homes, but due to the disparities between these homes.

Different cultures cause dissonance

Once you’ve moved abroad, you’ll find it even harder to reconcile the rules, environments and behaviours of your two different countries, and this places undue stress on your mind and body. Individuals often find themselves torn between two homes– and the price is often a breakdown of emotional and mental stability.

How to cope with migration stress

Coping with emigration stress may require an objective approach to set up coping mechanisms for these emotions such as conditioning your mind to take an out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach. In order to cope with the disparities as well as the separation anxiety, it is necessary to focus on your immediate surroundings and environment and to adjust your thinking to exclude hurtful or harmful thoughts which places you at odds with your old home or stirs up feelings of loss.

Underlying mental health issues and immigrating

The presence of psychological conditions such as Major Depressive disorder, Bipolar disorder, Anxiety, and Post-Traumatic Stress disorder could all influence the decision to emigrate. An individual who has been diagnosed with any mental health disorder should ensure that the emotional, mood and changes associated with the specific condition is not affecting their decision-to move country. Doing so will prevent inner-conflict later on in the process.

Special considerations for emigrating with children

Emigrating to the other side of the world can create a tremendous divide between family members and children, so it’s important that each family member feels they have a voice, and that their voice is listened to.

Give children time to adjust to the change and to work through the grief of their loss and separation. Be sensitive to their needs as well as your own. For children, the grief of emigrating to a new country is a mentally draining process.

Keep open to new experiences

Psychologists agree that frequently opening ourselves to new experiences eventually become the norm which better equips us for future changes of environment especially when it comes to starting a new life in a new country.

Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.


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