Living abroad? You need this post-Christmas survival guide

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Published 3 weeks ago

December is all about excitement, anticipation, and high levels of energy, which are required to get us through all the shopping and cooking frenzy of the festive season. Then, Christmas Day comes and along with it the pick of our happiness. Wherever we are, and whoever is surrounding us, we are doing our best to make our Christmas special. But the day is over, and on the 26th we wake up underwhelmed. If we have spent the holidays in our host country, far away from family and close friends, this is usually a day of nostalgia and heavy symptoms of homesickness. Don’t shut your emotions down, but do small things instead to boost your spirits again. After all, you have the New Year to get you going.

Head outdoors

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Besides helping you control your weight, exercise improves your mood and the function of your brain. So, there is no better way to combat post-Christmas stress than with a walk, hike, run, or even a swim if you happen to live in the tropics. If you are athletic throughout the year, take a break from your exercise routine, and try a different activity, which will challenge you and give you mental stimulation. Note that if you are an expat in a country that celebrates Boxing Day (e.g., UK, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia), shopping doesn’t count as an outdoors adventure!

Plan for change

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Can you pinpoint the cause of your blues on this day? Is it the thought of going back to work or the long distance relationship that is depressing you? Do you find it difficult adapting to your host country and do you struggle with expanding your social network? Maybe this is an excellent opportunity to consider making lifestyle or attitude changes. Make a list of the aspects of your life that frustrate you and work on a plan on how to tackle them — one step at a time.

Be grateful

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Overcome the post-Christmas comedown with a meaningful exercise. Review and evaluate the positive happenings in your life over the past year — the milestones you witnessed, the people who inspired you, the difficulties you conquered, and the goals you achieved. If you aren’t sure where to start from, here’s a big one for you: You moved to a new country and you are familiarising yourself with a new culture. If that’s not an achievement, then what is? This reflection task is also a good time to contact the people close to your heart and show your appreciation for the role they have played in your life. Taking the time to count your blessings for 2018 will also get you ready for the New Year.

Face your finances

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First, let us reassure you that you aren’t alone in this Christmas overconsumption that has just left you with an empty wallet. Also, living abroad doesn’t help your finances, as you have probably spent a lot on postal services, airfare (if you visited or planning to visit family), and the Christmas tree that was way more costly than back home. However, instead of having the worry hanging over your head, take a closer look at your bank accounts and card balances, and establish your budget for the following months till you reverse the damage.

Volunteer

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Offering your time and skills towards a good cause that you have an interest in is a very healthy and useful practice to get away from your feelings and put things into perspective. Go to the closest animal shelter to feed and play with abandoned puppies, visit a hospice to accompany patients on outings, or have a wardrobe clean-out to donate the things you haven’t used for a while. Whatever it is that you decide to do, you will be making others happy — and guess what, happiness is contagious!

Relax

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Are you exhausted from organising a memorable Christmas away from home and from preparing for the first time local Christmas recipes, which didn’t turn so bad after all? There’s no reason to feel guilty about your strong desire to stay cosy in your pyjamas and curl up on the sofa for the rest of the day. We have one recommendation only for you: take this opportunity to do a smartphone detox, as staying at home while watching others do things and go places may have the opposite effect of the desired. The best part is that you can eat the leftovers (including the cakes) while watching your favourite non-Christmas movie.