Transitioning in a Healthy way

This is the time of year in many countries, where many individuals and families will relocate to either another country or back to their home counties. All of us have had to face transitional or adjustment issues in our lives, be it huge transitions like changing countries or jobs, or smaller transitions like going to a new grade or getting a promotion. For some of us, transitioning is easy, while for others it is more difficult, even if you are transitioning back to your home country. For those who find transitioning difficult, there are a few things that can help, which is what this article is about.

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Introduction – Stress and Anxiety

Submitted by

Dr. Stephen-Claude Hyatt

Clinical Health Psychologist

Managing Partner

The potential for stress is all around us, something we cannot get rid of and should not try to. Not only can stressors potentially harm us physically and psychologically, they can also motivate us to be successful and create our best work. The same is true of anxiety, which is not bad but good, depending on how we manage it. The task therefore is not to ameliorate stress and anxiety; rather, to control or manage them so that they do not lead to breakdown.

In our Stress Management Workshop we will look at exactly what stress and anxiety are, as well as triggers and causes. We will also look at how they impact us physically and emotionally both in our personal and professional lives, and what is it that we can do, in terms of techniques, to effectively manage our stress and anxiety levels.

Bereavement or Grief Work

By Dr. Stephen-Claude Hyatt

Clinical Health Psychologist

Managing Partner

Grief is something that everyone will experience in his or her lifetime. When a person experiences the loss of someone they love, either through divorce or death, or if they have to contend with severe and dramatic changes in their life, they are forced to face grief. The loss may involve reputation or fear of one’s well-being, which makes no difference, as the extent to which one grieves, and the feelings involved will be the same. When a loss occurs, most of us are unprepared for how to handle it. There is a lot to learn about grief, especially the necessity of grieving a loss.

How does one recognize the symptoms of Grief? What are the Tasks of Grief that must be undertaken, and what are the Stages of Grief? How does grief manifest in a corporate or school setting, and how should it be dealt with?

Dealing with Culture Shock

By: Dr. Stephen-Claude Hyatt

Clinical Health Psychologist

Experiencing new cultures, and obtaining a better understanding of your own culture, can result in some of the most positive and life-altering experiences. When going abroad, individuals will experience differences in manners, beliefs, customs, laws, language, art, religion, values, concept of self, family organization, social organization, and behavior among many others. All these elements combine to form your host country’s rich and unique culture, which may eventually merge into our own culture.

Culture shock is a term used to describe the anxiety and feelings of surprise, disorientation, and confusion, which can develop when people have to operate within an entirely different cultural or social environment from their own, such as a foreign country or a new and different company from what they are accustomed to. It grows out of the difficulties in assimilating the new culture, causing difficulty in knowing what is appropriate and what is not.

There are three phases of culture shock: the honeymoon phase; the rejection phase; and the recovery phase. During the initial phase one may feel excited and exhilarated as they experience the newness of the environment, but for some however, the novelty soon wears off. This leads to the rejection phase where you may begin to miss your usual ways of dealing with home, work, social relationships, and everyday life. You may find yourself wanting to stay indoors and not explore the environment after a while, as you are impacted by this new culture. If there is a different language from the one you are accustomed to, speaking and listening to that language every day and trying to understand how things are done, may feel like an overwhelming effort. You may feel homesick and may idealize your life back home or in your old working environment, while being highly critical of life in your new country or company. Feeling frustrated, angry, anxious, or even depressed are not uncommon. You may also experience minor health problems and/or disruptions in sleeping and eating patterns. Your motivation may diminish, and you may feel like withdrawing from your new friends. This is a natural reaction to living or working within a new culture, which impact everyone to varying degrees.

It is important to note that naturally, as time passes you will be better able to enjoy your new surroundings. Feelings and attitudes about being in this new environment will improve, although you may never get to the high level experienced during the first phase. You may become more relaxed, regain your self-confidence, and enjoy life in your new country. A more balanced view of life within your new environment will develop. Misunderstandings and mistakes in the earlier phases of cultural adjustment, which may have become major obstacles, will be more easily understood and resolved.

However, for some people the third phase does not come naturally, and they are left stuck in the rejection phase, and this is where culture shock truly takes over. This can lead to various realities including physical and psychological illness. In order to get through this phase, you need to interact more with your environment, force yourself to get involved with organizations, people and systems within the new environment. The mistake lots of individuals make is to hold on to things from their own culture or environment, and while rejecting the new culture and environment. Many believe that the solution to transitioning is finding ways to hold on to friends from the old context, which is good initially, but should not be the focus in the long run. The problem with that is, if you spend the majority of your free time maintaining contact with those left behind, you can run the risk of retarding the development of new connections and relations. If you are transitioning to a place where you will be for a few months or years, you will need to allow yourself to develop a healthy community in this new place, without holding on to those relationships from the old environment that should naturally die. Granted, some relationships from the old context will naturally transition with you, and this is fine.

For most individuals the culture shock or what in clinical terms we often call Adjustment Disorder, usually resolves after 6 months, once the person makes an effort to connect with the new environment. However, if this does not resolve the issue, it is a good time to seek out a psychologist or trained counselor to speak with. Culture shock is a natural phenomenon, but it is usually made worse by the individual thinking there is something really wrong with them, due to the symptoms that may develop.