Moving to another country can be an enriching experience. However, any change impacts the person and gives rise to feelings of discomfort, tension and stress. Dealing with the unknown, where we can't predict or guess what will happen, forces us out of our comfort zone, which can be frightening.
After all, we have abandoned what is familiar to us and we are faced with a culture where the language, the way of being, the interaction between people and even the sense of humor is different from what we are used to. In addition, it is necessary to adapt to a new diet and a new climate, which in itself can change our mood and how active we feel.
In these situations where we leave our comfort zone, the brain tends to work as follows: first, it keeps our attention focused on this potentially threatening or dangerous situation (dangerous because we don't know what will happen, so we feel that we are not in control), as if it were a warning sign. Second, it assesses the situation as more negative and frightening than it actually is, as it is better to be safe than sorry. Thus, the brain identifies all possible scenarios, especially those that are most inconvenient for us, so that we can find solutions in advance for them.
Our brain does this automatically in order to protect us. This way of seeing the world around us, keeping us focused on what is negative and can be dangerous, motivates us to adopt more careful behavior and to prevent situations that are disadvantageous to us. It seems easy to see the advantages of this way of being and seeing the world, if we think that it is what prevents us from being stuck in the middle of a road with traffic or from getting too close to a precipice. However, sometimes this constant negative thinking only brings us unnecessary fears, causing us to act in a way that is too cautious, avoiding taking any “risk”.
When we are out of our milieu, from what we know and what is familiar to us, it is normal for these negative and threatening thoughts to arise more frequently. It is normal to feel threatened or a little nervous with all the changes, and little by little we can isolate ourselves more and more from this new country, culture and people.
Furthermore, our brain also makes us idealize our previous life, the city, the spaces and the people we already knew. We will recognize that after all, in our country, we were happy. However, this may just be a romanticized view of our memories, which often does not correspond to the reality of what actually happened. In fact, the brain is eternally dissatisfied – always focused on what's wrong in the present and what could be much better.
So how can we deal with this brain that tries so hard to protect us? First, it's important to be aware that this is the normal way the brain works when we face change. In this way, we can understand when we are entering this self-defense mode and act to deactivate it.
For this, anything that allows us to gain a greater perspective of the problem can help us. For example, we can write or talk to someone close to us about what we feel, so to take these fears out of us and put them in front of us, creating a distance between us and the problems, making them smaller. We can exercise, maintain a balanced diet and get enough sleep, which will improve our mood and our energy.
In addition, it is essential that we allow ourselves to go, little by little, getting to know the country in which we are. Getting to know the culture, places, people, language… that's the only way we will be able to create our roots, transforming this new place into something of our own.