Living Globally in Times of Covid-19: Coping While Abroad in a Pandemic.

By Trova Health
October 6, 2021
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60
 min read
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We had a great turnout to Trova Health’s very first webinar on the topic of, ‘Living Globally in Times of Covid-19: Coping While Abroad in a Pandemic.’

Our Expert Speakers shared so much valuable insight and practical tools to help manage the affects that Covid-19 has had on expats around the world.

To watch this webinar, click here: https://bit.ly/3ozd56q

We hope you enjoy it and get as much from it as we did at Trova Health!

Enjoy.

- WEBINAR TRANSCRIPT -

Dana Allison

Thanks, everyone, for joining us. We always have latecomers, so they'll hop on when they come. I just wanted to welcome everybody. I'm Dana Allison, one of the founders of Trova Health, and I thought that I would tell you a little bit about Trova Health since this is our first webinar.

Trova Health is really about building a global network of health care, wellness and mental health providers who understand specifically the challenges and unique struggles with living globally. There are unique challenges. I've lived in five countries myself and been an expat around different countries in the world, and each one caused a different struggle and amazing opportunity all at the same time.

So that is what we are about, is providing specific services. So, there are lots of other services around, but very few really get to the heart of those things and Marcia if you want to go to the next slide.

So Trova health is about doing that both for companies who hire and work abroad and have people hiring and working abroad as well as for individuals, so both. We are about to launch with several different providers of all varieties so that you can get the services that you need and want him in a virtual way, as well as in your own language and from your own culture.

So if you know anybody who's living around the world and who would love to provide their services to other people living globally, you can refer them to our site where they can send an email and we can they can sign up and talk to our director of expert services.

And if you yourself want to be one of the first people by joining this webinar, you are lucky because we have a discount code or 20 percent off your first service that you get through Trova health.

I'll be throwing out into chat periodically, and it's just a form that you fill out to be put on the first service discount list. We'll send you a code so the first time that you get a service through Trova Health you get 20 percent off, which is really exciting.

All right, so I’m going to close the poll and share the results. So, everyone on this call so far is living in either Africa or North America. The problems with COVID 19 and how it has affected everyone looks like it's pretty split between haven't been able to return home, haven't seen parents or grandparents.

Some have felt trapped and depressed. Unclear how and when vaccines will become available - that's super hard. Anxious and unable to get to sleep. And then, of course, stress that is really felt in our in our personal relationships. And so, we're glad that you're joining us today, because these are not unique feelings. We have a global pandemic and COVID 19 has really put its hold on the world, and the pandemic has added to our stress and anxiety and put a strain on our personal relationships.

So, for those who live globally, these same strains and challenges that everyone is facing are really exacerbated by being away from the support services, your family and friends. And in some cases, some of you don't have easy access to health care or the vaccines, as someone mentioned in the poll. And all of this weighs on us.

So, we are very happy today to hear from two global experts on this very subject of trauma, stress, and really then how we can thrive within it all.

So, let me introduce Trova’s Director of Expert Services, Amanda Workman. She's a Global Trainer Facilitator with 20 years-experience in international program development and executive training. She actually grew up starting at seven years old in Kenya so has been an expat is currently in Botswana. And she would tell you that it was by accident. She went there to visit her parents and got locked in during Covid.

So, of all people, Amanda can certainly speak to the unexpected stress that came from the pandemic.

And she really focuses on the multifaceted approach in culture, identity and self-knowledge, particularly to have success over borders.

And then we have Mercia Warren. She's a Licensed Trauma-Informed Somatic Counselor, Therapist and Facilitator with over 30 years of experience in the global community. She is super passionate about things that are related to how humans interact and embrace diversity, and already has created her own therapeutic model - it's called ‘Embodied Codes Switching.

We're very glad to have her as she can speak to even the trauma that some people have felt. And with that in mind, we do want to say that as we talk about some things, if you start to feel overwhelmed with anxiety or stress, we do want you to be able to find somebody to reach out to so that you can be safe in those feelings and have someone to turn to, whether it's a provider of some kind or a friend or family member.

So please, please make sure that's the case if you have any sort of response that feels overwhelming.

With that being said, I'm going to introduce Amanda Workman to start us off, and she's going to start out with the basics of what basic global living looks like, even in the normal times.

Amanda (5:47)

Thank you, Dana, and hello, everyone on the other side of my screen that I cannot see. It has been a minute since I've done a webinar, so hello to all. As Dana said, I begin my expat life when I was seven years old, when my parents moved us from a small town in Texas to Kenya, in Eastern Africa.

I have then gone on to live live quite the global life. I grew up fully in Kenya and then have worked internationally for all of my career.

And now, as Dana mentioned, I am an accidental expat.

I left my house in Texas for a one-week vacation to Spain. And I am now in Botswana, where I have been for 18 months - and there's a much longer story to that, but I say all of that to say that everything that I am talking about today, I have experienced.

I have also had the pleasure of working with Marcia in some of the things that she's going to take us through today, which is why I recommended that we that we do our very first Trova Health webinar with her so that I'm going to back up just a little bit.

If you are an expat, what you are looking at on the screen is nothing new.

It doesn't matter really what kind of international assignment that you might be on if you've been a short-term expat, if you've lived overseas back and forth between cultures for most of your life.

Maybe you, like me, were an accidental expat. You travelled somewhere on vacation and decided you really liked it and you decided to stay, or you got trapped because of Covid.

So regardless of how you became an expat, or you began to live globally, any international transfer is a major, major life that it presents the same mix of excitement and stress and exhilaration and exhaustion that you face in in just normal transitional times. But it becomes more drastic and really more exacerbated because of the cultural nuance and the cultural change. None of that is new information to anyone watching this right now.

If you've ever gone through a formal cross-cultural training, you've seen these four basics of global living, or if you've done any sort of research around culture shock or just some of the typical phases.

So, I'm going to quickly do a 30,000-foot view, and for those of you who are experts in this area, please note that I have left off pre-departure and relocation or this for this particular presentation.

So, in the honeymoon stage, everything is new and exciting and you're settling in and you're too busy to notice kind of all of the things that you miss out on, you’re discovering new things so you don't really miss things that are at home. I spent probably the first six months of being here going, “I don't even miss my house, I don't miss my house at all”, and I did but there were so many other things going on at the time that I even feel it right. There's excitement in meeting new people, perhaps, and learning new food dishes.

Everything feels enchanting and exotic, and I’ve heard from many clients over the years how they really thought that everyone telling me how bad culture shock would be was kind of exaggerated.

And then sometime somewhere in the first few months between probably month four and six, reality sets in and all of the sudden your body and mind figure out that you are not on vacation. You are actually in a semi-permanent to permanent situation, and those differences start being very real. How people drive starts being much more annoying. That's my own personal confession and testimony – this becomes much more annoying.

And you notice it a lot more. You begin to react in ways that you think, “That's not me, I don't know why I'm reacting that way”. And we're going to talk about some of those ways that you react in just a second.

You begin to truly miss aspects of your home life, whether it is the people that you were used to seeing on a daily basis, being close enough to kind of get to your family.

Perhaps it's a particular food, for me it's tacos, but your routine is kind of in the office, but it's just different. Like everything is different. Everything you can't understand, even if people are speaking the same language you are. The nuances are different, and everything just feels different.

And all of the things that you see on the screen start to show up.

And then somewhere along the way, because our minds and bodies don't like to stay in frustration and stress, we learn coping mechanisms and tools, and we also just begin to adjust ourselves to the culture, and there's obviously a lot more around this. We are talking high, high level here. Right. But adjustment and acceptance, those two things often go hand in hand or follow closely behind one another.

While there are still ups and downs, they don't feel as dramatic. You begin to understand nuance. You begin to enjoy certain things and just really find your rhythm.

Here is what for me is important that expats know. These four basics of global living, we always put on new moves, right? You've moved and so this is what's going to happen. And here it is. Here's what I will tell you. And there's no linear rhyme or reason to this. You're not just going to go from honeymoon to frustration to adjustment to acceptance.

Actually, it's very circular. Sometimes you get all the way to adjustment or acceptance and you flip all the way back to frustration. And that can happen on a Monday. You've accepted, oh, this I love this place and it's amazing. And on a Tuesday, you can be screaming at someone in traffic because they don't use a turn signal the way that you did at home.

True confessions here, these are all the examples of what I do.

But there's no rhyme or reason to it. It's all a cycle. And here's what I will tell you. My family has been on this continent, they have been expats for 37 years, and there are still days, yesterday was one of them for me, that cultural difference still will throw us into a spin.

We know it in our head, but it doesn't change the way that sometimes it responds. What is different is we have tools, we have recognition.

We have a better understanding of what is happening in that moment. And hopefully by the end of tonight, you will also have a better understanding of that.

So now that we've had kind of this overall view, I want to take you into this this next space because what we know is that in these Covid times, all of what I just talked about has shown up, and it's shown up times a thousand.

So I work with my clients with a resource tool that talks through nine different ways that we see and interact with the world, and it shows us that in times of extreme stress and overwhelm, which is what we have been in for 18 months or longer, we sometimes take on behaviors that we feel are out of character. I mean, how often do you ever say, oh, I'm never like this, I'm just so stressed. Like it's just justification. We recognize that we're not usually like that.

So really what that is, is our body and mind protecting us or trying to protect us through coping mechanisms.

So, when I talk through a few of these, I'm going to give a couple of examples, then we'll see if anybody has any questions and then we'll move on to Marcia.

So, in normal times, and I'm always careful using the term normal, because what is normal, right? So normal is in your average day to day how you are. For some people, they're simply grounded and pragmatic, and when stress starts to show up, they find themselves more withdrawn, more moody, taking things much more personally, feeling like no one truly understands them because they are special.

In normal times, you have people who are nurturing and kind and giving and loving who in a snap instant can be screaming at the person behind them in traffic for something that person didn't even do, it was a perceived thing.

You have people who are driven and successful and who are always on their game and always able to just get the get the job done, get the work done, who literally have found themselves laying on the couch for hours, binge watching Netflix over and over and over again, and not really feeling like they have the ability to pull themselves up off the couch.

You have people who are creative, imaginative, who enjoy living in melancholy, who love forms of creativity and the Arts and whatever that might be right, and in the last 18 months they found themselves really feeling a little needy, really feeling like they needed to please people almost into a perfectionist type people pleasing.

People who in normal times just love deep research – (This is not me. I need everyone to know that this right here, not me). But they love deep research. They love to take one topic and dive as deep as they possibly can on it. The Internet has become their very best friend.

And yet in the last 18 months they have found themselves in spontaneous behavior, which sounds really great, but it has become spontaneous and reckless behavior and whatever choices that they're making and perhaps that's in spending or perhaps that's in doing something that they would never do in a daredevil type of way.

It can manifest in several different ways, and Marcio is going to talk us through some of those and a little bit.

You have people, again, who are hardworking and loyal, who suddenly become very workaholic. They cannot do enough. They cannot step away from their desk because something might get dropped or something might whatever.

And then just looking at the rest of these super quickly, people who are always kind of spontaneous and like having a great time, they have become critical and judgmental of the entire world.

And then you had those people who are charismatic and they're strong willed and they've always been the leaders in their community and perhaps that’s you, perhaps you've been the boss, you've been the leader and what have you and you find yourself wanting to take your marbles and go home and never come out of your room, and that is what is happening in stress and trauma.

And then those people who are laid back and easy-going are spinning out of control in their minds, thinking of all of the worst-case scenarios and the things that are actually playing out in front of us are just adding to that.

So, we have fear and anxiety is swirling all around all of these people who are in our normal times, and it is driven us in some way, shape or form, in the last 18 months, into stress mode.

All of these people have different capacities for those stress stressors, but we have spent time in long and prolonged stress and prolonged trauma and prolonged fear and prolonged unknown, and that has had an incredible effect on our minds and our bodies and really just how we live in day-to-day life. It has literally created almost out of body experiences for us.

So, these nine stress moves, if you have found yourself, as I have talked, found yourself thinking, yes that is exactly who I am, and yes, I now see myself in that or I find myself in this stress mode that you just described in a repetitive pattern, you are in the right place tonight because my colleague is going to walk us through some ways to get back to our normal.

But before we do that, I'm going to quickly check in with Dana and ask if there are any questions that have come through?

Dana

Yes. I just wanted to say we have a comment saying hello to everyone, and she says, “Moving from South Africa to West Africa and keeping your head above water can be challenging at times”. That's for sure. It's hard to move around.

And then one of the questions that came in was, “I find it interesting what you're saying about different coping strategies and finding ways to cope - at least I think it's coping. I'm reading all the time, more than I usually do, and I'm not sure if it's too much or if it's normal. How do you judge? And, for instance, do you see the stress mode show up even when you're feeling the basic problems? So, it's a two-part question. Is that a normal? How do you judge if it is?

And then second, “Do you see the stress mounts pop up even when you’re at base?”.

Amanda

Sure. Marcia, will you take us back to one slide? So, what you are describing is one hundred percent normal, and I hate the word normal because it is so hard because we use it can be so hard to define.

What I want people to hear is even in your stress mode, you are acting in a normative behavior for you, for your type, for how you see the world.

Your body and your mind are trying to protect you. And it is doing that by switching to what is normative stress behavior for you. That happens in that frustration zone. I have heard this before where people are like, oh, yeah, like I don't even read magazine articles and suddenly I'm reading a 700-page book. And I was like, wow, was it good? Because I don't read 700-page books and I'm a reader.

So that in just your basic culture shock and your basic moves and your basic times, is absolutely normal.

And then Marcia, if you'll take us back to the other in that one of the areas that happens is that people who are usually just kind of fast paced and keep going in life, what they find is that their protective mode is for their body to withdraw and to preserve their energy.

So, you see that in several of these I could give examples of that behavior of reading or Netflix binge watching or literally just sitting and staring at the wall for a while, which is perfectly acceptable as a form of self-care.

Anything else?

Dana

Great. That's the last question for Amanda, so we can move on to…OK, so sorry, we just have one more and maybe Marcia can speak about this as we transition into her portion, “The biggest stress in this time is that as new expats to a place, you can't make new friends.”

Marcia (23:30)

Well, thank you, and I'm going to be doing two things at once, so I'm going to be doing the slides and talking, so forgive me if things start kind of going awry. But I want to say thank you so much for Dana and Amanda for inviting me into this webinar. This is a time, isn't it? And I just want to pause right now, because we've done a lot of information sharing, and I just want everyone to take the opportunity to just check in with themselves. Take a deep breath, if that feels right.

Notice how some of the information that Amanda just shared with us, how that landed, if it felt familiar to you, if it felt challenging. All of this is amazing information, not just for you, but also for how you're starting to get to know how you can cope with these really challenging times.

And it's not just Covid, it's everything on top of Covid, you know, and we didn't want to list all that, so I'm not going to go ahead and do that as far as like a trigger warning on that, but I just want to validate that we're living in very complex times. It's not just one thing that's challenging. So please know that we see you in that.

So, as Amanda and Dana mentioned, I'm a Trauma-Informed Somatic Counselor. What that means is that the type of therapy I do, the type of training I do starts with the body. It doesn't mean that we ignore anything else, but we really include the body in the process, and especially when we're in times of stress and trauma, the body is our first responder to that stress and trauma.

And I just want to say that again, our body is our is the first responder to that stress and trauma. And before even some of the behaviors in the emotion show up, which was so brilliantly laid out by Amanda, and I really want to make sure that you all know, this is a complementary piece, it's not and or, or all of these things happened together.

Before emotions and behavior shows up, we feel it in our bodies. And that's what I'm going to talk about today.

Again, that word normalizing. And when I say normalizing in terms of a therapeutic context, it's really meant to give ourselves the space for self-awareness and self-compassion. We don't need to understand and control everything and even though we want to, but a lot of times we are part of a beautifully organic system within our bodies that is meant to take care of us in times like these.

And that's what I mean by normalizing, that some of these responses happen for a reason. And there they are to be expected.

So, the first thing that happens when we're in a state of high stress or trauma - and by the way, trauma is either an event that is highly distressing that can be a one-time event or over time. We're experiencing all of those.

So, the first things our bodies will do, and I'm sure you all have been hearing these terms is fight, flight or freeze. That's the first space we go.

You may feel in your body. Some of these some of these symptoms, some I don't even like to say symptoms because it's not an illness. But some of these indicators, somatic indicators, tension in your muscles, nausea, dry mouth, upset stomach or digestion, quicker breathing, more shallow breathing, racing thoughts, hypervigilance, which means you're scanning your environment all the time.

Tunnel vision, which seems like its opposite, but it's not quite, it's another coping mechanism that the body does when it's perceiving a threat or danger in its environment. Lightheaded or dizzy? All of these are indicators that your body may be going into fight or flight.

And I'd like you all to just take a moment and think about, you know, oh, I wonder if more often these days I'm feeling one or more of these things than my body. And it may not be all the time, but it may be something.

And you're like, why is my mouth always dry? Why can't I catch my breath? You know, I don't understand why I'm constantly like trying to see what's going on, but I'm not actually noticing what's going on or I feel like I can't concentrate.

That's a lot of one of the indicators that happens in fight, flight or freeze.

Sometimes movement happens with this, too, like, you know, shaking a little bit. Or if you feel like you're in freeze, you just feel like you're stuck, can't move.

All of these are the ways the body actually gets you into a state of readiness to respond to a threat. These are all preparations for moving. And I just went a little bit too far into the other one, but just hang with me for a second.

Fight, flight or freeze is meant to get you away from the threat or from the threat to like, not pay attention to you with freeze.

If that doesn't work, the body will go into another state. And that is, of course, Collapse or shut down?

Feeling out of your body, the breathing actually gets slower, your muscles may lose tension, they go limp, spacing out (Netflix anyone?) Emotions may seem flat. It's like, why can't I seem to care about the same things I used to?

These two areas, if you can see anxiety and depression, can live in each of these spaces. That may be indicators of how you're feeling and which one of those spaces.

Again, these are what our bodies responses are to this high stress and trauma. And if you think about this over a prolonged period of time, you might be able to see where things like anxiety, depression, other coping mechanisms start to get developed.

So now we get to go to the second slide. So, one of the tools that I use in the trauma work that I do is called the window of tolerance, not my creation. Very happy to know that Dr. Dan Siegel has done this work. If you like, you can go on YouTube and you can see all kinds of fabulous ways that he talks about the window of tolerance.

What's important that I want to share today is that the window of tolerance is where I think Amanda was talking about in normative times where you manage your life in a certain way, that's predictable to you.

I love how this graphic talks about it. This is where things just feel right, where you're best able to cope with the punch’s life throws at you, your calm, but not tired, your alert, but not anxious.

This is also the place I like to say, where you can think and feel at the same time. And I mean, both emotions, your body, your thoughts, all of those kind-of inform each other. You're not getting hijacked by one or the other.

If you're in a state of trauma, this window of tolerance shrinks, which means that what used to not bother you before can totally bother you.

And what I mean by that is like the driving situation or let's say that you missed the bus to go somewhere.

In times or the window of tolerance is wide enough you're like, oh, I missed the bus. I'll catch the next one. If it's shrunk because of repeated challenges to your system, that same action, missing the bus could push you into hyperarousal, fight or flight or back down into hypo arousal.

So same event, different reactions because of the stress that's on you through the surrounding trauma that's being dealt with.

So, repeat and ongoing trauma shrinks this window. Goes from here to here. But the window that was not fixed, it can expand. This is not forever. And you're not relegated to living in this very narrow window.

And again, all the responses are normal come from the body's primary mandate to survive. And I want to say trauma may be inherited and experienced, and this comes from my work about intergenerational trauma, but resilience can be learned and passed forward to interrupt the trauma response over time.

This webinar today, I'm going to do in this next slide, some offerings of how we can interrupt the trauma response. We may not get rid of it completely - this is where we start learning maybe through other support that you have, through therapists or family members on how is my body built to respond to trauma? That's information to gather as well.

I might be the kind of person that hangs out in fight or flight for a second and then just dips into dysregulation and zooms out.

I might only stay in hyper arousal and maybe never go down until hypo arousal. Just understanding what you do, how your body reacts is important.

One of the things or some of the things we can do today is talk about where you can find what we call resources. This is how you fill your tank back up so that the trauma can be faced, can be dealt with, can be understood from a place of capacity of energy. But also, think of it as basically your body is like a car. You need gas.

And the word self-care can feel very hard for some folks because it feels like another to do list. For me, I want to reframe it saying caring for yourself.

These are some of the areas that I would offer. Your body noticing, even just noticing, like, oh, OK, I can't breathe. Noticing, can I bring a little bit more breath in this moment? And if not, that's OK. Just noticing it and just being with is so important with what your body's going through.

Your mind, your mind can be (it's a double-edged sword), those thoughts can take you into a spiral. But at the same time, you can also use your mind to choose a different route. It's like, oh, OK, I'm going to do the spinning, but I'm going to give myself five minutes to do the spinning, and then I'm going to go read this book or read this inspirational thing or actually turn off the news on my computer and go do something else. Employ the decision making the frontal lobe of your mind, and it will help you get out of fight or flight.

One of the fantastic techniques I like to use is if you are in fight or flight, using your brain to help you count through sensations will actually bring you back into your body. Notice five things that you see for things that you hear, three things that you sense, you know, on and on like that, and it will help get you back into that window of tolerance. It's a good trick.

Relationships, and this is where I hear that challenge the most is isolation. We're going to see a quote from Amanda in a little bit that totally inspired me, and I'm going to have her speak to that a little bit more.

Relationships are what we humans need. How we have them, the ways that we determine what intimacy are, what connections are, those are all culturally based. But we need them. So when you find yourself being isolated, reaching out may feel like the hardest thing, but even if it's someone that you haven't seen for a while, or if it's an organization or if it's even just standing in the middle of a crowded space with socially distancing, I understand. But getting out and seeing other humans helps bring the trauma response back into regulation.

Being with other people - and this is something I can speak to. Obviously, we've all gone through quarantine. I live in Colorado and was very fortunate to be near trails, and that actually saved my life. I never knew any of the people I passed on the trails, but I saw them and seeing other people out living their lives, all of us having the same experience, even though I didn't know them, comforted me.

I also created, actually, I was I was tapped into this beautiful online global family and was able to work internationally through Zoom. And that saved me as well. And I had family as well. But it's not just in person, but online and through communities that you find that will help as well.

And this goes to community, however you define that.

I also want to watch the time and have this open for questions to - higher purpose. However, you define that, something has to be meaningful to you. Find that. Listen to that inner voice follow the dream that you always wanted.

Hold that is the nugget in your hand that will also help.

And the time outs, what I mean by that is sometimes things get to be too much. You're allowed a time out from that. You can step back and say, this is too much for me, I need something familiar, and if that familiar is, you know, watching a show that you've watched five million times before and it makes you laugh - do that. If you're abroad and you want to have something that feels like home - do that.

Allow yourself that you don't have to power through. You don't have to power through.

Marcia (36:27)

Those are some of the places that you can go to find your resourcing, your replenishment, you know, finding energy that comes back into you so that then you can step back in and go, yeah, I'm still in a state of trauma and stress, but I have one more thing in there that's going to help me through that. And I like to call them or go tools. So, here's this beautiful quote from Amanda, and I want her to speak to what inspired her to do that, but when I read it, I was just like, oh, my God.

So, I'm going to read the words and then I want her to speak to it as well. And then I want to open it up for Q&A.

At the end of a longer post she said, “This morning, I realized that at one time I battled loneliness in the midst of a crowd, and now I am taken care of by a crowd in my aloneness. What a difference the right community makes.”

That just touched my heart. So that is what I wish for all of us, is to find our community, find ourselves, and be able to find connection and know that you have support and you have help. And sometimes the hardest thing is to ask for it.

So, this is why I really love working with the help. I really feel like this is a service that's far overdue, and especially the timing right now is impeccable.

I'm really pleased to have been here, and I hope that some of the tools are helpful for you all today. Thank you.

Dana (37:53)

Thanks so much, everyone. I think to start and stop it, I'll reframe the question because then a clarification came in the questions and answers about the association. I think it's a good Segway. So, the stress to this person, the biggest stress was being a new expat, a new place, whether you're brand new expat, never lived or you're going to a new country on another assignment.

And particularly due to the restrictions to go out. And it's already hard to make new associations anyway, especially the older you get, it seems like. But when you layer on top of that Covid restrictions you mentioned Marcia about going out and hiking. If that's not available, how do people find a way to cope with that type of isolation and loneliness?

Marcia (38:50)

Well, I want to say too, that there's a layer of self-judgment perhaps that might be happening for folks or a feeling of ‘I should’. And one of my favorite things is - it's a phrase I learned in my program - ‘Don't should all over yourself’.

And I could put that, you know, I hope everyone got that.

But it's basically the expectations that we have on ourselves can cause additional stress.

There is no shame in reaching out back towards the familiar. And what I mean by that is if you have existing relationships that you have come to depend on. There is no shame to going back into that, especially when you're in isolation of, you know, the folks that you knew before in your previous assignment or even folks, I know people are reconnecting that they haven't talked to in 20 years, because there's just that space to do that now. And there's almost a desire to reconnect with perhaps a feeling that they had as a younger person or in that other place that felt good.

And, you know, I'll give you an example. My mother's from Brazil. She is an accidental expat. I love that. That example, she came to teach in the United States for a couple of years, totally intending to go back to Brazil. Met my father, stayed.

So, for her, you know, and for me by extension, and I grew up going back and forth to Brazil. Whenever I missed that and missed the relationships, the closest I can come is finding my nearest Brazilian shop and buying my favorite soft drink, which is what I know.

And that's where the sensorial piece comes in for me, is I'll open it up, even when it starts tickling my nose, the smell and the taste remind me of a time when I was young with my grandparents in Brazil. And that makes me happy.

So that’s de-isolating in a funny way through memory. And also talking to somebody that shares that, which would be my mom.

So, until you're able and it's safe to create new community, you may have to rely on your previous communities and your previous friendships to sustain you until the time that it's safe to do so.

And if you can go out and even just observe, folks, get to know the culture that way without feeling the pressure of making relationships. That's also a huge thing, that gives you a little bit of connection, and it's starting to be a little bit of understanding of how this culture literally moves and interacts by just being with.

So, I hope that that's helpful.

Dana (41:21)

Yeah, thanks. Amanda, do you want to talk about what drew that statement out of you about drawing care from a from a crowd?

Amanda (41:33)

Yeah, so the truth of humanity is that all of us have a desire to belong. All of us want to understand our place in the world, and all of us want to belong. But we all have different reasons and motivations for that .And I have learned that over the course of my studies and my work and the self-work that I've done, and in the course of that, I found out that my belonging - there was a reason for my belonging.

And so, I've spent the last five and a half years, I guess, getting rid of things that did not belong to me and finding spaces and places where I was welcomed and loved and there was a mutuality within that.

And that has served me well in these Covid times over the last 18 months of accidental expatting, people have checked on me every single day. I have either talked to someone, people have reached out and I have way too many social channels.

But whether it's through sending me a funny meme on Instagram, that they know that that may mean something to us, but it doesn't mean when they post it to a bigger audience.

It's like the secret between us.

Or checking in on my mental health – “Hey, just checking on you today.” Because I look like I'm a really strong person most days on screen, and yet I've spent a lot of time on that couch back there, you know, wondering where my life is going.

And so, for me, the last week, I got off a conversation actually with a therapist who is a friend, not a therapist. And I just realized, like how much I spent so much of my time in crowds, in social gatherings amongst people I called friends and was so lonely.

And I have not felt that in my time here and it's because that I chose to build a really amazing community.

So, in saying that this is not a segway that we practiced, so no one knows that this is coming, including Dana who’s real nervous about what's about to happen right now.

But in saying that, one of the things that we at Trova Health want to do is to help be that community for you or help connect you into that community.

So, in the follow-up email that you will get tomorrow with this recording, you will also find a link to our Trova Health Facebook Group that was put together specifically to launch after this call tonight.

So, come and join in and find community in your isolation. We would love to have you there.

Marcia (44:35)

And this is one of those times where I mean, it's hard because I would love to be able to see everyone's faces right now so I'm missing that part. So, you know, don't discount the weirdness of Zoom. You know this, too. It's both a blessing and a curse. It's like it will connect us. And at the same time, it'll make us want more, too. But this is one of those places where we get to come together and really support each other. And again, know that you're not alone in this. And, you know, as a trauma therapist, there was a time where I used to have to ask people to think of a time when they felt trauma.

I don't have to ask that anymore. So, we are actually quite united in all of our experiences right now, more so than I think maybe that, you know, people on this planet ever have. And so, you're literally not alone.

And whatever you're feeling is what your body's doing, what your brain is doing, what your emotions are doing to try to make sense of a very complex and challenging time. And we're with you there with you.

Dana (45:30)

Yeah, I think that's true Marcia, like the stress responses, it's all due to stress so there's that commonality. We just do it differently. And so we feel like no one else feels what we feel or we feel like we're alone in that, but it's just that somebody is feeling it and doing it in a different way. And with that being said, Amanda, there is a point, and you mentioned this earlier, that you're not talking about that re-entry deserves to be in the conversation, but because it's of time, but there is a comment about the responses and how it's important to point out that it also happens at re-entry.

Do you want to define re-entry and just briefly speak to that?

Amanda (46:13)

Sure, and yes, it absolutely does. I was not leaving out people who are in re-entry spaces because a lot of people are doing that. So, one of the things that has affected us and in Covid times is, I was an accidental expat. Other people were forced, were forced back to their home countries, either by their NGOs, and they weren't able to say the goodbyes. They weren't able to do the things that they wanted to do. So, re-entry by intercultural definition is returning back to the place that that is either returning back to your passport country or is returning back to the place that you call home and fully reside outside of an expat experience.

And what can happen? What can happen and has happened has actually been a little bit of its own pandemic within a pandemic is the fact that so many people have either made the choice to re-enter early, they have been forced out, especially last March - so many people, Governments shut down their operations and said, you have to come back to where we can keep you safe. To our home country, wherever that might be.

I know, for example, that happened with the Peace Corps, and it's like they had to get on planes immediately.

And so, what happened was when we re-enter, there is a process that is known. It's like a backwards cycle. It's almost reverse culture shock into a space. And so, all of the things that I talked about where you're like, oh, I'm home, this is amazing, that honeymoon phase. Yay! I get to see my family. I get to eat tacos, (ya’ll I really miss tacos).

But then all of a sudden you're like super frustrated because everything that frustrated you about your home country, so I’ll use the United States because that's mine, everything that frustrated you about it before, now It's frustrating and it's political and it's this and it's this and… and so all of the things that were normal when you left are now not only no longer normal, but they also have Covid attached to them, almost literally.

So, it’s just that and yes, you do get to go back to adaption and adjustment, but now you're looking at it through a whole different lens. Perhaps you have values that you didn't have when you left. Your values have changed because of your global experience and how you see the policies coming up within your home country are different than even your next door neighbors or your own family members. And so it can really actually have almost a greater effect in some in some ways to have had to re-enter or to have chosen to re-enter during this time.

Dana (49:28)

Yeah, that's excellent. And so many people have a life that seems to be going on without them in the country because they can't go back to their chosen home or where they were before.And there's so much uncertainty. Some dates have been set and then revoked and set and revoked and set. And that causes a deep exhaustion, because then every business connection you make is through a screen and you have no choice for that. So, it would be hard.

Marcia (50:00)

Yeah. I just wanted to add something to that, because it I think it feels relevant that we haven't really touched on. I think this is true both internationally and then within the United States. As I said before, my father's Native American. I'm an enrolled member of my tribe, and the tribes have had very different protocols in terms of safety for our communities because of the lack of health care. And I'm sure that that everyone empathizes around the world because the United States is in quite a privileged position in terms of access to vaccines and general information.

So within even my family, within this country, we've had very different approaches towards what is safe? What does it mean to be in each other's presence? What are the ramifications of each of us as we go out, even in the difference between Colorado, New Mexico, or, you know, between me who lives outside of my reservation and my brother who lives inside and the responsibilities of health.

And so, there's also the intercultural case of individuals versus collectivist culture. So at least for my brother and his family and for our community, you know, it's not just about keeping me myself safe, but if I pass it on to my community members in an environment where it's collective and that we don't have access to health care, those ramifications like we don't fool with that. So, like our level of how we feel safe around each other differs.

And that can also cause tension even within a family system or an existing relationship. So, if you're in a country where that safety is different than perhaps what you have had access to, whether that's by re-entry or if you've just come in, that's another level.

So, I want to validate that, too. It's like we can we're all having very different experiences on what is it to be safe within Covid, depending on if we've had access to vaccines, what we absorb in terms of information and I will put it just that generally, because the way information is being absorbed around this topic is very, very different.

So, you know, also allowing that whoever you're in contact with may have a completely different sense of what they need to do in order to be safe in this time and realizing that it might be triggering to you and your nervous system, whatever those decisions might be.

So, taking a deep breath around that one to behind the mask usually is the way to go.

Dana (52:26)

So just don't breathe out.

Amanda

Breathe in and hold it.

Dana

That's our new coping strategy. So, we just have a few minutes left, but I thought this was an important, Marcia, this went to your physical symptoms and how that can be elicited by the stress that someone might be feeling emotionally and mentally. And then the guilt and shame that comes from that, like maybe I can't get off this couch - that causes guilt and shame.

And then it spirals, and it causes more stress and creates a downward cycle. And so, the Commenter said, “I've detached myself so that I can sort of function and then feels guilty about that because she her life is so much easier.” That proceeds more easily than people around her in West Africa as an example.

So, the question is, and I'll read it directly, “Is it self-loving behavior towards myself to put myself through this experience or am I trying to prove myself?”.

Marcia (53:35)

Well, you know, this is where I would offer for your body to give you the answer. And what I mean by that is in somatic therapy, where I usually start with is even the cultivating the practice of just observing. I know this sounds hard, but just observing, it's like, wow, OK, I'm not feeling like moving. I feel like I can't catch my breath, or I feel like I'm floating away just naming that it’s like, OK, OK.

And then the next piece is like, what does my body want to do right now? And if it says, I just need to sit here and say, OK, start having ( know this sounds funny), start having the conversation with your body and say, if you wanted to tell me something like, if your body had words, what would it tell you is what I would usually go with? It might say you need to rest. An example, I used to get many migraines, like many migraines, and luckily, knock on wood, I don't get them as much anymore. It got to the point where I started doing that for myself, and the loudest message I got from those headaches was you need to rest. You literally need to close your eyes and rest.

And if you don't do it for yourself, we're going to make it happen for you. And that was my body's way of doing it, and you're stopping because you're not listening to all the other signals that we're sending you that lead up to this. So, you're out for a day.

So, the question of is, is this self-loving behavior or am I trying to put myself through experience or prove myself? It's really one that I'd like you to become curious about. It's like in that moment sitting or detaching or whatever else, did that feel good for you? Did your body say, I need this right now? In which case that's your resource. And that's totally OK.

But just cultivating, just noticing and observing. I know it's going to be hard to detach judgment from it. Notice all that stuff and then just start getting to know your body because your body is your partner really is on your side and wants to talk to you. And oftentimes our minds are just way too loud, and we just obliterate the rest of the messages coming through and I do not wish I knew what my migraines did to me. They literally knocked me out for a day in order for me to pay
attention. So just kindly listen. Wants to tell you stuff.

Dana (56:00)

Thank you, and thank you so much, we're at the end of our time. I want to thank, so much, Amanda and Marcia, your wisdom and your expertise were clear. And I hope that everyone who was attending felt the same way. It's a tough time, but it can also be a time of self-reflection and learning and really becoming in, you know, being able to rest more than a busy life prior to Covid didn't allow. So, we hope that you will.

I've put several times, as you’ve probably seen, the discount code. Don't forget to sign up for that. And it's there if you click on the link and then I'll put our link to our website there, www.trova.health.

We are about to launch our new provider group, and you'll be the first to know if you subscribe and then you'll get that 20 percent off if you sign up for it today. So, thank you, everyone. Thank you, Amanda, Marcia, and be well in this really hard time.

Marcia

Have a good night. Good day. Good morning.

Amanda

Thank you all. Take good care.

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