Feeling lonely is an inevitable side effect of self-isolating.
For teachers living abroad, loneliness is perhaps even more unavoidable. You may not have had the option to return home to wait out the coronavirus pandemic with friends or family.
Working abroad was supposed to be an exciting adventure. Instead, you may have found yourself living alone in a foreign country.
We're here to tell you that you're not alone. And things will get better soon.
Here are some tips for teachers living abroad on how to combat loneliness as much as possible and maintain a healthy emotional and mental outlook:
- Stay connected.
- Reconnect with old friends.
- Communicate with colleagues.
- Reach out to those in need.
- Accept help and support.
- Keep up with your self-care.
The best way to tackle feelings of loneliness is to make an effort to stay connected with friends and family both at home and in your host country.
Use technology to your advantage to help keep in touch, especially with friends and relatives living alone.
Try to arrange a phone or video call whenever you can, keeping track on a calendar of dates and times when you are free to do so.
Staying indoors for a long time can also mean that when you connect with family and friends, you find yourself with little to talk about.
You could also try playing games together. There are many great apps out there that allow you to have fun virtual hangouts like virtual online quizzes or even video calling apps such as Zoom and HouseParty.
Reconnect with old friends.
As a teacher living abroad, you may have lost touch with several of your friends back home.
Whether you're navigating a new job in a new country or having lived abroad for years, now is the perfect time to rekindle those friendships with individuals you never thought you'd lose touch with.
With schools in countries such as Italy and Spain planning on staying closed until at least September, you may find yourself with lots of free time to do so.
It is important to not feel pressured to reach out to people, however, and friends should understand that living through a pandemic is no easy challenge since we are all in this together.
If you find yourself being distant from others, remember to not feel guilty about this, but instead do what is best for your mental health.
Communicate with colleagues.
Missing out on talking with colleagues regularly throughout the day can intensify feelings of loneliness.
Whereas before you could simply chat with a fellow teacher about work or what you saw on TV the night before. This essential social interaction has now been dramatically minimized as teachers work remotely.
Communication is easy to achieve throughout the working day by video calling coworkers to discuss your current teaching plans and ideas for the future.
Talk about something other than work, arrange a call during your breaks or in the evening to help stay connected and maintain a work-life balance.
If you're a teacher in a country where lockdown rules are being eased slightly, you may now be allowed to meet up with a select number of individuals in an outdoor space.
Use this opportunity to catch up with some colleagues or friends while also keeping your distance.
Reach out to those in need.
If you think your family and friends are struggling, assure them that you'll be there to speak to them and provide advice when they're feeling overwhelmed and lonely.
However, as a teacher abroad, your family members may be hundreds, or even thousands, of miles away. Helping someone else's family in times of need is a great way to fit in some much needed social contact and help others combat their own struggles of loneliness.
As you venture out for your weekly grocery run, reach out to neighbors or colleagues who are quarantined and ask if they need a few essentials.
As long as you remember to keep your distance, you shouldn't be putting your health at risk.
Completing a good deed for others will help boost morale and lift a weight off the shoulders of those who are in need.
Helping out is also a great way to make new relationships while in quarantine.
If you've never spoken to your neighbors before, try leaving a friendly note and offering some encouragement.
If you're a teacher living in an apartment building, this can be a great way to get to know a large group of people and share resources.
If you're seriously worried about your mental health, it is vital to reach out to those who can help.
If you feel uncomfortable talking to a friend or family member about this, there are trained professionals who can help by listening and guide you to means of navigating and managing your emotions during this uncertain time.
Making sure you have easy access to your host country's healthcare system and services is extremely important during this time.
For example, in some countries, you'll need to have some kind of health insurance plan in place so you won't incur any out of pocket fees when accessing local health services or facilities. Whether it's for physical or mental health purposes.
Virtual health services are also available on specific international healthcare plans, allowing you to seek medical advice from inside your own home.
Keep up with your self-care.
Finally, don't forget to give yourself some love and support too.
Self-care can be anything from exercising to dancing around in your apartment to good tunes or starting a daily journal.
The idea is to do something nice for yourself every day. This might be hard at first, but it's so worth it.
It doesn't have to be big either. But regularly taking care of yourself will boost your happiness and strengthen your relationship with yourself at the same time.
So go ahead and try to do more things that make you feel better and whole.
Draw, write, dance, meditate, exercise or eat a nutritious meal. Commit to at least one act of self-care a day.
Stay strong and keep at it!
Making the first step to reaching out for help can be a difficult one. But it is important to not suffer in silence from mental health issues that may arise, or be heightened as a result of self-isolation.
Remember that you are not alone and there are plenty of teachers abroad who have also had their experience change in the blink of an eye.
Just take it day by day.
You'll come out of this more resilient and adaptable than you ever thought possible.
Best of luck to all the teachers abroad right now.
Hang in there! 🤗