• Jen Knight

Improve Your Expat Mental Health in Just Ten Minutes per Day

When I first became an expat and didn't have the incredible coaching tools and experience I now possess, I often felt overwhelmed. Living abroad is an adventure, but it can be hard to stay grounded and connected to yourself.

If you can relate, you might want to try this exercise I try to do daily for optimal mental health. The work of evolving into our best selves is never finished - there is always something new to learn, a way we can expand, something to improve on.

By incorporating this exercise into your daily routine, you are giving yourself time and space to take care of yourself and gain clarity in your life, no matter how chaotic and overwhelming things might feel.

Step 1: Brain dump

Take about five minutes (unless you are going through a lot and need extra time) and get out everything at the forefront of your brain, good and bad. Try to write freely without considering how things sound or how they're spelled.

It's important not to censor yourself, but to really get out all the thoughts that without this exercise can stay stuck and swirling around in your brain. Even this one step can be powerful for clearing your mind and gaining clarity.

Step 2: Pick out one unhelpful thought

After the brain dump is finished (mine is generally about half a page in my A5-sized journal), look back at what you wrote and pick out a thought that is not serving you and the life you want to create. It should just be one thought, so one sentence maximum.

For example, when I did this exercise the other morning, I picked out this thought to work with: "I will never get everything done in time for our move." (My husband and I are moving from Phuket to Shenzhen this summer, so I am in the midst of packing and preparing for the transition.)

Step 3: Analyze the unhelpful thought

This is a really important step, and one that many people would prefer to skip. But I think it is incredibly powerful to see what happens when you think that thought. What is the price of keeping it in your brain? How does it make you feel when you think it?

Continuing with my example, when I thought "I will never get everything done in time for our move" I felt stressed and overwhelmed. Not very helpful emotions, because when I feel stressed I want to bury my head in the sand (read: Netflix) then go crazy trying to do everything at the last minute.

I could see clearly the results I would get if I continued to think that thought, and they weren't ideal.

Step 4: Select a new thought

This is much more than an affirmation or a lovely thought that makes you feel good. You want to intentionally pick a new thought that you are going to work on believing. This new thought should produce the emotions you need to take action on whatever it is you most want or need.

To finish up my example, I knew that I needed to feel clear-headed and calm to get through the next month. From those emotions I could plan and systematically get everything done for the move, while still attending to my usual work and life tasks. So I picked this thought: "I know exactly what to do, and there is enough time to get everything done."

It sounds simple, but this daily exercise has dramatically changed my life and the lives of my clients. Want to go deeper? You can book a free discovery coaching session with me HERE. We will get clear about what you want, identify what is holding you back, and strategize your future!

About me

Hi, I'm Jen! I am a US expat and have lived abroad for six years, first in Shanghai, then Thailand, and am moving soon to Shenzhen.

I always strive to learn, grow, and be the best version of myself, and I'm so grateful I get to spend my days working with amazing expat women like you:

Women who are smart and want to reach their goals, but need help overcoming stress, overwhelm, and other obstacles so they can create their best lives abroad.

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