I said I wasn’t going to do it anymore. No way. (Pouty foot stomp.) I was determined that regardless of what happened, I wouldn’t talk about COVID anymore. It had taken up precious front-of-brain real estate for far too long. I was sick of hearing about it; surely you felt the same way.
So, I was committed to a channel change for 2021 and pretend, at least whenever I could, that it isn’t all-encompassing. Like how you’re supposed to stand still if swarmed by bees or play dead if chased by a bear.
“Don’t pay attention to it, and it’ll eventually go away.” But I can’t ignore the negative, compounding impact it’s having — even surpassing previous thresholds of intensity — on me, and statistically, on so many of you.
And the mental and physical repercussions from carrying around this invisible ball and chain for the past year has pushed us to hit The Pandemic Wall. It’s hard everywhere, and the fastest way around this is through.
This week, I’m coming at you with stats, science, and solutions. I want to assure you just how much you’re not alone and offer immediate resources, matchable to various levels of care.
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- Quiz: Have you hit the wall?
- Staying informed vs. wallowing in the pain
- How your emotions manifest in your breathing
- More booze, drugs, chocolate, and cigarettes
- Completing the stress cycle
Listen to the Full Episode
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- Join Expats on Fire right here.
- Sundae’s Facebook Business Page – Sundae Schneider-Bean LLC
- Sundae’s Facebook Group – Expats on Purpose
- Burnout: the secret to solving the stress cycle by Emily & Amelia Nagoski
- Expat Next with Vivian Chiona
- The Psychologist
- Dr. Martha Beck
- The Pandemic Wall
- CDC: Coping with Stress
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Full Episode Transcript:
Hello. It is 7:30 am in New York, 1:30 pm in Johannesburg, and 7:30 pm in Bangkok. Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour. This is Sundae Schneider-Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I am a solution-orientated coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations. I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition.
You know what time it is, it’s quiz time! Okay, here we go. Give yourself one point for each thing that resonates.
All right, number one, you are feeling emotions like fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration more and more these days. All right, if any of those apply to you, give yourself one point.
Number two, you’ve had changes in your appetite, your energy, even your desires and interests. If that applies, go ahead and give yourself another point.
You’ve got difficulty concentrating and making decisions, sound familiar? Third point. You’ve got difficulty sleeping or are even having something like nightmares? There you go, give yourself a fourth point.
Now, let’s go to the body, physical reactions like headaches, body pains, stomach problems, even skin rashes. If those apply, give yourself another point.
Okay, we’re almost at the end, let’s wind up. Do you have worsening chronic health problems, or worsening mental health conditions? If that applies to you, one more point. And last but not least, do you have increased use of tobacco, alcohol, or other substances?
Okay, ladies and gentlemen, if you have tallied up your points and are well up to the four, five, or six mark, congratulations! You have hit the Pandemic Wall.
Okay, you know this isn’t a real quiz and it’s actually nothing to celebrate but I think you get it, right? Look at how things have been developing over time and maybe slow at first and then suddenly, all at once. Feelings that seem uncontrolled like anger or sadness that come out of nowhere. Feeling like you’re diving into your emotions through food, or maybe you’re not eating it all. Struggling to make decisions that used to be really simple for you. Disrupted sleep, your body screaming at you, and your overall health worsening. All the while you might be relying on unhealthy substances to cope. Yeah. It isn’t a joke.
The Pandemic Wall is real. We’ve been reading about it in the news. If you’re listening to this now, it’s February 2021 and it felt like that wall was lifted in January for everybody. Because we started looking at that year mark for COVID-19. And depending on where you are in the world, it felt like it was getting closer and closer. The thing is what we know from the Kaiser Family Foundation is that you’re not alone. 53% of adults have said that the pandemic was having a negative impact on their mental health.
Everything I just read to you are actually signs of stress put out by the CDC.
And these are stresses that you’ve been carrying around like an invisible ball and chain for about a year now, right? And it’s important for us to acknowledge that, just because you can’t see that ball and chain doesn’t mean that it’s not weighing you down. And it’s really important that we talk about this. It’s important that we pause and take a look in the mirror or look at our loved ones and have some focus on what is really the state of our mental health right now. How are we doing really physically? If we think about those extra burdens that we’ve been carrying on and on and on.
Now when you’re listening to this you could be in one of two camps, right? It could be that your mental health is seriously suffering and you know deep down it is bigger than anything that can be solved from an episode of Expat Happy Hour. And that you need more because the level of functioning that you’re watching in your life is low. and you are feeling overwhelmed, with emotions OR out of control. And that the sleep disruptions are taking its toll. And you’re even feeling loss of joy from things that normally give you pleasure. If that is you, I just want you to pause for a moment and say, “I know it sucks. I know it sucks, and I’m sorry.”
And again, you’re not alone because however you were feeling when your ego might be drastically different from now and it could be time to say, “Hey, that invisible ball and chained, maybe it’s time to bring in someone to help you lift it.”
And you know I’m a coach. I’m not a psychologist, but there are times when it really is a smart move to see a psychologist to get support for how you’re doing or how it’s impacting your relationships. And I wanted to share a resource that I often recommend to people that I come in contact with who aren’t a good fit for coaching and they really do need deeper support because of where they’re at, and that is Expat Nest.
Now you might have heard of Expat Nest on episode 178, where I had Vivian Chiona with us where we talked about Midlife Marriage Meltdowns. It’s a great resource for expats because it’s psychological and counseling services for people who are globally mobile. And it could be anything around dealing with stress and anxiety or depression. So check out in the show notes, Expat Nest and you can get some access to her resources or even book a call for consultation.
Vivian doesn’t even know I’m sharing this on the episode. I have no official affiliation with Expat Nest. It’s just a resource that I have been mentioning to potential clients or people who have come my way recently. I wanted to make sure that more people knew about it because life is too amazing to let one more day go by when you’re struggling this hard. And the thing is I’m not naive. I know that there is a stigma around people reaching out for psychological services. It’s ridiculous.
If I’m looking at an article from the British Psychological Society called The Psychologist, they said that the fear of being stigmatized by others often leads people to avoid professional help. Like if there isn’t a time on this planet where everybody gets that professional help which makes sense, if you’re struggling, it is now right?
So if that’s you if you hear this inner voice where you’re like, “Oh, yeah, I need to, it’s time.” Please do that. Please do that because you matter and with the help of a qualified psychologist, if you’re feeling that low, this is a wonderful way for someone to accompany you on that journey.
And listen, the stigma is so frustrating, right? Why is there a stigma around getting help and especially around mental health? And that just makes me crazy. I know most of us probably have someone in our lives that we’re close to who has sought help and we’ve seen what a beautiful impact it’s made of their lives. We’ve also probably all have personal examples where someone hasn’t gotten the support that they needed and it leads to terrible consequences.
So this is just a shout out from my heart. I hope that I’m reaching someone right now to get help if you’re really feeling like you’re not functioning anymore, and things are really uncontrollable, I recommend seeking out a resource. It doesn’t have to be Expat Nest. It could be any organization that is professionally affiliated and you feel comfortable with.
And again, I mean this stigma stuff. I don’t know if you saw my social media post, it was a couple years ago. I was working with my business coach and we started a year-long program together. And I got flowers from her delivered and I was really excited like, “Oh! these are amazing,” and I thought about posting a picture of these flowers on social media. And then there was this weird thing that went inside of me like, “Well, then people will know I don’t do this all on my own.” And that was literally a voice that came out. And I thought, “Are you kidding me, Sundae? You’re a coach and you have hired coaches for years. It’s not a secret. No one does this alone.” But I noticed there was that almost like a twinge that was going to stop me and I listened to it and that’s so yucky. And that’s why I wanted to call out that stigma of asking for help. We really need to block that stigma.
So I am going to encourage you, also if maybe you’re not feeling like you need support that I mentioned before but people around you might be impacted by how you talk about support as well. Whether you’re getting support and you might be hiding it, there might be some value in being proud like, “Yeah, it was struggling and this is how that I got and this is what helped me to break the stigma,” right? By shedding light on it.
And that’s why I wanted to bring that up today in Expat Happy Hour.
I want to remind you no matter where you are in your journey, if you are living a globally mobile life, you’re already like olympic level challenges, right? And on top of that, you’ve got maybe a family, maybe your own business, maybe a job, maybe you’re managing chronic health issues, maybe you’re in the middle of a social justice crisis. There’s a lot going on right now. And of course, that things are hard but the fastest way around this is through.
And it could be the other group of you we talked about, you know group one or camp one might be really struggling and I’ve already shared a resource with you. But there might be those of you who are listening, you’re like, “You know what? I’m not in crisis mode actually. I’m trying to remind myself to be grateful.” You might feel like a toddler sometimes where you’re like, “Oh, I just want this to be over,” but you know that actually things are not that bad. That you haven’t been as hit hard by the crisis as others. But deep down when you’re really clear with yourself, you might be feeling off or maybe even in a funk or not at your best, not top of your game and you just wish that you are showing up differently, right?
So let’s look at some ways that the CDC offers for you that you can cope with the stresses that are on your shoulders. And I just want to acknowledge that even though life is going well, it’s still important to pause and to acknowledge how you can manage the stresses that are there, right? And be grateful for where you are and be thankful for the health that you are experiencing in your family or the security that you have. But having that in your life doesn’t remove the fact that there are stresses.
So we’re going to run through each of the strategies that the CDC talks about in terms of coping with stress and I’ll say a little bit more based on how I watched that go down among the expat community and people that I am in community with, and the expats that are in Expats on Purpose. And everybody in my communities, what I’m watching and hearing in the expat space.
So here’s the thing, the first one, I learned a new vocabulary word during the IGNITE Challenge and when I ran it in my Facebook group Expats on Purpose, I learned the word doomscrolling. Doomscrolling. So the fact that I don’t know the word probably suggests that I don’t do it. But Doomscrolling is when you find yourself constantly looking up upsetting news on social media, right? So you’re scrolling about the pandemic, you’re scrolling about the state of the world, and it’s doomscrolling.
And if this is you, if you understand that you’re doing it, that is going to have a huge impact on your body. A negative impact on your body and your energy which you could use to do other things, right? That energy could be useful to make a contribution to a campaign that is fighting for social justice. Or it could be to make sure that the health and safety practices are being adhered to in your school or in your family. We can do things with that energy that are more serving.
So the first tip is really to take breaks from watching or listening to the news stories that are Doom and Gloom. It’s so important to be informed but there is a point where you go beyond informed and you go into like wallowing in the pain of it. All right. So take an honest look at yourself and see if limiting your news consumption would be helpful. Or maybe limiting it to just one certain news site and unsubscribing to other places so that you can take care of your anxiety levels. Because doomscrolling is very anxiety-inducing.
Okay, and that goes to the second one, they talk about taking care of your body. So taking care of your body can look different for each person. Are you pausing throughout the day and taking time to make sure that you’re doing deep breaths? I know that in my Master’s Degree program, I learned that shallow breathing is a sign of stress and deep breathing is a sign of relaxation. And in my Master’s Degree, I was basically like *short breaths* I was not breathing very deeply and I realized like, “Wow. I just need to take a pause during the day and go, *deep breaths*” Look, it’s amazing that I didn’t pass out, to be honest.
So, you know, set the alarm in your phone or put a reminder like, “How is my breathing?” And check if you’re in that shallow, almost passing out mode or if you’re truly taking deep breaths. It is so simple. We have to breathe but the quality of our conscious breathing can really help your health.
You might do the same thing for stretching. Some experts recommend even stretching before you get out of bed. So stretching like a cat. I’m like stretching right now with my arms because it feels so good to stretch, stretching in bed before you even get out of bed. That’s pretty cozy. Right, that’s pretty easy to integrate into your day. So stretching you could add before you get out of bed or once you get out of bed and maybe pair it with something else that you’re going to do, like drinking coffee or having lunch. Just a quick stretch to keep your body loved. Keeping the energy flowing.
Of course all of the predictable suspects like making sure that you’re eating well-balanced. Nothing wrong with nachos, right? But are we doing nachos for breakfast every day? Okay. So if you look at your overall week, is it well balanced? Don’t criticize one meal or one thing but look at your overall thing. How well balanced is your entire week and then how are you doing with exercise?
So this really great book that I’ve been reading called Burnout: The Secret to Solving the Stress Cycle from Emily and Amelia Nagoski. And they talked about how exercise, we all know we should exercise regularly, but this is why the way in which they talk about It is important. When we can’t deal with this stressor, like COVID or lockdown or job loss, we can deal with the stress.
So what they talk about is completing the stress cycle. So every day if you exercise whether it’s 20-minutes of yoga, 30-minute run etcetera. You’re actually dealing with the stress, even though you can’t get rid of the stressor. So that’s why it’s really important to exercise regularly. I will put that book in the show notes so that you know where you can check it out. I’ll probably mention this many times on Expat Happy Hour because it’s such a good book and there’s so many kernels of wisdom in there.
Of course getting plenty of sleep is a no brainer, people know that but you often don’t know why it’s important. It is so important for your brain to repair and to prepare for what’s ahead. So if you’re not yet prioritizing sleep, definitely make that higher on your priority list. I know many of my community are saying that they’re disrupted from sleep. I’ve been hearing there’s trends globally about people reporting poorer sleep so I’ll also put a video interview I have with a sleep expert in the show notes so that you can get some state-of-the-art tips on improving your sleep.
Okay, the other one, which I think we know about but it’s worth mentioning is around excessive alcohol use and maybe smoking. This one, I just want you to do an internal checkpoint. Like, are you feeling okay with your alcohol use? Do you feel like it is going in a good direction? Just do an honest checkpoint with yourself and look at whether that is kind of going down a bad road. I am not a qualified addiction specialist in any way, so I’m not going to weigh in on that. I’m going to just ask you to use what Dr. Martha Beck calls, “Your Body Compass,” and listen to yourself to say, “Maybe I should rope that in a little bit,” because obviously that’s going to have a spiral effect on other parts of your health. And your mental health as well.
Okay. So when you are homeschooling and working and and and. All those things. The next piece of advice from the CDC might feel like, not possible, right? So they mention taking time to unwind. Taking time to unwind. You’re like, “I don’t have time. I have to work, I have to cook, I have to do my business, have to be with the kids.” Etcetera. So I get that. I completely get that. Can you get creative with like five minutes? So you can just unwind a little. Do something that you enjoy.
So if you have kids and they’re like always at your ankles. Can you like plan Peppa Pig and lock yourself in the bathroom and just practice breathing for five minutes? Something is better than nothing, right? It could be also maybe there’s some activities that you enjoy. Remember when you were 15 you used to love watercolor but you haven’t picked up watercolor in forever. Maybe that’s the time to sort of do something from long ago that you used to enjoy and pick it up again, and see what joy that brings to you. Right?
So again, you might feel too busy for this and it might feel like you don’t have time. However, we’re in this for the long haul, depending on what you’re listening to this from, it might be another two months, three months, four months, six months until you even have access to a vaccine. Until your community unlocks, right?
I don’t know where you’re listening from but if you’re feeling stress, then these are some really creative ways to incorporate it and this always goes to my suggestion of adding playfulness is so healthy and so important because it generates positive energy in your body, and just brings you joy. And that makes all the other things less heavy.
Okay two other things that go without saying but I just want to reiterate it. When you want to counter stress, connecting with others is really important and that could be with a dear friend. Or it could be like we said before, connecting with a professional to really dive into your concerns and how you’re feeling. But connect with the community, right? And I know that if social distancing makes it hard now, there’s so many communities online or that you can become part of, that get you. Whether it’s a faith-based organization or based on a hobby or based on your lifestyle, being around people who get you is like balm for the soul.
Okay. So those are some strategies that were hearing from the CDC on how to cope with stress in this sort of prolonged time. And I’ve given you kind of my personal take on it and what I think is realistic to do, based on circumstances. And I want to just acknowledge something. When we’re thinking about the classics of eating healthy, exercising enough, getting enough sleep, not drinking too much etcetera. I mean, can we be honest, like for reals, honest? Most people struggle with this in the best of times. In the best of times. So how in the hell are you expected to do all of this perfectly in the worst of times?
All right. I mean I get it. I completely get it and here’s the thing, you don’t have the luxury of not doing it right now because your health and well-being is on the line. So we have to get creative in the ways in which we do it and that is my commitment. That if I can support in any way, I want to have your back and that is why I created Expats on Fire.
You’ve probably heard me talk about it in the last few weeks. Expats on Fire is a community and a source of accountability so you can get serious about the changes that you want to make in your life for your health, for your wellbeing, for your profession or your business with a group of people that get you. And I carefully designed this group to maximize how you show up for you because what we know from science is that resilience and surprisingly also, self-care is actually best developed in community. Who knew?
So Expats on Fire, it is already live and we are rocking in there already and it is amazing! This is an amazing community. I am already so impressed with how they’re showing up and the results I’ve seen so far. Think of it as your bulletproof accountability and community, right? So if you’re feeling unmotivated or nervous that you’re not going to keep the promises to yourself or you might even be shaming yourself for not doing more, that stops now. Right, done. Let’s knock that off.
And that’s why this is my invitation for you to check out Expats on Fire because with Expats on Fire you get access to the private community for six months, live monthly training from me, monthly progress guides, challenges and prizes. Access to what’s called the Expat Vault. It’s a resource library with over seven years of bonus trainings, worksheets, podcasts and articles. Mini coaching and video drops for me.
And if you end up doing the premium version, you get 12 live group coaching calls, that’s two a month. Right? So if you are ready to really commit to your health and wellbeing, but you know that it’s already enough for what you’re doing, and you’d like some extra support, then Expats on Fire could be perfect. We are working on surging your self-confidence making you a priority. Really creating healthy boundaries, clearing out your negative mind, creating new habits or replacing bad patterns. Totally improving your health and wellbeing, amplifying your impact, so you can live more on purpose. Focusing on what is on your mind in terms of your career and building, and maintaining meaningful relationships, and more.
So check it out! You deserve to give yourself the same support you give others and now you’ll have people in your corner who get you within this inclusive community. So join us, check it out, It’s in the show notes.
All right, everybody. It’s big. We know the Pandemic Wall is here. It’s our job to crash through it lovingly and with smart uses of our time and energy, so check it out, whatever that means for you.
You’ve been listening to Expat Happy Hour with Sundae Schneider-Bean. Thank you for listening.
I’ll leave you with the words of the 14th President of the Republic of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo: “The power of one, if fearless and focused, is formidable. But the power of many, working together, is better.”
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