Life is a complexity that can never fit inside a luggage. Leaving with multiple flights with numerous bags after a temporary stay could be exhausting. These international travelers often experience rootlessness and restlessness due to the high frequency of traveling and detachment from any connections. These experiences can more likely break their mental health down. Some researchers/practitioners refer these people as Third Culture Kid (TCK) or a chameleon since there is a high number of relocations typically due to their parents’ work in some fields, such as business, education, military, missionary, diplomacy…etc. Meanwhile, a global citizen is an individual who studies or works in different countries. They choose to expose and immerse themselves with a bunch of different languages, ideologies, religions, nationalities, and races daily. Every day, international students, immigrant workers, expatriates, and TCKs deal with a series of challenging cultural adjustment issues. Thus, stress is an absolute daily consumption.

Have you wondered why we would have to discuss stress? Isn’t it a fundamental issue in our life? It is quite common to judge or assume how privileged these international travelers are as foreigners in an unknown area: being forgiven for breaking certain laws, being tolerated to act in certain ways, and being accepted by most locals due to the unknown of different policies and culture. For those who are local, even working with foreigners in our office can bring some cringes because of the frequent misunderstandings and miscommunications. Unfortunately, we often cannot escape from these stressful situations. The silver lining of life as an ex-pat or immigrant has led to some stereotypes and assumptions for most people. It happens when a local friend in a host country starts to envy and compare their lifestyle to a foreigner.

There are a varied number of arguable researches and articles that mention the high likelihood of Third Culture Kid (TCK) is experiencing stress-related mental health issues. It seems thrilling when we hear how privileged their life must be, yet either we don’t know or we don’t want to know that their reality bites. According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), there are over 300 million people or equivalent to 4.4% of the world’s population have experienced depression since 2015 (Data from WHO, 2017. Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders). In particular, females experience it at a higher rate compared to males. Why are we suddenly talking about depression? For enmeshment of continuous buried feelings, unmanageable stress may prolong to cause depression. Without any further explanations, stress may also cause some illnesses, both physically and mentally.

Since we live in a life with a box of colors that can make us feel thrilled about it, we should not deny the consequences of living a global lifestyle. In commemorating Stress Awareness Month, I would like to give you a Luggage with 5 Emotional Toolkits to Help You in Managing Stress:

1. CConsciousness

Leaving should not be the only option since global citizens and TCKs have another choice for living. As a global citizen, the likelihood to experience diversity and inclusiveness is coming with a silver-lining perception. Some of us may think of how complicated our life is, while others may see how thrilled the journey will always be. Commonly, travelers and sojourners are not aware of their own restlessness. The first toolkit before knowing how to manage stress is being aware of the stressor. What may trigger my feelings and what happen with us shows how we respond in that particular situation. An emotional awareness is the paramount key to manage stress. The way we become aware of our current feelings will help us to be able to validate our emotions. Start to ask yourself, “What is the sensation in my body right now? What am I feeling right now?” Global citizens tend to experience various stressors starting from moving into a new country to preparing the farewell before leaving. It takes some time and willingness to digest every different message, food, and even public policy.

2. OObservation

Once we are aware of our physical and emotional responses, we can proceed to the next step. The second toolkit to not only be able to survive but also to thrive is observation. Also known as Grounding, it helps us to observe our body sensations through the five senses. We may start by mentioning five objects we can see clearly from its colors. Then continue to touch four objects with our hands and observe the texture. We can continue to hear threesounds in our surroundings. After we start to feel relaxed, let us begin to observe two things that we can smell around us. Lastly, begin to indulge our taste buds to enjoy one flavor. In order to process stress, we should observe how we cope with stressful situations. Once we look through our body sensations, we will feel relaxed and able to see what the world has for us. An ability to observe what is going on with us does not ask us to understand and analyze the situation. We just simply need to acknowledge and accept any situation. As global nomads, taking time to find a place where you feel comfortable, relaxed, and peaceful is necessary.

3. PPause for a break

Who says saying hello and goodbye is easy? Seeing how your family and friends are being detached from their comfort zone multiple times while still trying to build deeper connections can be tremendously painful. Especially when other people tend to just see it from the privileges we have, we may even think how weak, sorrowful, and ungrateful we are as a person. At the time of despair, the feeling of unworthiness will lead us to question our existence in the global world. Why can’t my life be easy and relaxing? The third toolkit teaches us to give ourselves time to take a break, starting from breathing. Be aware of our breathing, observe the surroundings, and take time to relax for a while.

4. IN-Internal Communication

There is no point to work hard if we cannot enjoy a piece of it.” Who agrees with this quote? When we feel strange about something, we tend to be confused, worried, and doubtful to take another step to the unknown. Feeling uncertain towards the next journey seems scary since we are kind of putting ourselves in a risk. New place, new friends, new foods, and what else that excites us in the new place? How certain we are about leaving our comfort zone? Fortunately, we can learn to process and cope with the feelings by doing self-talk. A person who has a great emotional regulation will accept the emotions and listen to their own needs. Once we perceive an emotion, we are more likely to label a particular situation as a stressor. Have courage with being vulnerable and honest with ourselves. However, we cannot be vulnerable to ourselves if we do not have trust within ourselves. Knowing how powerful our body and mind are to tackle the stress will help us to regain double spirit in managing stress.

5. G-Grateful

The last toolkit that helps you in managing stress is by making conscious choices to perceive things positively. Acceptance encompasses awareness and it can be depicted towards what we have, who we are, why we leave, and how we live. While we try to explore new things after living, remember to appreciate what we have discovered before leaving. Every day, you can wake up with an optimistic motivation or pessimistic energy to handle the stress. In any seasonal life, stressor is the outcome of our perception and stress management is a choice.

Human existence has meaningful purpose that is discovered through continual life events. Knowing our purpose in life will give us a better understanding of the reasons we are doing something. Either you are surviving or thriving, being able to recognize what hinders you from growth is an elevated skill that you should be proud of. Because at the end of the day, we should thank ourselves for adapting to the unknown and accepting the uncertainty. We hope the world will heal and accept us soon, after a very long break to just breathe.

Stress is an unavoidable situation in daily life. Instead of trying to avoid and bury it, we should learn to manage it because a manageable stress can bring positivity and creativity.

Author: Estrelita Gracia Siburian, S.Psi., M.Sc.