Moving to a new country can be an enriching experience. However, any change causes an impact on the person, creating feelings of discomfort, tension and stress. Being in a place that is unknown, where we cannot predict or guess what will happen, forces us out of our comfort zone, which can be scary.
After all, we abandon what is familiar to us and we come across a culture where the language, the way of being, the interaction between people and even the sense of humor is different from what we are accustomed to. In addition, it is necessary to adapt to a new diet and climate, which in itself can change our mood.
In these situations, when we get out of our comfort zone, the brain tends to work in a specific way: first, it keeps our attention focused on this potentially threatening or dangerous situation (dangerous because we do not know what will happen, so we feel we have no control over it), as if it were a warning sign. Second, it evaluates the situation as more negative and frightening than it actually is, for prevention is better than cure. Thus, the brain identifies all possible scenarios, especially those that are most inconvenient for us, so that we find early solutions for them.
Our brain does this automatically so that it can protect us. This way of looking at the world around us by focusing on what is negative and what can be dangerous motivates us to adopt more careful behaviors and prevent disadvantageous situations for us. It seems easy to see the advantages of this way of being and seeing the world if we realize that this way of processing the information around us is what prevents us from standing in the middle of a road with traffic or getting too close to a cliff.
However, sometimes this constant negative thinking only brings us unnecessary fears, causing us to act too cautiously, avoiding taking any “risk.”
Normally, when we are out of our environment, away from what we know and are familiar with, these negative and threatening thoughts arise more frequently. It is normal to feel threatened or a little nervous about all the changes, which can, consequently, lead us to gradually isolate ourselves more and more from this new country, culture and people.
In addition, our brain also makes us idealize our previous life, the city, the space, and the people we already knew. We will recognize that, in our own previous country, we were happy. However, this may just be a romanticized view of our memories, which often does not correspond to the reality of what actually happened. In fact, the brain is an eternal dissatisfied – always focused on what is wrong in the present and what could be so much better.
So how can we deal with this brain that strives so hard to protect us? First of all, it is important to be aware that this is the normal way our brain works when we face change. In this way, we can perceive when we are entering this mode of self-defense and act in order to deactivate it.
For this, anything that allows us to gain a greater perspective of the problem can help us. For example, we can write or talk to someone close to us about what we feel, and in this way we are taking these fears from within us and putting them ahead of us, creating a distance between us and the problems and making them smaller. We can practice exercise, maintain a balanced diet and get enough sleep, which will improve our mood.
In addition, it is essential to allow ourselves to slowly know the country we are in. We can learn about the culture, the places, the people, the language … only then can we create our roots, transforming this new place into our place.