Coping with change

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The process of immigration is not easy. A lot of us went through months or even years of uncertainty, waiting for the application results. Others may have experienced traumatic events, such as sudden displacement, or fleeing war or persecution. Newcomers carry these scars as they face new challenges when they arrive in Canada. In the first few weeks and months after arrival, we have to cope with a new culture and language as we settle in a new land.

All these cause a large amount of stress. According to Dr. Arpita Biswas:
“Stress is a major factor for all and it is usually job-related, but for immigrants, stress can be different. The human mind is the same, no matter where one comes from. The stress of trying to find one’s footing in a new environment; the lack of social and family support; financial stress; different child rearing patterns due to cultural differences; cultural conflicts; along with silent racism and discrimination, can all contribute to poor self-esteem, lack of confidence and depression” (cited from the article “Immigration can be stressful at many levels, but there’s help at hand” from Canada Bound magazine, Oct. 19, 2015).

All these feelings of inadequacy, frustration and sadness can lead to more problems if left unchecked. It could lead to physical illness, substance abuse, and even marital or family conflicts for some. If you, or any of your family members is suffering from stress or depression, here are suggested approaches for dealing with change:

  1. Communicate

  2. It can be hard for us to voice out our problems, but this is the first step towards a solution. Even just sharing your worries with your spouse, parent, sibling, or a friend relieves stress. You can also try talking to your pastor, priest, or counsellor to get advice to ease your worries. Joining a newcomer support group can also be beneficial since you share a common experience with the members. You will learn that what you are going through is not unique. You are not alone in your struggle.

  3. Stay positive or at least, realistic

  4. Face issues one at a time and be gentle with yourself. Take control of the things that you can manage, like improving your language or skills or slowly expanding your personal and professional network. Be happy with small achievements. This will encourage you to stay optimistic. Never give in to negativity because this kind of mindset will only pull you down. Thinking that your problems are larger than they really are will cripple you with fear. It will stop you from making good decisions.

    Building social connections, (note: The 211 helpline is in Ottawa. Please check Community Resources below for Manitoba helplines).

  5. Take a break

  6. Give yourself time to relax and take your mind off your problems. Here are few suggested activities to help your body and mind recover:

    • Do some form of physical exercise
    • Take a walk, do breathing exercises, meditate, or take up yoga. It has been medically proven that physical activity can raise the level of your endorphins, which is a natural chemical the body produces that reduces stress and boosts the feeling of well-being. You can start by following any one of these stress-relief exercises on Youtube.

    • Pick up a hobby
    • Visit your community centre and check out the activities offered there. You can also join newcomer conversation circles and your community library’s book club to improve your English or get involved in your church’s activities. You can check the Leisure Guide for free activities for you and your family. Many organizations offer programs to help you stay healthy, learn English, or gain new skills. These are posted at library and community bulletin boards, at settlement service provider organization websites, and on the Your English Online Facebook Page.

    • Volunteer
    • Helping others can help you get some perspective and allow you to practice your skills or learn new ones. Read the article 5 best places to volunteer in Manitoba to help you get started.

    • Read inspirational stories
    • Reading about the experiences of others and how they overcame challenges can inspire you. There are many of these stories online, but you can start with this site’s newcomer stories.

  7. Connect with a settlement service provider

  8. Settlement Service Providers all over Manitoba offer a wide variety of services for newcomers. They are experts at anticipating newcomer needs based on experience and would be able to recommend great programs for you that are free.

  9. Seek professional help

  10. Extreme stress can lead to depression. If you need more help, seek the assistance of a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist. Remember, there is no shame in seeking professional help. You can ask for a referral from any settlement service provider, or call the Mental Health Crisis hotlines, or Aurora Family Therapy Health Centre.

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Community Resources

Get the updated Mental Health resource guide on the Canadian Mental Health Association page.

For more resources on emotional/mental health, also read the article Caring for your mental health.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has many services and resources on its Community Mental Health page.

The Hope for Wellness Helpline is available 24/7. Call 1-855-242-3310 for counselling available in English, French, Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut. Online chat is also available in English and French at

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Coping with Change

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