Coping with change

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Moving to a new country is not easy. Some people had to wait years to get their application approved. Others left their home country after going through traumatic events like running away from war, or persecution. These experiences leave emotional scars which newcomers carry while adjusting to a new environment.

This causes stress. According to clinical psychologist Dr. Arpita Biswas, everyone feels stress. However, immigrants have to deal with various stressors at the same time. For example:

  • Trying to adjust in a new environment
  • Not having family or social support
  • Financial stress
  • Adjusting to different ways of raising children
  • Cultural conflicts
  • Racism and discrimination (real or perceived)

These stressors can lead to low self-esteem, lack of confidence, and depression. Even worse, unmanaged stress can lead to physical illness, substance abuse, and even relationship problems.

If you or someone in your family is feeling stressed or depressed, here are some ways to cope:

  1. Communicate

  2. It’s hard to open up about our feelings. You may not be used to it. Others feel like they don’t have the right to complain or that it’s a sign of weakness to ask for help. Know that talking about what’s bothering you is the first step to finding a solution. Talk to someone you trust, like a family member, a friend, counsellor, or religious leader.

    Consider joining a newcomer support group. You may realize that others are going through a similar experience. Knowing that you’re not alone and that there are solutions can lessen your stress. You can find a support group near you by contacting immigrant-serving organizations. These organizations help newcomers with various free services to help them settle in Manitoba.

  3. Stay positive or at least, realistic

  4. Focus on one issue at a time and be gentle with yourself. Work on things you can control, like improving your language or skills. Don’t forget to celebrate successes, however small. Figuring out the transit schedules or expanding your English vocabulary, are significant achievements. These can motivate you to keep striving. Never let negative thoughts take over. It will make it harder for you to make good decisions.

    Your Mental Health and Well-being, IRCC.

  5. Take a break

    Give yourself time to relax. Here are few activities to help your body and mind recover:

    • Exercise
    • Go for a walk, do breathing exercises, meditate, or try yoga. Physical activity can make you feel better. It can raise your endorphin level. Endorphins are natural chemicals that reduce stress and make you feel good. You can start by trying stress-relief exercises on Youtube.

    • Pick up a hobby
    • Visit your community centre and see the activities they offer. You can also join newcomer conversation circles or your community library’s book club to improve your English, or get involved in your church’s activities. If you’re in Winnipeg, check the Leisure Guide for free activities. Aside from these, 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 make you feel good, allow you to practice your skills, and gain new ones. Read 5 steps to applying successfully for a volunteer position to help you get started.

    • Read inspiring stories
    • Reading about the experiences of others and how they overcame challenges can inspire you. You can find these stories online, or start with livelearn’s newcomer stories.

  6. Connect with an immigrant-serving organization

  7. Immigrant-serving Organizations all over Manitoba offer a wide variety of services for newcomers. They are experts at understanding newcomer needs and would be able to recommend great programs for you and your family. Most of these services are free because they are government-funded.

  8. Seek professional help

  9. 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, call the Mental Health Crisis hotlines, or inquire from Aurora Family Therapy Health Centre.
    Article updated January 19, 2024.

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Community Resources

Need online and over-the-phone help? Here are Amazing mental health resources during COVID winter for you.

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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