Coping with change

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Immigrating is not easy. A lot of us went through months or even years of uncertainty waiting for application results. Others may have experienced traumatic events such as sudden displacement, or fleeing war or persecution. We carry these scars as we adapt to a new culture, language and environment upon arriving in Canada.

All of 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 place in a new environment; the lack of social and family support; financial stress; different child raising practices due to cultural differences; cultural conflicts; along with silent racism and discrimination, can all contribute to poor self-esteem, lack of confidence and depression” (“Immigration can be stressful at many levels, but there’s help at hand”).

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

    It can be hard for us to talk about 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 common. You are not alone in your struggle.

  2. Stay positive or at least, realistic

    Face problems 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 bring you down. Thinking that your problems are larger than they really are will cause fear and anxiety. It will stop you from making good decisions.

    Your Mental Health and Well-being, IRCC.

  3. Take a break

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

    • Do some form of physical exercise
      Take a walk, do breathing exercises, meditate, or take up yoga. Physical activity can raise the level of your endorphins> This is a chemical the body produces to reduce stress and boost the feeling of happiness. 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 Should you volunteer during the pandemic? 5 steps to help out safely 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.
  4. Connect with a settlement service provider

    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 (call first before going).

  5. Seek professional help

    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.

Article updated February 9, 2021.

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Community Resources

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

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