Do you feel lost? 5 reasons you’re feeling this way

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Newcomers are some of the most resilient and goal-oriented individuals you can come across. For many of us, moving to Canada is a realization of a dream. It signals the start of a new and better life. However, in this process of adjustment and integration, some of us may go through a period of disorientation in our settlement journey.

What do I mean by disorientation? It can mean losing one’s sense of self. You may feel less secure about your capabilities and lose sight of your goals. You can also feel like you don’t belong in your new environment. You begin to have a problem with the weather, food, or how people do things. You can’t seem to make meaningful connections with others around you.

All of these can make you feel lost and lonely.

What causes this feeling?

There are five common factors that can contribute to this sense of disorientation:

  1. Disconnection – Feeling disconnected can arise when you’re far from familiar surroundings, friends, and family. The absence of a support system can intensify your confusion. You don’t know who to ask for help, which can make you feel more alone.
  2. Culture shock – Being unfamiliar with cultural norms can make you more aware of differences. You may find it hard to navigate certain situations. When you’re made aware that it’s not the way most people act or manage a situation, you can get scared of participating socially for fear of standing out for the wrong reasons.
  3. Language barrier – Language is a vital tool for connection. Not being able to communicate effectively hinders our ability to navigate most situations in daily life. You may feel frustrated when you can’t express yourself well. It can also feel like everyone is ignoring you.
  4. Trauma – Past traumatic experiences can cast a long shadow. It can make it challenging to live fully in a new environment. Trauma can cause emotional distress and a sense of being lost.
  5. Isolation -Whether self-imposed or due to external factors, isolation can cause depression and intensify disorientation. As social beings, we need connection to stay healthy. We’re also more likely to get paranoid when we’re always alone. This means we cultivate negative thoughts and believe them to be true even when they are not accurate.

Your Mental Health and Well-being, Citizenship and Immigration Canada

How do you ease this sense of disorientation?

Recognize that these feelings are normal

You should know that it’s normal to feel lost. It’s not your fault and you are not weak for feeling this way. All newcomers go through stages of adjustment. It’s just part of the process of integration. There are ways to ease to ease this feeling gradually.

Connect with newcomer services

You should do this even when you’re not feeling lost. Newcomer-serving agencies have the tools and services to assist with integration. These services provide information, resources, and support that will help you adapt sooner, not later.

Take language classes

Enrolling in language classes tailored for newcomers is an effective way to overcome language barriers. These classes provide good learning environments and opportunities for social interaction. These classes are usually free. Canada funds these services to help you improve your language proficiency so you can participate in the Canadian society more fully.

Attend support groups

Support groups bring individuals facing similar challenges together. Joining these groups allows you to share your experiences, receive advice, and build a network of understanding peers. Newcomer serving agencies can refer you to the appropriate support groups.

Aside from support groups, actively engage in community activities. Join clubs, volunteer, or participate in local sports leagues to meet new people and build a social network. You can even use online platforms to connect with fellow newcomers or residents. Social media groups and forums can provide a virtual support system.

Explore mental health resources

There are many free mental health resources available in Manitoba (see Community Resources below). Just as we need to maintain our physical health, we also need to take care of our mental health. If you’re dealing with trauma or emotional distress, explore counseling services, attend support groups, and reach out to professionals who can assist you in navigating and overcoming emotional challenges. Even just talking about how you’re feeling can ease your sense of disorientation.

Feeling lost is a common experience, especially in the context of significant life changes. But don’t ignore it. By recognizing the factors contributing to this feeling and taking steps to address them, newcomers can gradually build a sense of familiarity, connection, and belonging in their new home.

Sources: Alone in Canada. 21 ways to make it Better, CAMH; and Lonely in Canada? Find support before you fall into isolation, Sophia Kim, Canadian immigrant. Accessed January 18, 2024.

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Community Resources

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