How to deal with the stages of adaptation and come out on top

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Moving to a new place is tough. Usually, we experience four stages of getting used to it.

Understanding what you’re experiencing can help you handle hard times.

The four stages:

Step 1 – Exciting Stage

You’re thrilled and interested in your first few months in Canada. Everything is great!

You will feel:

  • happy and lucky to be in Canada.
  • thrilled about everything.
  • hopeful about your future.
  • ready to start your new life.

This is the best time to:

  1. Learn about the culture and your new place.
  2. Make friends and connect with people.
  3. Use free help and training to help you settle and find a job.
  4. Talk to people and learn about their lives. It helps you to understand others.
  5. Be realistic about your hopes.

Step 2 – Cultural Shock

You start to see that everything is not perfect. You might have trouble with the language, or finding a job. You also see bad things about the culture.

You will feel:

  • You feel let down, and worried.
  • You feel like everything is going wrong. Small problems seem big.
  • You start to think that moving was not a good idea.
  • You feel stressed. This can make you sick.
  • You feel alone. You might miss home a lot.

Ways to handle it:

  1. Remember that this is normal and it will get better.
  2. Join support groups. You can talk to others who understand and can help you.
  3. Get help and resources for newcomers as soon as possible. This will help you feel better faster.
  4. Be patient. Don’t make quick decisions right now.
  5. Relax and take care of yourself.
  6. Find a mentor.
  7. Simple things like eating well, going for a walk, or talking to someone can help you feel better.
  8. Talk to your doctor. They can give you more ways to feel better.

Read Loneliness, culture shock and disappointment. 5 ways to get over settlement stress for more tips.

Step 3 – Slow Adjustment

Everything starts to feel familiar. You start to see that the situation is not bad, just different. You now have habits that help you handle it.

What you will feel:

  • You know it’s hard to deal with change, but you know where to get help.
  • You feel more confident using the language. You understand Canadian culture better. You can handle difficult situations on your own.
  • You will feel like you have a better view. You start to be more hopeful.

This is the best time to:

  1. Keep learning and improving yourself. Don’t stop learning English and gaining skills to stay competitive.
  2. Be open to new adventures and explore the country. The more you learn about Canada, the more you’ll love it.
  3. Help others by volunteering. Listen to newcomers and their stories and share your experiences.
  4. Stay social. Keep building your social and professional networks.

Step 4 – Acceptance

You can now move around the city without using a map or GPS. You know where to find things you need. Winter is tough but you can handle it.

You see that everything is not perfect but it’s okay. Poutine and perogies are not strange anymore, they’re just really tasty food. Life is good.

You will feel:

  • that you are a part of the community.
  • that you have changed for the better.
  • homesick every now and then, but you can handle it.
  • good about your decision to stay.
  • more hopeful and positive about your future.

This is the best time to:

  1. Be a mentor to someone else, especially to other newcomers.
  2. Appreciate what you have and be grateful.
  3. Keep strengthening your ties to the community and serving others.
  4. Start a journal to reflect on your experiences. It’s a great way to review all the lessons you have learned.
  5. Plan on going back to school, getting promoted or moving to a better job.
  6. It’s important to note that these periods don’t always happen one after the other. There is also no set amount of time for each phase.

No matter what stage you are in, remember that help is available. There are also important lessons to be learned at each step, so embrace the experience. You’ll become a better person for it!
Sources: Mental Health and Wellness series, ISANS; The 4 stages of cultural shock, Global Perspectives; and Culture shock stages: Everything you need to know and how to deal, Rebecca Murphy, Go Abroad. Accessed June 21, 2019.

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