Loneliness, culture shock and disappointment. 5 ways to get over settlement stress

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5 ways to get over settlement stress

What is settlement stress? It’s the tension that newcomers feel because of being in a new country. It can be caused by:

  • difficulties in finding a job
  • hardships in learning the language
  • adjustment to the weather or environment

Why do you need to know about settlement stress?

We all experience stress throughout our lives. Any change like – going to school for the first time, making new friends, leaving home – all cause stress. But these events are spread out over many years. According to Zarélsie Van der Merwe, settlement stress is a special kind of stress. We experience many major changes in a short span of time. It can limit your ability to face the challenges of integrating.

You need to understand what is happening to you to know how to solve it.

When you have settlement stress, you feel:

  • sad and anxious
  • uncertain and you lack control
  • frustrated and lost
  • angry or irritated by small things
  • discouraged or hopeless
  • loss of confidence

These are normal reactions to stress. Mental health and medical problems increase when these feelings become overwhelming. If you experience them for a long time, it can lead to depression, sleep problems or substance abuse. You may also have headaches, gastrointestinal problems, muscle tension, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases and weakened immune system.

How to deal with settlement stress:

  1. Accept change

    Everything that is happening is part of a process. It is not your fault but you can do something to feel better.

  2. Eat right

    What you eat and drink are important. The right food and the right amount will keep your mood and energy levels steady. Get free nutrition advice. Consulting a dietician is free in Manitoba. Cook your native dishes. Manitoba has a lot of ethnic food stores where you can buy native ingredients.

  3. Exercise

    Fresh air, exercise and a change of scenery lifts your mood. Walk outside (or jog) every day. Go to Manitoba’s beautiful parks and recreation centres. Know your neighbourhood. Attend activities in your community centre (check online first. In-person activities are limited as of this moment).

  4. Practice healthy thinking

    Look at things in a balanced way. Think positive.

    • Make a gratitude list. What are you grateful for? The clean streets? Free health care? Safe environment? Good schools? Write them down.
    • Know what you can change and what you cannot. Focus on things that you can control. Make small improvements to improve your situation.
    • Allow yourself to make mistakes. Be gentle with yourself. It is not easy to start from zero. Learn from mistakes and move on.
    • Face your problems one at a time. Make a priority list. Deal with problems one at a time.
    • Talk to a counsellor – Ask an immigrant serving organization for a referral. These centres have staff who are immigrants themselves. They know what you are going through.
    • Connect with other people. Talk to different people. They can open your mind. Don’t talk to negative people. Those who always complain do not have a solution for you. Don’t waste your time.
    • Meditate – Enroll in a class or watch these YouTube videos.
  5. Get busy

    Go out, enroll in classes, participate in community activities or volunteer. Do things that you love like writing poetry, painting, knitting, reading or dancing. Things will get better soon!

If you are at that point where you:

  • are depressed.
  • can’t sleep.
  • can’t focus, remember or make a decision.
  • are taking drugs/alcohol.
  • need medication to get through the day.
  • are thinking of harming or killing yourself.

Stop and call the Crisis hotline right away. You are not alone. Many people will help you and care for you. Hang in there, it will get better!
Article updated January 21, 2021.
Sources: Settlement stress or cultural shock: Tips to keep healthy, ISANS; After immigration. . . when depression comes knocking, Zarélsie Van der Merwe, LinkedIn; Stress, Centre for Addictions and Mental Health; and Tips for improving mental health, here to help, CMHA. Retrieved January 3, 2019.

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Community Resources

Read Coping with change.

Read Alone in Canada: 21 ways to make it better by the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health. It is available in various languages.

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