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Over connected? The expat art of staying in touch without getting stressed

In a world full of technology we seem to be running out of excuses not to be reached. Pretty much everywhere in the world you can access email, Facebook, Skype, apps and messages. The tricky thing for expats is to choose how to use all these channels to stay in touch with the people we miss at home, as well as all the new people we meet along the way.

The common thing I hear from clients is the guilt. “I chose to move far away, so I should be the one making the extra effort“. I tend to challenge this thinking, because the people in our lives we truly care about often want to stay in touch with you, regardless if you live in the next city or on the other side of the globe.

If you happen to have friends or family who are not used to using the type of technology you prefer, there might be some patience needed from your end to show them how it works so they feel confident there is a good channel for them to reach you. And it’s always good to practise some flexibility here. It does not hurt to ask yourself what channel will work best with this specific person based on the skills they have. (Although I have a friend whose grandmother bought an iPad and learned to use Skype at the age of 70 because she wanted to be able to see her granddaughter when they spoke. Where there is a will, there is a way!)

What can you do then to avoid overwhelm and have more fun in your interactions and connections with friends and family?

  1. Choose the channels and forums you prefer. Most people have 1-2 channels they like the most. Focus on them and leave the ones that are not your favourites. If you prefer text messages to phone calls that’s fine. Or if you want to use FaceTime rather than email it’s your choice. You don’t have to use every single app out there to be available on.
  2. Choose to stay in touch with the people that really matter. As we move away, many of our relationships unavoidably change. Some people stay close, some people we get to know even better and some people that used to be close disappear slowly towards the sidelines. It’s very normal and nothing to worry too much about. Yes, you might feel sad that someone who used to be a close friend gradually fades out of your life, but I can assure you that there will be new friends coming into your life. Whether you choose to stay in your home country or move far away friendships and relationships work in cycles. Sometimes it just surprises us how long (or short) those cycles can be.
  3. Be honest – both with yourself and others. If you don’t have time to call home every second day, you don’t have to. There are many ways to show people that we love them and staying connected is not a one way street where one end gets to make all the rules and the other one has to follow. Be reasonable and fair, both on yourself and to the people you care about.
  4. Focus on the bigger picture. When you might feel sad, frustrated, lonely or overly happy (and not seeing others share your joy), just remind yourself what really matters. Remember your ‘why’. Don’t let the small things bother you (like whose turn it is to call), but choose to embrace the big picture and move towards that big why. This is your adventure and you choose what you focus on! 
  5. Keep it simple. When we get overwhelmed we tend to complicate things. A lot. We all choose how to spend the 24 hours a day that we have and I can assure you that neither worry or stress will bring you much joy in the long term. Set up basic routines around how you stay in touch with people (call, blog, email, message, good old fashioned letter or whatever you prefer) and remind yourself that it’s only overwhelming if you allow it to be. Sometimes a blog or a dedicated Facebook group is a great and simple way to let people know how you’re tracking and it also invites people to comment and share what’s going on with them.

Have you ever suffered from connection overwhelm? It’s one of many things we cover in detail in our online program – the Expat Survival Kit.