Here at Sincerely, Spain, we believe that one of the most important, although often ignored, messages that first time live-abroaders need to hear is that you DO still get sad! Whether it is homesickness related to being abroad or the normal mood swings that one is likely to suffer wherever they live, or even depression, sad feelings DO happen. Life in Spain (or abroad in general) is NOT always sunshine and roses, despite what you may see on social media. If you are feeling blue while abroad, this is what we want you to know.
You Are Not Alone
First and foremost, it happens to EVERYONE. No one would expect you to feel thrilled about each and every moment of your life under normal circumstances. As such, there is absolutely no reason you should feel pressure to live up to that expectation simply because you are living abroad! Do we, as expats, enjoy our lives more often than not? Yes, we really do. But that doesn’t mean that we’ve never had doubts, anxiety, or moody days, if not weeks! It’s important to remember that mental health is something that takes a lot of work no matter where you are—geographically or metaphorically—in your life.
Being Abroad Does Not Exempt You From Mental Health Struggles
It also needs to be said that moving abroad should never be considered a solution for depression or any other mental health issues you are dealing with. Can a change of environment and perspective do you well? Oftentimes, it can. However, that is only when you feel strong enough to meet all the challenges that come along with that. Living in another country may seem glamorous based off of the ‘highlights reels’ you find on social media and other blogs. Yet, what you don’t often see on those pages are the grey moments that happen between the smiles in front of historical monuments and the snaps of savory traditional dishes. And we’re here to tell you that the grey moments ABSOLUTELY exist.
The sadness behind those grey moments comes in all forms and sizes. If your sad days are more of the milder type, take comfort in the fact that they will pass all on their own. We have days when we feel overwhelmed, days when we feel lonely, and days when we can’t explain why but we just want to cry. All of these days happen whenever they want to—it can be after an especially stressful week and we completely understand why the emotions have hit us. Other times, it happens after an especially wonderful weekend and we’re completely at a loss as to the cause.
The best advice we can give you is to recognize and respond to your emotions. It can be tempting to ignore these ‘bad feelings’ and push through them. However, in our experience, doing so simply postpones the outpouring and makes the day when you have to deal with ‘all the feels’ that much more difficult.
On the other hand, if you are dealing with more serious sadness, such as grief or depression (or anxiety), be sure to seek professional help. There is a degree to which homesickness and sadness are completely normal and manageable on your own or by speaking with others who have been there. However, when your sadness is all-consuming and you feel unable to change it, it’s time to reach out to someone who has been trained to work with mental health.
Please remember that THERE IS NO SHAME IN MEETING WITH A PROFESSIONAL!! If you are wondering if this might be the right path for you, please check out our mental health abroad confessions article and resources as well as our guest post on finding and working with an online therapist. If you don’t find exactly what you need there, feel free to reach out for further recommendations and we will assist you in any way we can.
“Bad Feelings” Don’t Exist
By the way, we chose to say ‘get sad’ instead of ‘feel bad’ for a reason. We are making a conscious effort in our lives to avoid labeling things based on judgment words because, more often than not, these judgments are simply not fair or true. We have sad feelings, we have ‘blue’ feelings; we have days when we feel down, overwhelmed, or straight-up moody, but that doesn’t mean that any of those feelings deserve to be called ‘bad.’
In fact, the feelings that we, as a general society, often consider ‘bad’ are very necessary. They serve as warning signs to clue us in that something in our heart, mind, and/or body is not right. As such, they’re actually REALLY good for us! We know that it doesn’t always feel ‘good’ in the moment (and so we don’t have to label them as ‘good’ either) but it can be helpful to acknowledge and allow your sad feelings, thanking them for begging you to slow down and assess what’s going on.
How We Work Through Our Sad Days
As with most things in life, ‘the solution’ is to truly listen to yourself and figure out what YOU need. Every person and every individual experience is going to be different and, as such, require a different approach. We don’t even work through our sad days in the same way each time! However, here are some examples of what usually works for us:
Sometimes we take a long siesta in the middle of the day or allow ourselves to sleep in late and we rightfully ignore all worries about the ‘productivity’ that we will lose because of it.
Other times, we just let out a good cry, to our moms or friends over video-call or alone—whichever feels right.
Sometimes we cancel plans and stay home alone to watch the same old chick flick or Disney movie.
Often, we grab a book, a journal, or a sketch pad, some music perhaps, and head out to a beautiful but calm environment. Here in Granada, we love Parque Fredrico García Lorca (especially at lunch and siesta time when it’s at its emptiest), Carmen de los Mártires, or the grounds of the Alhambra.
Each time we find that we need something different but, generally, what we need first is to take some ‘me time’ to get quiet with ourselves and figure it out. That will often be the solution, in and of itself, as it can bring to the surface the emotions and reasons for them. Other times, our sad feelings will require something more. No matter what, we find that taking some time to go inward, away from our phones and the general stimuli of everyday life, helps clarify where the struggle is coming from.
How do you work through your sadness? We hope this letter has helped to put these feelings into perspective and perhaps offered you an approach you hadn’t tried before. Let us know!