Overcoming anxiety: self-help tips for newcomers
Anxiety and immigration go hand in hand. The period of transition from one country to another is often not as smooth as most immigrants expect it to be.
If you are a new immigrant facing tough times and dealing with anxious feelings, the good news is that you are not alone and this could just be a temporary issue. As you start settling in and becoming more acquainted with the culture, environment and values of the new land, your anxiety level will decrease and you will begin to feel more comfortable in your new home.
Causes of anxiety for newcomers
There are many trials and tribulations awaiting newcomers to Canada initially, however. Some of the most significant are as follows.
Finding an adequate job
A few months back, a newly-landed family came to my counselling office because they were too stressed. The couple has two young children and both are highly qualified professionals from back home. They thought that because they applied for immigration via the federal skilled worker class, they would find a job right after landing in Canada. They become quite anxious after realizing that their credentials wouldn’t be accepted unless they update their previous education according to Canadian standards.
Most immigrants go through similar situations related to their careers in Canada, causing stress and anxiety. And if they don’t find any remedy for their situation, many think about going back to their homeland.
Overcoming the language barrier
Many immigrants, especially refugees, become anxious about starting their new life in Canada because of a language barrier. Not being able to communicate properly in the language of the majority is stressful and isolating. While free classes for English language learning are offered to new immigrants, the process of learning the language can add more stress in an already long list of other stressors.
Facing culture shock
Beyond language, sometimes immigrants come from countries with totally different value systems and cultures than that of Canada. I have clients from Syria, Pakistan, India and other countries who say it’s not easy to adapt to the new culture. Parents of young children, in particular, are perplexed about disciplining their children in the new country.
Getting used to the weather
Canada is one of the coldest countries in the world. Sometimes people who migrate from countries with warmer climates find it difficult to adjust to the weather, especially if they are landing in the cold, winter months. If they are unable to get around easily because of the harsh weather conditions, it becomes a hindrance in achieving their goals after landing here.
Missing social support
Another factor causing anxiety in new immigrants is missing the support network they had in their homeland. While there are many support services and resources available for newcomers in Canada, not knowing how to find them and access them can cause great anxiety.
Going through financial constraints
Finally, financial constraints can become a huge source of contention. Before they know it, the money they brought with them from their homeland is gone. When money concerns make them anxious, the unreturned calls to employers just add fuel to the fire.
All the above factors multiply the anxiety newcomers are already facing as they go through the basics of arrival, from applying for health care, to getting a driver’s licence, to looking for accommodation, to opening a bank account, and much more.
Some tips to deal with the anxiety
There is no doubt that immigrants’ anxiety is at its peak when they are new to Canada; however, following these tips can be helpful in the transition.
Know the cause of anxiety
Once you know the cause of your anxiety, you can start working on it gradually and systematically. Don’t ignore anxiety, as it may lead to other health issues.
Make a to-do list
Because you have so many things to take care of as a newcomer, reduce your anxiety by keeping a “to-do” list or a day planner with you. When your mind is preoccupied by various responsibilities, you can easily forget important things, thus causing anxiety.
When things aren’t working out as hoped, immigrants can often feel helpless. These feelings of helplessness may lead to doing nothing at all, which can, in turn, increase anxiety. The key to avoid such apathy is to keep moving forward; never stop trying.
Celebrate lessons learned
If, after spending one or two or even a few months in Canada, you find yourself unemployed, unsettled and stressed, rewind the time clock and look at what you have achieved so far. Celebrate the lessons you have learned so far. Remember that, in your first few days, you didn’t know how to ride a bus, go for groceries, visit a clinic or go to the library, etc. If c you are comfortable in accessing these facilities today, your time has been well spent. You can’t call yourself a failure; every new day in a new country brings new lessons, so be thankful for these.
Don’t be ashamed of communicating your needs and concerns to others. Seek help if you need. Reach out to neighbours and friends, religious advisors or immigrant settlement counsellors.
Find opportunities to work as volunteer. This will increase your chances of getting a job and will also reduce your anxiety in getting acquainted with the Canadian workplace. You will make new friends and your network of acquaintances will expand.
Read inspiring books
Read self-help books or books that inspire you. Reading motivational content will help you reduce your anxiety, and boost your confidence and self-esteem.
Surround yourself with positive people
Try to avoid contact with negative people who feed your anxiety. Instead seek the company of those who encourage you, are willing to help you, and have a positive approach toward life.
Start writing a journal
Share your burdens and anxieties with your own, personal journal. Writing your experiences down will help give you clarity as you continue on your journey. And, when you finally feel settled in, going back to read the accounts of your new life in Canada will put a big thankful smile on your face.