Emotions are universal to everyone. There are different theories, but almost every emotion can be spotted or can be identified in facial expressions and body measures. From sweating to increased heart rate.

Difficult or challenging emotions are for all of the people in the world the same, we all feel – and when I say all, believe me all – envy or jealousy. They affects our expat mental health no matter where we are. We all feel them, but it’s what we think about the emotion that makes the difference, and what we ruminate on those emotions.

Emotions are, per se, really quick, but when we think about them, and we put too much attention on the thoughts about the emotion that’s when it starts to be damaging.

Expat mental health - Gabriela Encina - Expat Psychologist

How to identify difficult emotions vs an expat mental health matter

Need to know how to identify emotions? Identifying emotions is actually very simple, but we have to take the time to do it and also to be willing to do that because it’s so important because sometimes our fear is blocking us to go further.

It’s also important for us to make a difference between a mental health condition versus casual or normal things that everybody goes through. 

There are a lot of nuances but a lot can be seen in a physical way. When we are not listening to our emotions and our thoughts, our body will a come out at some point and say, absolutely it’s enough.

Symptoms that may be a bit maybe less big when we think about our expat mental health, but are still important to listen to are:

Mood swings, abrupt mood changes, like you feel happy and then all of a sudden sad. 

Fatigue, feeling drained even if you sleep 8 or 10 hours, but you are not feeling rested.

Difficulty sleeping. If you don’t sleep enough, if you are not rested after sleeping, or if you have insomnia. Difficulties going to sleep or falling asleep or waking up in the middle of the night.

Relationship problems. You feel that you can’t communicate with your partner, with your family, or with your friends. If you feel detached, if you feel like a block or, or a barrier between you and your loved ones.

Feeling like you can do more physically, but your body’s not with you.

A high level of anxiety you’d expect panic attacks, when you are having difficulty breathing, when you are feeling paralyzed that you can’t or find it very difficult to move. But when you feel distorted, that reality is not the same, when your body is telling you stop! That’s the big sign. 

When you feel that you can’t function anymore, that’s your sign you need to seek help. 

Expat mental health vs difficult emotions - Gabriela Encina - Expat Psychologist

How do we cope with these negative emotions before they become a real problem?

For whatever reason, society, upbringing or the things that we hear is that we should have a positive mindset and we should be happy, be positive and be optimistic.

For instance, you are angry, but you’re told you should focus on something else, you should celebrate that, but that’s the world. So, can’t you be optimistic and feel angry?

You can have a positive mindset and sometimes feel envious or angry.

It’s not about getting rid of those negative emotions, it’s integrating them, hearing them and celebrating them.

It’s firstly saying, okay envy, what are you telling me? And why are you appearing now from out of the blue? What are you trying to tell me?

Secondly, I’m going to analyze that then I’m coming back to my positive mindset but thank you envy, or thank you frustration for telling me what I should put focus on.

Finally, it’s finding your way back to the positive mindset. Not in a shallow way to be positive, but really within yourself to be positive, including this frustration, fear, jealousy, shame etc. Celebrate that we are feeling these feelings, because if we feel that way, that means we are able to address it and get through it.

The difference between mental health conditions vs difficult emotions

Applying it to your Expat Life

If we don’t feel it, if we are just marching as positive robots that’s not being true to ourselves. We feel all emotions, not just the positive ones. Once we know how to identify emotions we need to accept the whole of us. You are amazing even with your not so good or great sides.

I do want to insist that what I’m saying is not to stay there with those negative emotions. I’m saying you need to welcome them so that we can then you can let it go.

It’s very easy as an Expat to fall into the trap and say, I shouldn’t feel anger, I shouldn’t feel ashamed, I shouldn’t feel envy. You know, you are not your emotions, you are not an envious person, you are not a frustrated person. If you feel frustrated, it’s just a part of you in that moment in time. Don’t punish yourself for feeling difficult emotions, because they are there for a reason and you are not the only one.

It is important to address those negative emotions before they become a bigger issue and affect your expat mental health. Living as an expat can be a challenging and overwhelming experience but reaching out for help is the first step towards healing and finding your way back to YOU, by uncovering the reasons and causes of these negative emotions.

Talking to an expat psychologist can help you identify these emotions and the cause of them so that you can move forward with the right tools and support.

Find out more about my methods and approach here.

Do you want to know more about on how to overcome Limiting Beliefs of life abroad? Check my Workshop here

Searching for useful and effective strategies? Download my 9 Tools to overcome Expat Anxiety Freebie

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By your side,


If you are an expat woman who wants to live a joyful, successful and fulfilled international​ life, Gabriela is the Licensed Psychologist and Mentor you need.

She helps you reclaim your self-confidence back and design your expat life in your own terms. Gabriela has more than 20 years of professional experience, speaks 3 languages (sometimes in one sentence, like you!) and has supported more than 350 expats overcome anxiety and burnout, build meaningful relationships and enjoy their international lives, wherever they are, wherever they are heading.

Gabriela offers counseling to expat women in Spanish, English and German.