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Support for Cultural Issues and ‘Transition Shock’

What is ‘transition shock’?

‘Transition shock’ or culture shock as it is also known, describes a set of mental and physical reactions to either a migration to a foreign country or a split-cultural living arrangement. During this time, we can feel a number of negative emotions such as irritability, homesickness, helplessness and isolation as we struggle to adjust to new routines and life balance. Practical problems such as technology gaps, language barriers and information overload can further compound our discomfort. For those of us living part-time in the UK and part-time in our country of origin, these symptoms can recur with each trip, blighting our daily routines.

The four stages of a cultural transition and their time-frame:

Honeymoon phase – Overriding excitement about the new environment, eagerness to get involved
Negotiation phase – Cultural and practical challenges become apparent, leading to anxiety and often resentment
Adjustment phase – Gradual adjustment to routines, practises and behaviours with potential on-going discomfort about challenges
Mastery phase – A feeling of familiarity in the new environment, on-going management of differences in day-to-day life

Full cultural transition can take up to two years and many of us will not seek help during this time, hoping that things will either settle down eventually or go back to the way they were. In the meantime our relationships, work-life and goals can suffer and cause further emotional pain.

What are the symptoms of transition shock?

  • Feelings of helplessness and withdrawal
  • Irritability
  • Anger and mood swings
  • Physiological stress reactions such as tension, aches, pain or poor digestion
  • Homesickness
  • Boredom
  • Getting ‘stuck’ on one thing
  • Suicidal or fatalistic thoughts
  • Excessive sleep
  • Compulsive eating/drinking/weight gain/shopping
  • Negative stereotyping of host nationals
  • Hostility towards host nationals
  • Paranoia, inferiority complex or low self-esteem

How can therapy and counselling help me?

At Fresh Mind Therapy, we provide you with a calm, non-judgmental place to voice your concerns and work through your challenges. Working with a therapist will help you to:

  • Process your feelings about the changes you are going through
  • Identify wider underlying fears and the triggers to your discomfort
  • Identify and challenge negative behaviours, beliefs and feelings surrounding the transition
  • Help reduce isolation, the focus on difference and promote a sense of acceptance
  • Develop long-term coping skills for cultural challenges
  • Have emotional support during your transition

If you’re struggling to cope with moving country, moving home or living a dual national existence, don’t wait until the final stage to get help. Contact us now.