Holistic Psychologist: What mental health issues are weighing on expats?
When moving to a new country, many expats face a number of difficulties and changes. Michelle Prygiel (MP), an Amsterdam-based psychologist from Holistic Psychologist, reflects on her experience in working with clients and discusses the specific issues that expats deal with in the following interview with IamExpat.
Various expat challenges
Being an expat herself, Michelle understands the challenges newcomers face when settling down in the Netherlands, as well as how these challenges affect their mental health.
During Michelle Prygiel’s interview, she provides insight into the struggles that expats in the Netherlands might be dealing with:
MP: "Expats have a lot to take on; from having to build a local network from scratch and overcoming cultural differences, to adapting to a new job. If we add family stress to that lot, it can make anyone feel overwhelmed, lonely, and stuck. It’s a good idea to first research options independently. However, if this fails to work, don’t be ashamed to ask for help. Ignoring these initial signals can lead to further physical and mental health problems."
What kind of signals should someone look out for?
MP: "Anything from anxiety, psychosomatic pains and even depression. I would like to give a shout to people out there - don’t be ashamed to reach out for help. It’s a sign of strength to ask for support when you feel stuck as opposed to playing tough and watching your mental health deteriorate. Difficulties are a natural part of life and lead to progression if handled correctly. In moments when we feel hopeless, it’s useful to work with a qualified therapist who can reframe certain truths and shift our own perspective."
What kind of techniques do you work with?
MP: "I work with a combination of methods, depending on the individual. My approach is holistic because I perceive each individual as a multi-dimensional being. That means, that the body is strongly affected by the mind. My method is inspired by psychoanalysis, Gestalt Therapy, CBT, as well as mindfulness.
During our sessions, I will pay attention not just to the content of what you say, but also to your patterns, body posture, tone of voice and much more. Everything has meaning and forms a picture of your personal story. Holistic Psychologist pinpoints the blockages and false beliefs preventing you from living to your highest potential."
Who is on the radar for anxiety?
MP: "Firstly, if you are someone who grew up or is currently in a [generally] stressful household, have divorced parents or have a family member with a mental illness, chances are you tend to “bottle up” negative emotions. Perhaps you feel like they are not worth expressing or are just “too much”. When you were young, there was no space for you to express how you feel or maybe it triggered the anger of relatives, so you kept quiet.
Secondly, if you have problems with boundaries at work and in personal relationships, you may be susceptible to anxiety. If, on top of that, you experience stress related to moving countries, or a demanding job and family life, then you are in the high-risk group."
Is there anything readers can do to prevent anxiety?
MP: "As a psychologist, I care that people react early to warning signals of anxiety. If this can be done on their own, great! Poor mental health has really become a modern epidemic and the best way to maintain mental hygiene is to learn to identify your emotions. Spend 10 minutes every day, either in the morning or before sleeping, connecting to how you feel. Welcome anything that appears. Also, learn to speak up about these emotions directly in situations when and where they occur."