Surviving (and Thriving) Moving Across the World As An Introvert With Anxiety
I was at work the first time I had a panic attack. At the time, I had no idea what was going on. The sleepless nights had been piling up and I was going about my days in a state of constant exhaustion, with an underlying feeling of unease that I just couldn’t shake. I had lost my mum just a few weeks beforehand and here I was, sat in the middle of a meeting but so disconnected with what was going on around me.
I took myself away to a quiet space to calm down. Fifteen minutes later I returned and carried on as I was. From the outside, everything seemed normal. But from the inside, everything had changed. I knew that I could no longer pretend that I was okay.
That day acted as a wakeup call for me. Nobody had brief me on what to expect from sudden loss and the spiral of grief that follows. In fact, I’d never even heard anyone speak about it before. I was in a deep hole of pain and it felt like there was no way out. It felt like that had become my new normal.
It turned out, that panic attack was just the nudge I needed to seek outside help. I hadn’t really wanted to admit that I was struggling, believing instead that I could ‘be tough’ and just ‘power through’. But you can’t power through loss. There’s a grieving process that you need to feel, experience and learn from.
So I found someone to help me, in the form of a wonderful counsellor who coached me each and every week until I started to feel like someone I recognized again. A new version, but myself again.
As I went through this process, I started to ponder and reflect on my own life. The sudden and unexpected loss of my mother had me questioning everything I knew. Was I living the life I wanted to lead? Or was I just doing what was expected of me? I feared that it was the latter.
It took a long time to come to this realization but a year or so later it became clear. I wanted more. I wanted to do something different. And different it sure was.
My boyfriend and I decided to leave our jobs and move across the world to Australia. A country where we didn’t know a soul, had no work lined up and nowhere to live. The perfect opportunity to explore, travel and discover something new – not just about the country but ourselves too.
But there was one problem. I’m an INFJ. An introvert. Oh, and that anxiety was still there. Better, but still there.
How was I going to do this? Something so unexpected and so full of uncertainties and unknowns. How would I find the courage to leave my apartment building let alone build a whole new life so far away?
I knew I had to approach this carefully. So, I kept reminding myself of one thing.
Nobody was going to die.
The worst that could happen was that we fail. That we move to Australia, don’t like it, leave early and move home. And, either way, at least we’d know we had tried. So I took a deep breath and booked our flights. One way, to Melbourne.
By then, I was self-aware enough to know what mechanisms I needed to put in place to support me. I knew that thinking of the big picture was going to overwhelm me, so instead I focussed on taking things one step at a time.
Taking the Time to Check In
Before we left, I joined a remote life coaching service and connected with my new mentor. We booked in regular calls and talked through the whole process and my feelings around the move. She gave me concrete actions and exercises to manage my anxiety and help keep those nerves at bay. I still see her now and have to say it’s one of the best investments I’ve made.
I also knew that I’d need some sort of regular practice to help me maintain a sense of normality in a time of so much upheaval. This is where the 30 Days of Yoga challenge from Yoga With Adriene came into play. Full disclaimer here – I am no yoga expert. I quite happily call myself a beginner, but this practice was transformational.
By taking the time focus on myself and my body for just 20 minutes each morning, I found myself starting each day with a new sense of calm and confidence. Slowly I started to learn the skills needed to maintain this calm throughout my day and, soon enough, I found myself looking forward to my morning yoga practice each time I went to sleep.
It doesn’t have to be yoga, it can be whatever works best for you. Just focus on finding that regular practice each day to maintain a routine.
Removing the Pressure
Finally, I removed external pressure. Or tried to at least. By this I mean that I ditched the expectation – mainly one that I had placed on myself – that I should be out exploring and discovering new adventures every single day.
The difference between traveling or living aboard and going on a vacation is that this is a part of your lifestyle. I know that I have a whole year here in Australia to go exploring, I don’t have to do it all at once the moment I arrive.
Some days, it’s far more important to spend the day in bed with Netflix for company than it is to go on a culture trip around your new city. And it’s important to recognize that and be okay with it.
Take the time you need, for you.
In case you’re wondering, I am still in Australia. We’ve been here nearly two months now and, whilst it hasn’t always been easy, I absolutely love it here. It can be done. You too can thrive if you just approach it in the right way.
Pip Christie is a Freelance Digital Marketer living in Melbourne, Australia where she moved from the UK in early 2019. She offers services in website design, branding, content creation and email marketing through her fresh Unedited approach to marketing for her clients around the world. She can often be found in a local coffee shop sampling (yet another) flat white. You can follow her across social media @PipUnedited or visit her website at pipchristie.com