(Avoiding) Expat burn out

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(Avoiding) Expat Burn Out

What to do and not to do, to avoid expat burn out when relocating.


First and foremost.

“I am different just like you” and relocating is hard!


As it is, and despite what you read anywhere about expat burn out, the level of tolerance is different for each and single one of us. We. Are. All. Different.

This individual tolerance level is a central thing that I teach all HR departments to take into account, I emphasize it in all private advisory sessions and I persistently reminding myself over and over again.

So why even bother trying to advice on avoiding expat burn out, when there is no recipe?


Life is a journey. We all learn from what has been, and there are some common stumbling blocks for expatriates when relocating, to try and steer clear of.

First, we will have a look at what is causing the burn out.


Root causes:

1: Relocating to another country involves losing control for a longer or shorter period. This is mentally the same as asking a ballerina to do the same routine as always, but now wearing roller skates and being blindfolded. Scary, uncomfortable and with a risk of failing.

2: Expatriates tend to have an unsustainable workload and diffuse work boundaries.  

Expats are on a constant “learn, change and adapt” personal, and workwise, development journey alongside working crazy hours. Whatever ways used to work in their home country does not necessarily work now.

3: Life outside the office is not straight forward. Everyday life practicalities and personal admin is new and all spare time, during your first year abroad, tends to be consumed sorting these things out.

4: Once you are done with work, personal admin, and practicalities there is a lot of digestion, reflection and family duties to attend to.

5: Frustration (there is close to no comfort zone) can be big and cause head spin which will affect sleep and mood.

6: If your family (spouse and/or children) is not thriving it falls back on the atmosphere in your home, and the amount of support you must muster. After work hours.


Be assured that it is a prodigious amount to master. I am currently in the middle of a relocation, for the 4th time, and despite the experience I have……………. I AM EXHAUSTED.

I am not burned out, but only because I know the pitfalls and I try to avoid them. E.g. I do not attempt to do the same things in a day as I normally would, and I go to bed even earlier than normal.


Signs to be aware of:

1: Bad, or inability to sleep.

2: Your mind goes to monkey state. Jumping all over the place

3: Challenges and disagreements are solved / discussed in an irrational way. Read: Fighting

4: You start making mistakes

5: You are feeling fatigued despite enjoying what is going on around you

6: You become Impatient  

7: Physical symptoms. Headache, stomachache, bowel issues…………


You do not want to go there.

Having been there myself, I guarantee it is not a nice place to be. I felt beyond fatigued, I came at my partner with unreasonable arguments and attacks over nothing, I got IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and felt stagnating and useless. Rationally I knew that I am not useless and that something was up. However, burn out clouded my rationale.


I am grateful for the experience though. If not, I wouldn’t be able to pass this knowledge on to you, and to steer clear of it during this current relocation.


What to do if you find yourself burned out or close to:

1: REST as much as you can. Remember that the brain is a muscle. If overworked, it needs recovery

2: Focus on what you have control over

3: Steer clear of substances that will impact your sleep

4: Do what you have to but no more. Cut to the bone

5: Ask for help. At work and at home. Be firm, you need this

6: Connect with your body through sports or meditation

Easier said then done, but you do not have a choice if you are burned out.

We unfortunately live in a world, where needing rest and reaching out is mistakenly perceived (often by ourselves) as weak and as a failure.

It is not.

People were happy to help and very understanding when I reached out. It did however require that I opened my mouth and spoke the truth. Indeed difficult, but the potential outcome of not speaking up was less desirable.

In doubt about whether this is happening to you?

I am here to listen, create peace and offer individual advice – and I am good at it.


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