Last summer, I submitted a 47-page thesis exploring the mental health functioning of career medical professionals serving overseas. I spent almost two years gathering articles, reading books, and attending conferences surrounding the topic of cross-cultural adjustment as it related to depression and anxiety among expatriates. This all sounds so academic and professionl, huh?
Let me tell you a secret. It was COMPLETELY SELFISH. The only reason I spent so much time researching data and reporting statistics was because I didn’t want to be a statistic.
I’d watched it happen to too many people.
I had friends who had been chewed up and spit out by their experiences on the field. I’d read blogs of disgruntled religious workers who had completely lost hope in God’s design for His body. I’d seen the glazed-over look on the faces of foreign servants who were completely ineffective in their ministries.
I prayed the Lord would spare me from this, but I knew the odds were stacked against me. Cross-cultural adjustment is no joke, and it does crazy things to our minds and our bodies. For those of us in the throws of cultural disequilibrium, I’ve compiled a list of 5 things that I hope will help us all remain sane, serve well, and stay long in our work overseas.
1. Exercise spiritual discipline.
2. Recognize when you’re stressed.
3. Focus on your family.
4. Don’t wait on member care—help yourself.
5. Reverse the stigma against mental health issues.