Migrants: The Psychological Impact of Immigration

It is definitely not easy moving to a new country. Many people do it, and many countries have been built on the back of migrants, but that doesn’t mean that changing countries is a walk in the park. The stress of the move and adjustment to the new country, as well as the loss of so much from the old, can lead to anxiety and depression and other psychological problems amongst migrants .

The Big Move

One of the first stressful steps in the experience is packing and selling up. Deciding what to take, send, sell, give away, or throw out can be a slow and painful task. Shipping is expensive, so many people choose to leave things behind and repurchase in the new country. However, budgets can restrict purchases at the other end, meaning that new migrants often have far fewer  possessions than they had at home. And leaving beloved items behind can be a sad experience for adults and children alike.


Often the hardest thing for new migrants to cope with is the loss of family and friends. This can cause an empty longing that is hard to relieve and that can lead to depression.  In families, it is often those who were the least enthusiastic about the move that feel the most pain, and the sense of powerless over their life can exacerbate their grief.  Telephone and internet calls can lessen the pain, but they cannot replicate the touch and smell of loved ones.

Sharing Space

Those migrants who are lucky enough to have family or friends in the new country often move in with them until they can arrange their own accommodation. It can be difficult to rent a property without a job, credit rating, and a local rental reference, and new immigrants from poorer countries often cannot afford rent, bonds, and furnishing;, so cramming the family into a relative’s spare bedroom, or sleeping everyone on the floor or sofa in the living room, is a common practice. Although living with experienced settlers in many ways helps migrants adjust to a new country, sharing small spaces, living out of suitcases, and feeling as if they are imposing on others, can add to stress and affect self esteem.


Language barriers frequently add to the difficulties of new migrants. Even those people who have spoken English as a first language, can often struggle to have their accent understood, and vice versa. Language problems can create obstacles to social and professional integration, increase stress, and reduce self esteem, creating more social isolation.


Cultural differences can have a huge impact on immigrants. They might feel that they stand out uncomfortably because of the way they dress, or be horrified by the way their children want to dress. Immigrants might not have easy access to an appropriate place of worship. They might have to go to work during important holy days and festivals. They might find that the things they did in their homeland, such as circumcising children, growing tobacco or cannabis, slaughtering a sheep in the garden, drinking alcohol, or having more than one wife, are taboo or illegal in the new country, and this creates confusion and mental stress.


The loss of familiar foods can be difficult for many immigrants, particularly those who have had little experience with foods from other cultures.  Luckily, many supermarkets and speciality shops increasingly have foodstuff from other countries, although at inflated prices. Even so, immigrants typically miss the local markets and fresh produce of their homeland.


One of the most difficult aspects of immigration is finding work. Qualifications are too often not transferable, so people with high level qualifications and years of experience at management and professional levels, can find themselves being forced to clean toilets or drive taxis to feed their families.  Heartbreaking stuff.


Along with the loss of prestige can come a loss of income in real terms. When people are deciding to immigrate to country with a high GDP, they are often swayed by rumours of the salaries of even the lowest paid workers. But people sometimes fail to realise that the cost of living could be disproportionately high, so they might find themselves struggling to feed, clothe and house their families.

Recycling and Things

New countries take a lot of getting used to. Everyday things that we need to know, such as mobile phone contracts, road rules, tax laws, electricity connections, bank accounts, public transport routes, and rubbish recycling procedures, can baffle even long term locals. These things are especially challenging for newcomers, particularly when language barriers are added.




Older people tend to find it harder to learn a new language and are generally less flexible in their ways than their younger counterparts. If an elderly immigrant has retired, or is not able or willing to get a job, they will tend to stay more isolated and interact less with the local population. Non-working mothers can have the same difficulties.



Children pick up the lifestyles and languages of their peers relatively quickly, but for them it can feel like living between two worlds: worlds with different languages, cultures and values. With their superior language skills, children are often called on to be interpreters for their elders in all sorts of situations, which can confuse roles and add to stress. Having to tell a doctor the details of a parent’s health concern is not easy for a young person.


Some refugees from war torn countries have been traumatised by such things as violence, injury, torture, or the loss of loved ones.  This increases the chance of them having a mental health problem.


Psychological Impact

All of this can take its toll on new immigrants and their families, creating symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, or other mental health issues. If one family member develops psychological problems, their problems can impact the whole family. Children are particularly vulnerable in this regard.


In many cultures there is a great deal of stigma attached to mental health problems. In some it mixes with spiritual beliefs and believed to be a sign of evil in the sufferer. Mental Health professionals are uncommon in many cultures, so immigrants from those communities are unlikely to seek help.


How Can Migrants Reduce the Risk of Mental Health Problems?

Here are a few ideas for helping yourself or a loved one reduce risk factors:

  • Learn the language as quickly as possible and, scary as it might seem, get out and practise it with the locals.
  • Immerse yourself in the new culture: walk about, explore, go to free events, join clubs and activities, do courses, have fun outside with the children, and make new friends through them.
  • Exercise: it’s good for the body, mind and stress levels.
  • Try to relax and enjoy each moment doing simple things.
  • Try not to focus on what you miss; rather think about the new things you are able to experience. No place has all the benefits of another; but each country is unique and amazing.
  • Upgrade your qualifications or get a new qualification. Ask for feedback from unsuccessful job applications, and get help with your resume and applications.
  • Access professional help. Many governments offer counselling and interpreter services to help immigrants, and psychologists are often available through the health service. The first port of call might be the immigration service, the council, a hospital, or a doctor.
  • Remember you do not have to be crazy to access mental health services. More and more ordinary people from all cultures are benefiting from confidential psychology and counselling services, realising that quality treatment and support can add greatly to their psychological well-being and quality of life, as well as that of their families.




Images courtesy of graur razvan ionut and nuttakit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net






Wrinkles and Floppy Bits: How to Thrive in Old Age

Body falling apart. Pain from head to toe. Wrinkles and floppy bits. Hair not growing where it’s meant to. Memory fading. Energy depleting. Losing life partners, siblings and friends. Loneliness. Financial worries….

It is true that aging can be depressing and stressful at times. However, contrary to what many people think, it is not true that chronic and debilitating anxiety and depression are an inevitable part of old age. While aspects of aging can be distressing, it’s never too late to improve your psychological health and quality of life so that you can get the most out of this precious final [or not so final] chapter of your life.


How to Enjoy Your Old Age

Here are a few simple things you can do to help you find your spark again. [Actually, these strategies work for almost any age group.]

Enjoy the moment. People get depressed and anxious when they ruminate about the past or worry about the future. Try to turn off the trash TV in your head; or at least turn the volume down and position it in a far corner of your mind, so it can waffle on in the background without dominating your life. Then notice or think about things that give you pleasure, even if just in a small way. It might be the taste of your daily tea or coffee; the sound of bird song; the feel of your favourite slippers; or the smell of flowers. nbmbnb

Meditate. It’s taken a while, but mainstream western psychology and medicine have finally acknowledged the benefits of aware relaxation that our eastern cousins have been professing for millennium; that regular mediation tends to positively affect mind and body.  Every day find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably, take your shoes off if it’s warm enough, shut your eyes, relax your body, and watch the ebb and flow of your breath, without controlling it. It’s that simple. Of course, most of us find it quite difficult to notice our breath without our mind wandering, but whenever that happens, as soon as you become aware of it, simply bring your attention gently back to relaxing with your breath. It can help your focus to repeat a relaxing or nonsense word or phrase, or count your out-breath to ten, then repeat. Some people find that visualising an image or colour helps too. Guided meditations on CDs or YouTube can be really useful, especially when you are starting out.

Ground yourself. Every day take your shoes off and stand or sit on the ground. Research indicates that grounding our bodies with the earth allows us to balance the energy in our negative ion starved bodies. This is shown to positively affect our physical and mental health. Grass, sand, dirt, concrete, and even tiles on a concrete floor are all good conductors, so they ground well. Wood and ashphalt don’t conduct as well, so are not as effective. Alternatively you could go for a swim, or have a bath or shower. Getting your hands dirty in the garden is another way.

Take action. If you are physically well enough, get out of the house and do something. Lack of action can increase depression and lead to physical unfitness.  If you feel too flat and tired to do anything, that is a good sign that you need to do something. As long as it’s not going to harm you physically, light exercise can help you feel great… once you have motivated yourself to start. Make sure you check with your doctor, then, once you get the all clear, join a light exercise class or walking group. Sunshine is also a good mood lifter and is known to be important for physical health.

Move out of your comfort zone.  Avoiding doing things that are scary tends to make them even more scary.  This can lead to more avoidance and an increasingly restricted life. Break free from the traps that anxiety and fear of embarrassment might have created. Do something a little bit wild and adventurous, and tick a few items off your bucket list. How about going somewhere new, lunching with an old friend, joining a club, learning an instrument, doing a course, or going on a cruise?

Get help. If you are depressed or anxious or both, a good quality therapist can really help. Talk to your doctor about a referral to a free or affordable professional.  Community organisations and telephone counselling services can be helpful too.

Exercise your brain. Studies have shown that older people who exercise their brains can think and remember better than their brain lazy counterparts. Damaged brain cells can’t regrow, but they can grow extra connections with use. New connections can enable us to create new thinking pathways. A study of elderly people who were taught computer skills showed that their brains actually increased in size as new connections grew and their brain cells pumped up. So make sure you do some crosswords, sukudo, or puzzles regularly. Start a scrabble or bridge club. Do a maths, writing, computer, photography or other course for fun. Read books. Update your computer skills and surf the net for knowledge. Use it or lose it.

Get creative. The other thing about brains is that it is important to exercise the non-logical side as well as the logical side. This is usually the right half of the brain in right handed people, and it is connected to the left hand side of the body.  This side of the brain is where most of our creative thinking resides. Practicing creative activities, such as drawing, painting, pottery,  woodcarving, or craft stimulate this side of the brain, again creating new pathways. Try not to be critical, just let go and enjoy the experience. If you really really want to give your left brain a workout, try drawing with your non-dominant hand. Creative pursuits are also known to improve mood and reduce anxiety. Basically, creativity is good for brains.

Do some good deeds.  Helping other people can shift us out of our negative headspace and help us to feel that life still has purpose. You could do random acts of kindness for strangers, help a neighbour or loved one, or volunteer for a charity organisation. Becoming a regular volunteer can provide structure to your week, which is an important component for psychological health in retirement.

Laugh and smile. Readers Digest had it right all those years ago: laughter really is the best medicine. Think about funny stories from your past and write them down in a ‘Fun Book’. You could also add amusing experiences from recent times, even a funny thing that happened at the hospital.  Share funny stories with friends and family and ask them to share some of theirs. Avoid the news and instead watch one of the many comedy shows on TV. Let go the negative judgement and allow yourself to have a good giggle.

Appreciate your life. Think about how lucky you are to exist in this fantastic experience we call life at this exciting time in history, and how lucky you are to have had the opportunity to enjoy so many decades full of so many experiences. What an amazing perspective you have. What an amazing being you are.




How to Create an Awesome Relationship

Do you long to return to the honeymoon phase of your relationship? Have you and your partner drifted into an unsatisfying union? Do your interactions frequently turn into arguments? Have you even started to consider separation?

Imagine if you were able to turn your relationship around to create the happy, long lasting and loving relationship that you dream of. No arguments. Great communication. Great sex. Deep love and respect. The solution is very very near. Read on….

Of Wet Towels and Things

Many couples feel hopelessly trapped in conflictual relationships. Tension and arguments sometimes arise from serious issues, such as money problems, addictions, or children, however often relationship conflict is triggered by more trivial issues, such as whether or not it is acceptable to leave a wet towel on the bedroom floor.

One person in the relationship might believe that a wet towel on the floor is not an issue: “I didn’t put it there, gravity did! Besides, there are far more important things to worry about in life!”

The other person, on the other hand, might believe that wet towels on floors are unbearable in multiple ways: “They breed mould and germs which are unhealthy and make them smell bad, they never dry, they wreck the carpet, and they create a messy, visual eyesore! I can’t stand them! ”

Of course, this same person might extrapolate further to convince his or her self that a dropped towel is a sign that the other does not care about or respect them, or, perhaps, doesn’t even love them.  Their hurt and angry reaction to the towel on the floor can then lead to the other feeling unfairly attacked and unloved, and then angry too. And so it escalates.

In an Ideal World

The real issue in this example is that the individuals in the relationship have differing beliefs that they are locked into, and these beliefs clash. In an ideal world each person would be able to calmly and effectively talk about their beliefs, and gain better understanding of the other person’s viewpoints.

Rather than jumping straight into anger and frustration, the ‘ideal world couple’ would also be able to recognise, share and accept their own and their partner’s underlying vulnerable feelings. They would also be able to reduce the volume and rigidity of their own belief.

But most of us do not live in an ideal world, and this is all much more easily said than done when we get habitually caught up in relating with our partners in dysfunctional ways.

How to Transform Your Relationship

Relationship therapy can be a very effective way to turn your relationship around. But you have to find a good therapist, and the process can be expensive and time consuming, particularly if you have to arrange childcare.

The good news is that I have just stumbled across a wonderful alternative solution.

Drs Gay and Katie Hendricks are a successful and highly experienced relationship-coaching couple who practice what they preach. They have learned how to knock conflict and other relationship problems on the head to transform their own 30-odd year marriage into almost sickenly ideal relationship. Up until now they have been passing their wisdom onto the masses through their numerous best selling books [you might have seen them on Oprah]. They have also offered individual relationship coaching sessions to some lucky couples.

As you might expect, an individual session with these relationship gurus would be pretty pricey, but now Gay and Katie have released an online training package, which apparently includes weekly coaching calls. To give you a taste of what they can do,  they have released some free introductory videos. The freebies alone can be very powerful catalysts for positive change.

Now, as you have probably guessed, I’m pretty fussy about where I refer my readers, but I really think these folk give truly helpful ideas about how to get relationships on track. You can ‘meet’ the Hendricks and access their first free introductory video at LASTING LOVE MADE EASY.

The Hendricks’ program tackles practically every relationship issue, from how to stop arguing, to how to create a loving and exciting sex life. They can even help singles find a new dream relationship.  So check them out and begin to get your relationship sorted ASAP. You really do deserve to be happy.

Here’s the link……



How to Protect Your Children from Family Depression and Anxiety

Depression and anxiety can spread through families like contagious diseases, and children are the most vulnerable to contamination.

Sure, genetic predisposition plays a part too, but a lot of it has to do with what we are exposed to as children. That means you can influence how much your children are affected.

How Depression is Spread

Partners of people with depression often complain of feeling as if they are living near a black hole which is draining their life force. They gradually lose energy and enthusiasm, their lives become restricted, and their home becomes a dark and dreary place.

Children of depressed parents can be even more affected. On top of this ‘black hole effect’, children learn how to interact with the world largely by observing other people, especially their parents. So if a child witnesses a parent consistently looking glum, or repeatedly talking negatively about problems, they are likely to copy that behaviour. Our behaviour affects the way we feel, so children of depressed people are at risk of internalising their parents’ view that the world is a negative place that holds little joy.

Depressed people have a tendency to withdraw from others, so they sometimes find it difficult to listen to their children and to respond consistently and positively to their emotional and psychological needs. This can lead to the children feeling confused and unloved, and can in turn impact on their self esteem and happiness.

All of this is a recipe for… you got it… another generation of depression.

How Anxiety is Spread

Anxiety can also be passed on through families. Children are programmed to learn what to be afraid of from parents in order to survive. A highly anxious parent typically sees the world as a scary place that cannot be trusted. They may well pass on their fears to their children as warnings, and become over-protective in an attempt to keep them safe. This can lead to the children internalising their parent’s fears and becoming overly anxious.

Also, remember that children mimic their parents, so a parent who is tense and easily stressed, is likely to inadvertently teach their children to behave in the same way.

How to Break the Cycle

You can take steps to protect your children from the negative effects of your anxiety and depression. Here are a few simple ways to start…..

  • Be aware of what you teach your children about the world. Do you paint a scary or dark picture? Try to relax, lighten up, and look on the bright side.
  • Think about how your children witness you interacting with others and them? If you want your children to be calm and positive, make sure you are a calm and positive role model.
  • Make an effort to connect with your children in a consistent way. Get interested in their thoughts and feelings. Listen well, and try to respond in compassionate and positive ways to their problems.
  • Be affectionate and warm, and praise your children liberally.
  • Make the effort to enjoy fun interactions with your children. Family games can be great bonders, and laughter is a wonderful antidote for depression and anxiety.
  • Exercise is also a natural antidote; so, even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing, try to do something regularly as a family that involves physical activity. Fun outdoor activities improve mood, and getting everyone out in the world can help you all combat fears.

Get Help ASAP

It is important that you take steps to deal with your own depression or anxiety. Focusing on helping your children should have the added bonus of helping you, but you might need to do a bit more to move into a consistently healthy state.  There is plenty of useful information out there in books and on the internet, but if depression or anxiety is continuing to limit your life, please make sure you get some good professional help without delay, for your children’s sake.

How to Disentangle from Destructive Thoughts

Thoughts, images and feelings are all a normal part of our internal human world, and we wouldn’t want to be without them. They can fuel our creativity, they can drive and motivate us, they can keep us safe, and they can bring us passion, joy and contentment.

But sometimes they can be an absolute pain in the bum. They can haunt us, or annoy us, or demoralise us, or rile us into a frenzy of anger or guilt. They can scare us into a frozen state of avoidance, or bring us down into the depths of depression and apathy.

It’s Not That Easy to Switch Off Negative Thoughts

In the past we psychologists have told our clients that once they have identified the destructive thoughts and images in their heads, they can simply change them to positive ones. Although this idea has merit and works for some people, it is not as easy as it sounds for the majority of us. Failed attempts to block or throw away the negative thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts, have led to frustration and a heightened sense of failure and inadequacy in many of the people who have attempted this method. It is simply very hard to stop a thought, particularly one that you have been replaying for a long time, and if you do manage it, they can often sneak back with a vengeance.

Psychologists are now realising that, rather than trying to disperse unhelpful thoughts, it is fine to just allow them, as long as you don’t get caught up in them; as long as you don’t believe them to be the truth; and as long as you stay mindful of what they really are… just sounds, pictures and feelings.

‘But how do I do that?’ I hear you ask in an exasperated voice.

Eastern Wisdom

Western psychology has recently started to take notice of the ancient teachings of our eastern brothers who have long said that the best way to stop thoughts controlling us is to witness them as just thoughts, and one of the best ways to do that is to practice meditation.

Meditation is both simple and difficult, but you don’t have to be a master of it to begin to feel the benefits. Anyone can learn to meditate. You could learn by going to a meditation class, or by reading a book, or listening to an audio, or even by watching one of the many YouTube videos on the topic.

How to Meditate

All you do is sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed and notice your breath and the sensation in your body as your breath enters and leaves your body. I personally like to focus more on the out-breath, as this is the side of the breath that is most linked with relaxation, but the traditional way is to just notice the breath going in and out without judging or controlling it.

Now, of course, many thoughts and images, memories and plans, and all the accompanying emotional paraphernalia, will invade your mind while you are trying to focus on the simplicity of your breath. But the trick is that you allow them all to come and go, without getting caught up in them. And if, as is inevitable, you do get carried away with a thought about the process, or your work, or relationship, or what to have for dinner, become aware of this little side-trip as soon as you can, and gently bring your attention back to your breath and your body.

Freedom to Choose

The process of witnessing thoughts images and emotions, and allowing them to come and go by bringing ourselves back to our body and breath, allows us to disentangle from them. We are then able to realise that the thoughts are not the essence of who we are: they are just static noise and don’t need to be given attention and power.

That awareness frees us up to be able to make decisions and take actions that our unhelpful thoughts and feelings have stopped us undertaking in the past.  We don’t have to stop and block our unhelpful thoughts to reduce their power over us, just recognise them for what they are, and chose whether or not to buy into them.

Lorri Craig

Relationships: How to Stop Arguing with Your Partner

Partners can be incredibly annoying. They are very skilled at pressing our buttons and engaging us in arguments over nothing, but it is possible to change this pattern.

Most of us can’t stand to be told by our spouse that we are wrong and they are right, especially when we know [or are pretty sure] that they are wrong and we are right.

We can become particularly annoyed if they contest us using smug, patronising body language; while a condescending, know-it-all tone of voice can send us right over the edge.

When affronted with all that, we try to hold on to our dignity and defend our stance by hitting back with equally defensive words, body language, and tone. Well, equal-ish,  and certainly deserved.

Our partner, however, interprets our reaction as over the top, and then accuses us of being patronising and aggressive, whilst denying  that they ever were.

So they up the anti, and then we up the anti, and before we know it, we’re engaged in a full scale, emotionally shattering argument.

Sound Familiar?

What is Really Going on Deep Down

It’s important to remember that almost all anger is triggered by underlying vulnerable feelings.

The ‘we’ person in this scenario is reacting to his or her perception of being criticised or put down by the other. This interpretation leads to them feeling hurt and humiliated. Those vulnerable feelings in turn trigger their anger, and create an urge to prove that they are right by insisting that the other is wrong. Because they are feeling vulnerable and abused, they tend to do this in a slightly aggressive way.

The second person, who might have been unaware of the patronising tone of their message, then feels unfairly attacked and criticised. This perception triggers their feelings of hurt and humiliation, so they react with anger in an attempt to balance the power in their favour.

This leads to the first person feeling more hurt and angry, and so it goes on.

Let Your Mature Adult Take Charge

The vulnerable and angry feelings and reactions come from our inner child. This emotional part of our psyche developed when we were babies and toddlers, so it is a very young part of us and sometimes reacts in an immature way.

Although it is important to listen to, support and care for our inner child, it is important that we do not let it take over and rule our actions and reactions.

Similarly, the critical parent within us all, which is the part that developed after the inner child, and sometimes jumps to its defence, should not be given free rein to rule.

Instead, our mature ‘adult’ part is the one that should be making decisions and managing our behaviour and reactions.  This is the calm assertive part of us that developed later in childhood. It understands us and others, and reacts in a calm, mature, conciliatory way. Our ‘adult’ respects us and our needs, but is also respectful of the other person, and accepts that it is human and okay to make mistakes.

Bow Out Gracefully

It takes two to tango, so you can stop an argument at any time, simply by bowing out of it.

Remind yourself that you are reacting from your emotional child and critical parent.  Try to identify the vulnerable feelings under your anger and use your internal nurturing parent to calm and support your hurt child. Be gentle with yourself.

Remind yourself, also, that your partner is probably feeling hurt and vulnerable and unfairly treated too, so be gentle with them.  Remember if you react by putting your partner down in any way, they are likely to feel worse and this will lead to more pain for you both.

Try to stop the argument by reacting from your calm adult. But be careful that your patronising critical parent does not sneakily grab hold of the reins. Your language, both verbal and non-verbal, should be assertive, inclusive, respectful and forgiving of yourself and the other for your humanness.

Apologise if You Can

If you have riled your partner, and can bear to apologise in a clear, open way, then do so. An apology is a great argument stopper.  I admit it takes a lot of strength to apologise to someone when you feel that they are more wrong than you, but hold on to the fact that most of us get it a little bit wrong, so your apology can be genuine in terms of the part you played.  “I’m sorry that we argued,” is a powerful diffuser that can usually be said with honesty and conviction.

Make sure you are communicating from your clear, calm, forgiving adult when you apologise. Avoid the urge to add a ‘but’ to the end of your apology.

It is up to the other person to own their role in any argument, and it is not critical that they do, so don’t look for your apology to be reciprocated.

Time Out Can Help

If you can’t, or don’t want to, apologise in a positive way, you could simply stop talking, but try to stay strong and relaxed, and let go your anger, so that you don’t come across as passive-agressive or petulant.  You could try to calmly say something inclusive and conciliatory, like, “Let’s not argue,” or change the subject, or you might need to take some time out until you calm down. If so, ideally let the other person know what you are doing so they don’t feel too abandoned, as that feeling can add to their vulnerability and, therefore, anger.

You might feel brave enough to apologise when you return, or at least suggest that you hug and make up. Go to them for the contact, rather than waiting for them to come to you. If they are not ready, respect their need for time, and let it go.

Feel Good About the Changes You Make

There is no guarantee that your partner will follow suit and become the humble, mature person that you are learning to be. But it is true that when one person changes in a dynamic system, the other is forced to shift, even if that shift is subtle and slow.

The important thing is that by accessing your strength and maturity, you are creating a more positive relationship and a more peaceful life for you and your family.

Winning arguments by convincing your partner that you are right and they are wrong, will not make you happier. But learning to diffuse arguments will.


Note: These strategies are for dealing with arguments in ‘normal’ relationships, where the balance of power is roughly even.  If you are in a violent or abusive relationship, please seek help from competent professionals as soon as possible.