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  • Writer's pictureWalthea Patterson

Repatriation: Getting Mentally Fit for Your Next Big Move

Getting mentally fit for your next big move: How cognitive behavioural coaching can help with repatriation

While we’re accustomed to the necessity of athletic training before major sports events we may not realise the benefits that can be gained from coaching to help deal with big life changes. Athletes don’t just train physically to achieve their goals, they also train mentally to deal with the obstacles they will meet in trying to reach those goals. It is this kind of mental fitness that cognitive behavioural coaching can help individuals to achieve.

One of the biggest changes that professionals may face is relocation for work. With the Irish economy improving, and unemployment dropping many Irish ex-pats may be considering returning home after working abroad. Often fantasies about returning to Ireland begin with successful holidays, watching children playing with their local cousins, enjoying around the clock babysitting from willing grandparents and always having someone ready to meet for a chat over a pint. For two weeks even bad weather can be a welcome novelty if you’ve spent the past few years living in sunnier climes.

However, the reality of the multiple challenges of moving back to a country left years, even decades, earlier is something that repatriating people may overlook in the logistical preparations to move home. A recent survey of over 400 returning Irish migrants uncovered some of the mental and emotional challenges faced during and after repatriation. Just as physical and mental training can prepare athletes to overcome the urge to drop out when they hit “the wall,” cognitive behavioural coaching can give repatriators the tools to overcome the inevitable challenges they will face.

Mental fitness, has similar components to physical fitness: strength, flexibility and endurance. In the case of mental fitness strength means the willingness to do things outside of your comfort zone which challenge or frustrate you. If moving back to Ireland this might mean retaking a driving test, or passing professional exams for accreditation to work here. Flexibility is the willingness and ability to cope with setbacks, perhaps living with the in-laws while looking for longer term accommodation. Endurance is the willingness to keep your focus and your planning on your long-term dreams and goals.

Repatriation involves four stages of re-entry, each of which demands a degree of mental fitness. The first stage is Departure and Leave-taking. The decision to move has been made and although still living abroad, psychologically and emotionally you have committed to returning to Ireland. This is followed by the Honeymoon stage, where after your return everything still seems great until you are confronted with Reverse Culture Shock. During this stage the reality of daily life might begin to irritate you (there’s no 24-hour supermarket, it’s rained all weekend, and why does every social situation revolve around alcohol?). This stage was cited in the survey results as particularly challenging for returning migrants, perhaps because they had not prepared for it. The final stage of repatriation is Readjustment when life begins to settle down, you have learned to accommodate the things which may have irritated or confused you in the previous stage.

Working with a cognitive behavioural coach can give you the tools and mental fitness to deal with whatever arises during the four stages of re-entry. Coaching sessions can even be arranged online through Skype or Google Hangouts so that you can begin your mental fitness training before you depart. In the flurry of anticipation of finally moving home after dreaming about it since you first left it can be easy to overlook the very real mental challenges that this will provoke. Luckily you don’t have to face these challenges alone and unprepared. Just as you might decide to increase your physical fitness by using a couch to 5k programme, working with a cognitive behavioural coach will help you to achieve the mental fitness you need to make your move home less painful. Along the way you will develop the tools to deal with other changes that we all inevitably face in life.

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