Digital nomad mental health challenges and how online therapy can help overcome them
In what is relatively unexplored territory, UK mental health experts, Onebright, look at some of the challenges facing digital nomads and their mental health and what online therapy solutions are available to overcome these unique challenges from abroad.
As more countries offer enticing digital nomad visas, the number of people packing up their lives to carry out their jobs from abroad has never been higher. The latest reports show there are currently 35 million digital nomads worldwide, which is expected to rise to one billion by 2035. This lifestyle is often characterised as one that offers a better work-life balance. However, the reality is far less straightforward.
Many digital nomad mental health challenges occur in countries without the same standard or quality of care as the UK. In some cases, language barriers can hinder communication between the client and therapist. And for others, the constant change in countries can mean needing to find a new mental health clinician at each location.
Anxiety, depression, addiction, loneliness, etc. can all be made worse by the stress of learning to travel and work simultaneously, particularly if you don’t have strategies to manage emotions that can arise with stressful, unfamiliar surroundings, people, cultures and customs.
Benefits of online therapy
Online therapy or remote therapy solutions, where therapists can connect with clients via online video platforms, have opened up new possibilities for people looking to transform the way they live and work. This delivery method means the individual still benefits from regular therapy sessions with the same trained and accredited therapist back home. Onebright mental health therapists have been offering online therapy for over ten years. With a clinical network of over 3,000 clinicians providing treatment in 49 languages, access to mental health services has never been easier.
For digital nomads and expatriates alike, online therapy can be helpful in the reframing of thoughts around the following challenges:
Due to the stigma surrounding mental health, many people dislike talking about their mental health issues when struggling. Feelings of loneliness can come and go, so it is easy to ignore this problem for a long time before it becomes an issue that needs professional support.
Belonging and feeling connected are some of the biggest challenges digital nomads face. When you see people who are close to you regularly, they are more likely to see changes in your behaviour if something is wrong.
People you have just met and who might be from a different country may not notice the signs that you are struggling with loneliness and missing the security that comes with a support network as you do back home.
Lack of control
Digital nomads will generally end up inhabiting spaces that are not their own and maybe restrictive in some ways. Living in these “borrowed environments” where many things are out of your control can leave you feeling like you don’t have a safe place to be alone. This can also rob you of a sense of agency within your own life, causing symptoms like procrastination, worrying and helplessness.
Digital nomads often need to learn techniques for shutting out their environment and entering their own “mental” safe space through practices commonly known in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, such as reframing thoughts, problem-solving and relaxation techniques.
It can also be a good idea to recognise and take charge of the things that are within your control—for example, having your laptop set up exactly how you want it and having a consistent way of organising your bags. These are small things that can help you reassert a bit of autonomy.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders and affect nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives. The constant pressures from modern living trigger our stress hormones. While we have evolved to experience stress for short periods in response to immediate forms of danger, a continuous level of stress is damaging to our physical and mental health.
Digital nomads often work as freelancers. This means an insecure income and more financial uncertainty, which can be an extreme stressor.
There is also considerable stress involved in applying for residence permits, dealing with foreign authorities, maintaining relationships, finding suitable accommodation with the required utilities to work (such as stable internet), medical treatment and international insurance companies. All these factors add up, and if any of them is denied or disrupted, it can mean starting the process again in a new country.
But anxiety disorders are treatable using several treatments, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which is easily accessed online. Techniques help to interrupt and reframe worried thoughts that feed into anxiety and reduce avoidance, thus helping people lead fulfilling, productive lives.
Online therapy for Digital Nomad Mental Health
When you live in one place all the time, you can usually rely on the same mental health resources yearly. As a digital nomad, those location-dependent resources do not help you. Instead, you need the same help in one place as you have in another.
Finding a therapist when you get to each new location can be problematic because many countries or cities have shortages of mental health professionals. You could wait a long time for an appointment, and when the therapist is finally available, you might be ready to move on again.
An online therapy provider like Onebright offers an easy and efficient way to connect with a therapist at your current location and each new location. Not only do you have help when you need it, but you can also continue your therapy relationship with the same therapist throughout your digital nomad mental health journey.
If you need help, ask for it. Reach out and get advice from a mental health professional. If this is not available to you locally, fill in the form below to learn about our Online Therapy services that can support you no matter where you are in the world.