How To Survive & Thrive In Any New Environment
Have you recently adopted a new city, switched careers, or moved across town? If yes, you may be experiencing a nagging sense that the high you're on from this adventure will end and leave you in a slump once you settle in.
When I studied abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland, my fairytale expectations of the rolling highland glen, kilted men, and slippery cobblestones left little room for the reality of moving to a new environment without any of my old comforts. Dreams of dodging raindrops in my bright red Wellies and dipping into cozy cafes were dashed by an onslaught of homesickness and lack of appetite, with no apparent remedy. I wasn’t even thinking about thriving in this new environment; the bigger question was, could I even survive?
It started off as the scariest thing I've ever done, but it became the adventure of a lifetime. That is, it became an adventure once I committed to not just surviving in my new environment but also thriving in it. Here’s how.
1. Identify what brought you joy in your old environment.
This often isn’t possible until you actually arrive in your new environment. You'll start to realize what routines and patterns are actually foundational to your existence. Some things you won’t miss — like diet soda, or perhaps even yoga — while you'll crave others with a passion. It’s important to be tuned in to yourself.
2. Incorporate these grounding aspects of your old environment into your new one.
This will help keep you grounded until you find yourself steady on your feet. Miss your Saturday coffee rituals with your best friend? Find your closest Starbucks and Skype her for 30 minutes. Craving the community you found in your local CrossFit? Find a group in your new city and connect with others who share your dedication.
For example, after realizing I missed my daily green juice more than just a little, I researched local cafés until finding one that served green juice. It became my new hangout, and engaging in part of my normal routine made life feel, well, more normal again.
Incorporating parts of your old life doesn’t mean living in the past — it merely gives you space to be yourself.
3. Seek out new stabilizers and allow them to ground you.
This is key to making your new environment feel less confusing and unstable. Stop at the same café every morning for a few weeks until you feel like you have a place to call your own. Take the same route home from work every day until you feel like you could do it with your eyes closed. Be intentional about finding external stability in your new environment.
Because you feel unstable internally, focusing on external stabilizers and claiming them as your own — such as "my morning coffee stop" or "my commute home" — can help you gain a sense of authority and ownership in your new environment.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box here, either. For me, seeing the same homeless man and his dog outside of the Scottish National Gallery every day became a stabilizer. Dropping a pound coin in his hat every morning became a routine and, in a weird way, brought stability to my environment.
4. Welcome the opportunity to create new routines and toss bad habits out the window.
Did you always struggle to make it to spin class at your gym? Decide to hit up a class in your new city on your very first day. Tell yourself that this is how you will live in your new environment; no excuses.
I took advantage of the fact that no one in Scotland knew me, and I committed to being friendly and outgoing from the moment I stepped off the plane. There was no quiet, shy shell to disappear into because I didn’t make room for that girl in my new environment. There was no old, negative pattern to revert to because I didn’t allow the pattern to take root in my new environment.
5. Find beauty in the unknown.
At the end of it all, learn to enjoy the scariness. Embrace feeling ungrounded and accept the nerves, anxiety, uncertainty, and, at times, resentment. Acknowledge the strength it took for you to enter this new environment and honor the risk. Find purpose in your transition. You're doing something amazing.
Treat your new environment as an opportunity to thrive in ways that you didn’t — or couldn’t — in your old job, town, or relationship. Don’t be afraid to take baby steps and find silly, unconventional, or plain weird ways to make your new environment your own. Before you know it, you'll call it "home." You won’t just survive; you will thrive.