Managing Emigration Stress

Cape to Cork Managing Emigration Stress SA to Ireland Relocation

Your Stress Levels Are Through the Roof, Right? Look, let’s be completely honest here. Over the years, life has handed us our fair share of lemons. To be turned into lemonade/enjoyed with tequila/violently hurled back at the perpetrator- depending on your disposition.

Growing up in Africa is not for sissies as they say. According to research from Bloomberg, South Africa is the second most stressed out country in the world (Nigeria taking first place). The reasons for this are no secret to us – Insanely high homicide rates, a dwindling Gross Domestic Product, income inequality, rampant corruption, widespread unemployment, and low life expectancy to name but a few of the constant stressors. This grim list was a large part of the reason we left for foreign shores. Because we longed for a better quality of life by leaving the constant violence, poverty and pollution behind.

Africa, for all its redeeming beauty and uniqueness, is a mind-numbingly stressful place to be. And then you emigrate. Only to realise you’ve never been this stressed in your life!  Many papers have been written about what is referred to as the ‘psychological consequences of pre-emigration trauma’ and ‘post-migration stress’. It couldn’t have been more true for us. As South Africans emigrating to Ireland, it was definitely the most stressful time and biggest challenge of our lives. I can categorically state that for me personally, it was a hectic nightmare of a time. It all panned out perfectly in the end and it has been the best decision of our lives, but man, was it stressful!

Therefore, I want to use this post to set you up for success if you haven’t made the jump yet. Or, if you have recently emigrated, I have may have some wisdom to share. Our stressful emigration experience has taught us two important things: 1) Movement is medicine and 2) Mindfulness is not just for rudderless hippies.

Cape to Cork Managing Emigration Stress SA to Ireland Relocation


Ireland is a beautiful country that offers an active lifestyle that encourages you to get out and enjoy the fresh air. Nothing has helped us more than simply staying active since the day we set foot in this lovely green place. We have always been regulars at the gym at home, with the big Virgin Active and Planet Fitness gyms being so accessible (especially if you can get a discount from your health insurance provider), we really had no excuse. However, do not expect such luxury in Cork (I cannot speak for Dublin). Gyms are nowhere near as high-tech, expansive or widely available. Yes, sure they’re around. But nothing like back home where you can run into a gym at every big shopping centre and suburb. In Cork the gyms seem spread a little more thinly on the ground. Also, no real kick-ass air conditioning in the gyms here. Sweating like a cow in a slaughterhouse? Crack a window. The weather being mild as it is here, it is not completely unpleasant in the gyms but I must say that cool blast of air while exercising is something I miss. If you find you are not able to get to a gym as regularly as you hoped for and that it means you won’t be able to really track your health and fitness progress, we found a way around that too. Between a fitness tracker of your choice and a smart scale (we got this really sleek Eufy one online) you can keep tabs on your weight, muscle mass, fat percentage, heart rate, bone density and BMI without heading to the gym. Keep an eye on your vitals when you know are going through this challenging move, it really helped us see when we started going off-track. Which happens so easily when your life is disrupted in this way.

So, no gym? Get outside! Cork, and Ireland in general, has so many parks and pedestrian-friendly walkways where you can have a lovely stroll or go for a run. Unlike SA, it is safe to go outside alone at any time of day in most areas. In winter, don’t let the weather hold you back! As South Africans we are so used to simply stay inside the minute it looks like rain. The secret here is to keep going, no matter that drizzle. It’ll most likely clear up while you’re out there anyway, especially in spring and summer. If you can get used to going outside no matter the weather, you’re golden. Get your steps in- it’s for your mind as much as your body.

Not only will the exercise help you de-stress, you get a much better idea of your new surroundings on foot, rather than just cruising around in a car. Ireland is full of little surprises and beautiful, ancient architecture, green parks and delightful nature. We were even lucky enough to have a gorgeous seaside promenade on our doorstep in our first rental apartment. Walks and runs were a treat. We were getting out and about for walks and runs so much that I actually over-trained my feet resulting in inflammation. Ouch. I luckily found a great brand of running shoe here that we don’t really get in SA called Brooks. I highly recommend the Brooks Ghost running shoe. It saved my feet from all the movement and walking around. Get the right shoes – Ireland is all about getting out and about.

And for the rainiest, frostiest, darkest of winter days when you simply cannot bear the thought of leaving the house? Yoga has been my answer. I’ve never really enjoyed yoga until I was forced to get into it, so to speak. I needed something I can do from my comfortably warm living room, so I downloaded the DownDog App. Very cool piece of tech. To do yoga I don’t need a lot of space (I’m sure you are aware that space comes at a premium in Europe) and I don’t have to drive into town to find a yoga studio. There are quite a few to choose from in Cork, although I have not been yet so I cannot rate them for you or compare to the ones in SA. I found that if you have the right tools for the job, the job can be done at home with just as much success as in a fancy Virgin Active Studio with its mood lighting and what not. I bought two pairs of great, affordable yoga pants from Occfy. They stretch and stay completely opaque. They stay up, no sagging around the knee and they are mid-rise with an extra tummy flattening band. Lovely stuff, and they wash and wear really well too. I also got me this yoga mat with guide prints on it, so that I know I am positioning myself correctly when I’m practicing by myself and no teacher is there to assist me. All and all, a small investment for my mental health. Of all the movement and exercises I have tried to stick to over here in Ireland, yoga has been the biggest life saver for mental clarity and relaxation. I cannot recommend it enough. I have now made it into a daily practise simply because of the mental health benefits it offers me.

Cape to Cork Managing Emigration Stress SA to Ireland Relocation


I never really managed to get into meditation and mindfulness before we emigrated to Ireland. And even with all the stresses and near constant state of panic I lived in back home, I simply couldn’t crack it. Sitting still was never my strong suit, ask Johan, I get restless if I need to sit through a single movie. Two movies get torturous. Add to that the fact that it more often than not feels like I have no control over my constantly racing thoughts and a dash of good old-fashioned anxiety. It was a recipe for disaster come emigration time. It took the most stressful event of my life to force me to find a solution.

If you, like me, can’t handle the idea of sitting still with your racing mind or calming the mind long enough to reap enough of a benefit, I suggest training yourself to be more mindful of your thoughts, especially when you are stressed and under pressure. I’m not an expert by any means but I can suggest some of the Mindvalley content that has helped me a lot. While there are free Mindvalley podcasts available on most platforms and their website has wide range of content and programs to enroll for too. I highly recommend Mindvalley for their professional approach to wellness, personal growth and education and the quality of the content. I’m a sceptic by nature so their practical approach to mental health works well for me. If you are like me, a little skeptical about the whole consciousness and human transformation movement(s) or just a bit new at this- try a simple, yet effective 20min guided meditation called ‘The Six Phase Meditation’. I do it every morning and I have found that it is a great way to structure my day. It also helps me put most of the panicky bits into perspective by getting in the right frame of mind. Everyone from international athletes to global CEO’s have been endorsing this meditation. If this is still too shoo-wah for you, try keeping some Mind Cards on you at times. Take a look at LSW Mind Cards – The set of 45 business card-sized cards each list a positive action, designed to help you live a more fulfilling and happy life. Mindfulness- Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Turns out it is not just for rudderless hippies. It has really helped me with stress management throughout the whole emigration process.

I hope my two cents helps you find a bit of calm in the storm.


0 0 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Back to Home | Back to Blog