Canadian Immigrant Magazine’s Health Section of the Mind, Body, Soul Column
Nothing to fear …
The ‘frightening’ trap that newcomers face
I recently had the honour of leading a roundtable discussion with the wonderful students of Ed Denison’s Adult English as a Second Language class. Although these awe-inspiring students spoke of many positive experiences since immigrating, a common yet negative experience many shared was one of fear. It was captivating yet sad for me to realize just how common this emotion is for must be for adult newcomers entering into a strange land with different customs, languages and people.
What is fear?
Fear is a feeling of anxiety, worry or terror; it is a frightening thought that keeps us from somebody or something usually more positive.
Indeed, fear is one of the most widespread experiences that we all share as human beings — immigrants or otherwise. Perhaps we are afraid of not being liked by others, of not “fitting in,” of failure or of being perceived as weak. In many cases, it has actually propelled the human race survive, but most fear harms us, rather than protecting us.
Impact on health
When we are afraid, we experience a very real emotion that can take over our thoughts, feelings, actions and our health. Research strongly links many emotions like fear with our body’s health; it is one of the many emotions linked to depression, anxiety and stress. And our bodies are dangerously impacted when we face regular doses of huge stressors together with such emotions — stress is a huge contributor to heart disease and stroke and other physical ailments. So if we hold onto fear, we are actually damaging our emotional, mental and physical health.
Of course, we all have fears sometimes, and during many experiences, but how we choose to react to them is what allows some of us to live our dreams while others become paralyzed to move forward. As newcomers, we have likely already faced some initial fears — perhaps mixed with some excitement — during the experience of leaving the comfort of our home country for a new land. If you’re here in Canada that means you bravely overcame all that.
But, after landing, many immigrants tend to forget that their journey continues, and they will continually face new feelings of fear as they experience new things. The excitement over what the “dream” of Canada holds may be gone, leaving the anxiety about settling in, finding a job and so on. This fear can, in fact, get in the way of moving on to the next step in your life. It can keep you frozen in time, can get in the way of getting a job or can prevent you from connecting with new friends. It can hold you back from so many wonderful opportunities in your new life in Canada.
For the newcomer, fear may linger throughout the stages of loss, transition and adaptation that come along with the settlement process — especially if you are feeling a sense of post-decisional regret or post-traumatic stress. During these times of adjustment and reorganization, fear can be a very powerful troublemaker that you may fall prey to.
Back down or stand up?
So, if you are feeling overcome with dread, what choices do you have? The choice of reacting to fear by avoidance, isolating yourself or remaining at home is an easy way of coping. But are we really dealing with the fear by avoiding it? Looking back, some immigrants describe initial settlement as a time warp full of depression, anxiety, pain and isolation. And most regret letting their fears take over and realize that it’s a time lost forever. But it’s never too late to start letting go of that fear and focusing on the present!
Perhaps it’s easier said then done, but fear is best faced when we take action and expand our comfort zones. Each of us is motivated differently to recognize, react and then to cope with fear. Some people need to discuss the underlying causes, others need to look at the aftermath of fear, while others may recognize their fears and then take action by facing them. I challenge you to explore your fears and what ways you can face them. Don’t let fear trap you from achieving your goals in Canada. Escape the trap and surge ahead!
Indian-born Polly Sidher is founder of Moksha Counselling and Consulting Services in Mississauga. Visit www.mokshaconsulting.com or email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.