Mental Health

Moving to a foreign country can slam you with a whirlwind of emotions that sometimes result in extended periods of depression. Here, you can find tips on maintaining good mental health in Japan. Don’t forget: you’re never alone. Always talk to friends and coworkers near you, or you can always call the AJET Peer Support Group at 050-5534-5566 available from 8 P.M. to 7 A.M.

1. Get Involved in a Club Or Activity

  • ask your teachers at school/neighbours/fellow foreigners what clubs or activities they’re involved in and if you can join in.
  • Contact a local international centre to ask what clubs are available in the local area.
  • If there is a community centre in your area see what classes they offer.
  • Contact your local universities and ask if you can become involved with their clubs.

2. Feelings of Isolation: Why, How and How Do I Help Myself? Combating Loneliness

  • Keep a diary.
  • Talk to your friends and family back home.
  • Get involved in clubs and activities in your local community.
  • Try to take a trip somewhere on the weekends, even if it’s just to visit a friend in the next town over.
  • Phone the people you know in Japan, especially other JETs who may be going through similar experiences.
  • Phone the AJET Peer Support Group.
  • Get out of your apartment as often as possible.
  • Remember, its OK to sometimes have off days. If you feel your off days are increasing, and you feel out of control, contact your PA, or PSG to talk about what’s happening.

3. Having a Healthy Social Life in Japan: Tips on Making Friends in Japan and Dealing with the Language Barrier

  • Gesture language: embrace it!
  • Be persistent
  • If you don’t accept one invitation and you don’t get asked again, then make your own invitation, even something simple like coffee, or the movies.
  • Don’t worry if you make mistakes when speaking Japanese, everyone does and it just shows you’re making a real effort.
  • Be flexible with different social attitudes and views.

4. Tips on Physical Activity

  • Try to make a routine to exercise at certain times every week.
  • If you like the mornings, try an early morning walk.
  • Join a local exercise or sports group. Sometimes your local public gymnasium will have random activities, like kick-boxing or ballet.
  • If you have a pool near you, use it.
  • If going out in public isn’t your style, try some new workout videos, such as hip hop workout, bollywood workout, P90X, zumba….the possibilities are endless!
  • Join in with your students, they practice almost every day of the year!
  • Have an exercise partner. If you have plans with someone else you’re less likely to cancel.

5. Decision Making

  • Make a list of things that are important to you.
  • Make a list of pros and cons.
  • Give yourself time to process the decision.
  • Ask advice on your situation from friends or family.
  • Contact your PA, or the PSG if you want someone friendly and impartial to listen to you.

6. Dealing With Uncertainty

  • Plan what you can, the rest will fall in place.
  • Try to set more short term goals.
  • Make a list of what you want to achieve that day and do it.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a friend or someone you trust if things aren’t going the way you planned.
  • Find a daily routine that is comfortable for you, and stick with it.

7. Reducing the “Bubble Effect”: Maintaining Cultural Fluency in Two Different Cultures

  • Try keeping up to date with music charts, international news sites, podcasts.
  • Talk to friends and family back home about what’s going on in the news.

8. Body Image in Japan

  • Remember where you came from.
  • Think of the time when you were most happy with yourself, and make it your goal to get there.
  • Use online shopping sites for clothing, they might be much more up to date with the fashion you are used to. Some of the big shops have good websites with clothes in all sizes.
  • Embrace your differences.
  • If kids ask personal questions, try to prepare a far-fetched yet plausible story. For example, question: what cup size are you? Answer: z

9. Religious and Spiritual Practice in Japan

  • There are many Special Interest Groups available through the National AJET group for religious groups. Get involved with them to receive support from people who share your views. If no group exists for your beliefs then contact someone on the National AJET Council to get in touch with someone to create it. You are not alone!
  • There are many religions practiced in Japan. Find out where your local church, temple, mosque may be.
  • There may be a religious circle you can join in your area. Even if it’s not too regular, the contact you have can maintain well-being.

10. Dealing with the Pressures of Alcohol Intake in Japan

  • If you feel constantly pressured to drink, think up some reason to cover you for at least a couple of nights, such as, “I have to skype my parents”, “I promised so-and-so I would do this today”, “My Japanese teacher set me a test and I have to study”, “my online Japanese course is all-consuming!”, “I have chicken in my fridge and I have to use it by tonight”…
  • If you want to attend a party but don’t want to drink give an excuse such as “I have to ride my bicycle/ drive my car home”. Drunk driving is a serious offense in Japan and this reason will be respected.
  • If you are worried by the amount you are drinking in Japan, organize some non-drinking related nights, such as coffee, or a movie at a friend’s house.

11. The Different Ideas of Privacy

  • If you are in a small community where you feel you have less privacy than you would like, take a trip to a bigger city for a weekend.
  • Remember, Japan is a very community-orientated country, so sometimes a lack of privacy, is just seen as sharing normal details with each other.
  • If privacy gets out of hand, make contact with your supervisor or PA to find out how you can help yourself.

12. Receiving Professional Help

Many of the antidepressant medication available in Europe and the Americas is not approved for use in Japan. If you’re unable to have your medication sent to you on a monthly basis, you can discuss different options with your doctor in Japan. Though you might have to travel a bit, there will more than likely be an English speaking doctor relatively close to you. If you’re located in a more metropolitan area, you should be able to find a Psychologist or Psychiatrist as well. Please see this link for information on Mental Health Professionals that cater to foreign residents in Japan: International Mental Health Professionals Japan