Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Culture Shock, and the Importance of Sleep

It's been a rough week for me (I had to think about how long it's actually been going for). I talked to my director's wife this afternoon and tried to figure it out with her. This is what we identified:

For me, the biggest thing I've noticed is the sleep factor. I like staying out and having fun, but I need to remember that I have a 45-minute commute home at the end of each day; I enjoy chatting with my host mom when I get home, but when I'm fighting off the urge to sleep on the bus, I need to discipline myself to call it a night and head downstairs. When I don't get enough sleep, not only am I tired the next day, but it carries a heavy sway over my emotions. I'm glad I can tell the difference between when I'm grumpy from lack of sleep and when I'm grumpy just because of whatever's going on because that better equips me to deal with the feelings. When I'm that tired, I'm much, much more sensitive to unkind remarks, whether they were intended to be so or not, and I feel more vulnerable to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. So when those unkind remarks come... It really feels quite awful.

What my professor/director's wife suggested was that I might be going through one of the stages of culture shock. More than the initial "wow, this is different" reaction, culture shock also involves the alternating between excitement and slumps/withdrawals. I didn't feel like I'd been affected by culture shock initially in the traditionally recognizable sense because I didn't feel like the cultures were overwhelmingly different, and I accepted the new changes as simply being different, not as being a "right way" or a "wrong way" of doing things. But my teacher shared that even on her 6th or 7th trip to Europe, she had started feeling the drag of "Oh, now I have to remember how to conjugate this verb correctly in German when I go to the grocery store. Sigh." So maybe I'm also more settled into the culture now and am feeling the "now what?" stagnation, and I just need to create a plan to get the excitement back. She also added that the timing with this part of culture shock was especially unfortunate with the timing of my grandpa dying.

Conclusion: it's probably a combination of all of the above, as well as other things that I'm unaware of. My game plan for now is to work on scheduling my time better - making time for sleep, time to relax, and making sure that I know what I have to look forward to. Life is meant to be a learning experience and is meant to be enjoyed, so I need to continue doing the things that will facilitate that. My scripture study has been slacking off lately, so as I correct myself, I will regain the healthy perspective that they give me.

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