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Five mindfulness practices for expats

Moving abroad offers an exciting opportunity to live a happier and healthier life. But how can you make sure that you’re enjoying the experience to its fullest? That’s where practising mindfulness can help.

Five mindfulness practices for expats
Photo: Pixabay

According to psychological health expert, Eugene Farrell, mindfulness is all about being fully present and aware of your surroundings. By practising mindfulness daily, you can enjoy the scientifically-proven benefits it can have on your overall wellbeing. 

“Being mindful is one of the most ancient practices around the world and is practised by Buddhist monks. Its simplicity and effectiveness make it the perfect antidote to the demands of 21st Century life. Some small steps in the right direction could be a step change in your life,” says Eugene.

Here are five top tips on how mindfulness can help you make the most of your new life abroad, brought to you by AXA – Global Healthcare and The Local.

1. Mindful walks

Photo: Clem Onojeghuo/pexels.com

Living in a new country means there are a lot of new places to discover. Mindful walks are a great way to explore the natural scenery or appreciate the culturally-rich architecture of your new home. Mindful walking is all about shifting your focus from stresses about the past and future, to the present moment. There are many ways to take a mindful walk, and as long as you are focussed on the moment – you are doing it right. 

One method of mindful walking is to take notice of the sights and sounds around you: “Focus on the colour of your surroundings, the movements of your body and any noises you can hear. Can you hear people, animals or children? Can you feel the sun or a breeze? Do you notice any smells? Notice how you move into different spaces,” suggests Eugene.

Find out how AXA’s health plans can give you peace of mind abroad

2. Mindful check-ins

Practising mindfulness can improve both our mental and physical health, which in turn can help us to improve our overall life – but it’s still important to have a sense of self-awareness and seek professional help when you need it. 

Regular doctor check-ups are important, even if just for peace of mind. With AXA – Global Healthcare, you can have access to the virtual doctor service, whenever you need it. Speak to a qualified doctor online or over the phone, 24 hours a day, from wherever you are.

3. Mindful eating

Photo: Kaboompics.com/pexels.com

One of the best parts of moving to a new country is trying the local food. Although enjoying a meal is important, mindful eating helps ensure you are eating right and making healthy choices. 

According to nutritionist Georgina Camfield, it’s important to listen to your body: “Eat when you feel hungry and stop eating when you’re starting to feel full. By only eating when you need to, you’re giving your body the rest it needs to regenerate cells and boost healthy gut bacteria, both of which will help digestion in the long run.”

4. Mindful sleep

Getting enough sleep can have a positive impact on your day by improving your mood. To ensure you get enough sleep, start by creating a sleep routine; this can be done by setting an alarm clock to remind you to get to bed, and try to avoid screen time at least two hours before bedtime.

Sports nutritionist Thomas Rothwell says: “Sleep should be spoken about in the same light as physical activity and nutrition when it comes to our health and wellbeing. To put this into perspective, poor sleep is associated with fat gain, diabetes, heart disease and reduced productivity and mental skills.” 

Get a quote for international health insurance with AXA

5. Mindful breathing

Photo: Kelvin Valerio/pexels.com

Adapting to life in a new country can be difficult. There’s so much to take in and at times this can be stressful. Mindful breathing is an easy and effective way to deal with stress and anxiety.

“The solution is to take time each day, say 10 minutes during your commute or with breakfast – to focus on your breathing. This will allow you to calm your mind and body from the daily grind, clearing your head to think differently,” says Eugene.

Looking after your health should always be a priority, especially when you’re adjusting to a new environment. Finding the right health insurance policy can put your mind at rest, making the whole process a little easier. To find out about AXA’s international health insurance visit their website today.

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and presented by AXA.

AXA Global Healthcare (EU) Limited. Registered in Ireland number 630468. Registered Office: Wolfe Tone House, Wolfe Tone Street, Dublin 1. AXA Global Healthcare (EU) Limited is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

AXA Global Healthcare (UK) Limited. Registered in England (No. 03039521). Registered Office: 20 Gracechurch Street, London, EC3V 0BG, United Kingdom. AXA Global Healthcare (UK) Limited is authorised and regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority.

 

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How long do you have to wait to see a doctor in France?

When it comes to making an appointment to see a doctor in France - even your GP - waiting times can be frustratingly long.

How long do you have to wait to see a doctor in France?

Back in 2000 a report by the World Health Organisation found France provided the “close to best overall healthcare” in the world.

But there is no doubt that it suffers from issues that mean patients don’t always have access to the healthcare they need.

How long patients have to wait is is one of those ‘how long is a piece of string’ questions, depending on a whole host of factors, notably where you live in France. As you’d expect, large urban centres attract more medics – but even these places are not immune from some serious healthcare issues.

According to data from international market research firm Ifop, more than 67% of French people have given up trying to make an appointment with their friendly neighbourhood doctor purely because of how long it takes to get an appointment.

The waiting time to consult a general practitioner varies between six to 11 days. It was only four days 10 years ago, according to the data.

The situation is not helped by the number of missed appointments. Le Parisien reported that an average of two appointments per doctor per day are missed. That may not sound much, but it amounts to 28million missed appointments annually – a workload the equivalent of 4,000 doctors.

At the same time, visits to hospitals’ emergency rooms are rising. Last year, 22million patients were treated by A&E doctors and nurses.

And, as more doctors retire, replacements are proving hard to come by. So-called “medical deserts” are a regular talking point in many rural areas of France – but residents in some areas of major cities are reportedly finding it increasingly difficult to register with a new médecin traitant when their long-standing family GP retires.

READ ALSO Medical deserts: Why one in three French towns do not have enough doctors

For an appointment with a specialist, expect to wait much longer. In France, you don’t need to see your GP before you make an appointment with a specialist medical professional, but most people do because it means the costs are more likely to be covered by state and “mutuelle” health insurance.

According to the Direction de la recherche, des études, de l’évaluation et des statistiques (DREES), getting an appointment to see an ophthalmologist involves an average wait of 190 days – more than six months. 

Dermatologist appointments can involve waits of between 60 and 126 days. As with other medical specialisms regional differences can be huge. In Paris, for example, the wait for an appointment with a dermatologist is at the lower end of the scale. But in rural areas where dermatologists are few and far between, it’s much longer.

Access to gynaecological care in France can also be difficult, taking between 44 and 93 days, or more than three months, to get a consultation, potentially critical time for anyone in need of cervical cancer screening, for example.

READ ALSO How France plans to transform its struggling health system

The wait for a cardiologist appointment in France, meanwhile, is in the average range of 50 to 104 days; a paediatrician’s consultation could involve waiting between 22 and 64 days; and a radiologists’ appointment ranges between 21 to 48 days.

Again these waiting times in big big urban centres like Paris or Lyon will likely be lower given the concentration of specialist doctors.

READ ALSO Have you fallen down the self-diagnosis rabbit hole?

The good news is that the ability to make doctors’ appointments online – especially specialist appointments – is starting to cut waiting times. But it’s clear France still has a long way to go. And those tens of millions of missed appointments are a major problem.

The Union Française pour une Médecine Libre group has called on politicians to allow doctors to penalise patients who do not turn up for their consultations, while online booking service Doctolib is working on a public awareness campaign to highlight the problem. 

Recently a meeting was organised with doctors’ unions and patients’ associations to discuss possible remedies, such as sending a warning email patients. But the portal is unwilling to deny those who repeatedly miss appointments access – “That would hinder universal access to care,” it warned.

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