Getting out of the November Blues – Six Quick Tips to Deal with Negative Emotions this Season

I’m sure you have noticed the arrival of fall by now – the avalanche of brilliant red-golden leaves falling off trees, the shortening of precious daylight hours and the sudden briskness in the breeze.

While the beauty of a European fall is unparalleled, for some people the shorter days and cold weather heralds a period of demotivation and negative feelings. For me it is the “Zurich fog” in November that can get to me. 

Considering the current situation of Covid-19 and the consequent loss of freedom, the thought of November could be overwhelming. So I have thought about ways to make November bearable for all of us.

Dealing with feelings of loneliness is doubly tough when you are an expat who just arrived here. However, even international people who have lived here for years sometimes miss close friends in this city.

Feeling lonely, sad and unproductive can affect not just your work performance, but your everyday life too. So today, I’d like to talk about ways in which we can keep ourselves inspired and motivated through November and the impending winter months, especially if we don’t have a family here.

1 – Plan and stick to an exercise routine and meal plan

A productive routine is key to keeping your mind crisp, and exercise keeps both your mind and body in tip-top shape – combine the two and you have a recipe for staying motivated in the coming seasons! 

Exercise for most people means a trip to the gym. Don’t worry if you are one of those who cringe at the thought of indoor gyms. Instead, you can take advantage of the wonderful sights and sounds that fall affords us and take up cycling or jogging. The double endorphin release of exercise and beautiful scenery is a great way to stay positive and inspired about your daily life.

Note, though, that it is important to strike the right balance with the rest of your routine. Most people enter exercise with a lot of passion and overdo it, which kills motivation very quickly. 

Start slow, perhaps with a 25 minute walk on two or three days a week and try to follow the schedule. That is more important than straining your body too much.

You should also develop a meal plan for every day which includes a lot of fresh vegetables and greens. Make sure you include lemons, apples and other Vitamin-C deliverers.

2 – Improve your Sleep Cycle

Another critical component of improving your health is to fix and improve your sleep regimen. In today’s always-on era, we are all guilty, to a certain extent, or taking actions that poorly affect the quality of our sleep. So here is a short primer on how to get better, more refreshing sleep daily: 

Take your mobile devices to bed. Give them a place in your home outside of your bedroom where you place them by 9 pm. After you’ve put your phone to bed, don’t touch it anymore. Use the “sleep” mode to block incoming messages. Turn off the buzzers.

Stop using all electronic devices two hours before you want to sleep. Studies show that the light emitted by screens can interfere with the body’s natural sleep-wake rhythms. Instead, consider going to bed with a novel or other light reading (again, not on devices). 

Practice relaxation techniques such as PMR. Progressive Muscle Relaxation is especially beneficial for reducing muscle tension caused by psychological stress and has a proven rejuvenating effect if practiced regularly. 

Get up at the same time every morning. This loops back to the discussion on how routine-building is beneficial to physical and mental health. 

3 – Don’t fall into the trap of worry

Worry is a feeling or a state of being anxious and troubled over potential problems. Worry is a type of futuristic thinking about events in a way that leaves you anxious and apprehensive. The back and forth around integrating into and adapting with a new culture as an expat can be inundating. From experiencing culture shock to trying to create a new professional network and then to the thought of being cautious not to catch Coronavirus. The most appealing response to this type of situation is obviously “Worry”. 

Ironically, what we worry about most times often does not happen. Worry is just a mental clutter that incapacitates you from taking any meaningful step and doing anything worthwhile. It blocks your brain from being productive. 

Hence, try not to fall into that trap! You may want to ask how. Let’s see.

Be present. Whilst it is good to be futuristic in one’s approach, do not allow the thought of tomorrow still the joy of today away from you.

Read a book. It is proven that reading helps reduce stress and anxiety. Simply by opening a book, you allow yourself to be invited into a literary world that distracts you from your daily stressors.

Ask for help. As simply as this sounds, it is a proven means of easing tension and offloading burdens. Asking for help from the right person is not a sign of weakness. It is, in fact, a sign of how strong you have been. 

4 – Learn a Creative Skill

An unforeseen consequence of expatriation is just how much every aspect of it takes over your life – from the learning curve of the new job to the transactional tasks of integrating into a new culture (send an email to angela@globalpeopletransitions.com to get the excel version of the checklist) and country. By the end of the day you may find yourself with no time left for your own growth.

In the scenario described above, it can be tough to carve out regular time for developing creative skills that interest you, especially if you don’t have an accountability buddy or coach to keep you motivated.

How does one find inspiration? I find that duplicating, or being a part of what the creative community does every fall is an excellent way to both build new relationships and spend time on yourself. You could participate in National Novel Writing Month (NoNoWriMo) where large swathes of communities online and offline get together to create and explore their artistic sides daily for the duration of that month. We have our very own Zurich writer’s community supporting you with the Woolf.

If such creative endeavours appeal to you, definitely pursue them! Otherwise, you can utilize the same template for whatever skill you are looking to develop. Devote a fixed amount of time daily where, distraction free, you engage in a certain skill-building activity. As with the previous suggestion on exercise, routine and regularity is key! 

This is the reason why I encourage you to write those 25 minutes practices into your RockMeApp and tick them off at the end of the week. A good practice would be: “On 5 days out of 7, I’m writing my long-hand diary 25 minutes a day to develop a writing routine”.

5 – Join a Special Interest Group such as our Theatre Nights

Last year we started a special interest group for going to the theatre since the Schauspielhaus Zurich introduced English-speaking surtitles. This is an example of a group you could join. Search on Meet-Up for anything you are interested in and I am sure you will find it. 

6 – Support and Help as a Volunteer

I recommend that if you are feeling a bit low in November that you find a group where you can help out as a volunteer. Helping others for the sake of being a good human being and without an agenda behind it usually raises your energy level. You can limit it to 3 hours a week so you don’t burn out but try if this works for you. If you have no idea how to volunteer contact us. We have an overview of associations and we also can recommend contacts for you. Also, we have four requests for volunteers that we shared in our Global People Club Facebook Group.

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