Surviving the autumn-winter blues when you are living abroad

Published: Thursday 10th December 2020.
It is quite common to experience sadness, lack of energy and low mood during the winter months. Returning to work after a summer holiday maybe with your family and friends, evenings drawing in, temperatures dropping are all factors that can trigger your winter blues.

For a lot of us those changes are minor but for others they can be quite depressing and affect our moods. They can even be severe for some people, known then as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). According to the UK National Health Services 2 million people on average are affected every year.

Feeling down and depressed during the winter months can also affect you more if you are living abroad as you may feel a lack of support from friends and family or you may just be missing home.

There are a few activities that may help you combat these symptoms or feelings.

1. Look after yourself, exercise

Being active during the winter month is a great way to relieve the depression and stress symptoms you are feelings. Regular exercise helps producing endorphins which are the brain feel-good factor hormones. Exercise is also good for your health in general, keeping your heart healthy and reducing the risk of small illnesses.

Relaxing and taking care of yourself will also help with your mental well-being. Give your mind and your body 15 minutes a day to resource. Take a warm bath, listen to some music, or read a book. You can also meditate or wite a journal.

Download my self-care ideas list.

2. No-vember

It is maybe time for you to consider saying NO to those things that are dragging you down. Usually we are very much aware of the factual things that affect our body such as a high level of cholesterol, but we are very much less conscious of the task-based activities that consume our energy days after days.

You may wish to consider saying NO to working late, attending relentless meetings, checking your emails evenings and weekends.

You may wish to consider saying NO to downers, taking part in gossip conversations or being with people constantly complaining.

Say no to your children, being a servant in your own home!

3. Live in the present moment

In our current busy lives, there is always something coming up for which we need to prepare for. A presentation to prepare for the next meeting, a party to organise for a child’s birthday, the family holiday to research and book. Whilst those can be exciting things to do and live for if not balanced with the present moment, they will affect your present life.

When overwhelmed, thanks to all the technology we have access to, it is also as easy to get lost in the past. Looking at old family photos and videos for example.

All in all, without realising it we are often lost between the past and the future which can make you feel disconnected and worn out.

It is therefore especially important to remember to also live in the present moment. Easily said, not easily done.

Download my mini guide to help you live in the present moment.

4. Allow yourself some downtime

Even a beautiful rose becomes a stalk in winter. There will always be time where you will feel awful, tired, sad and not wanting to get out of bed or out of the house. You may only feel comfortable wearing your oversized knitted cardigan and sunglasses to hide the circle around your eyes. Others may look to you as if they just returned from a sunny holiday looking tanned and refreshed. But so be it, allow yourself to be as you feel and remember that a rose which turns into a stalk in winter, will also flourish again.

5. Gather with people

Dr Tara Brach the founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington always suggests looking for the helpers as they exist and will help you.

You may be tempted to hibernate, but this will not be good for your moral. Stay socially active as it is one of the best things to help with mental health. Talk or meet up with your friends, join some social clubs that will allow you to build relationships such as cooking classes. Invite people to your house for a cosy diner or even a movie night. And if you are not able to socialise physically you can join online virtual classes or communities. It is important to effectively distinguish when it is good to have “alone time” and when it is important to be around others.

6. Feed your mind

Like your body needs food, your mind needs to be fed too. There is nothing else more rewarding for your mind than a good book. And the food choice is large. You may fancy to read about the wonders of the world or some relaxing and cheerful rom-com. You may prefer some more real-life factual type of books. Whatever you fancy is accessible at the tip of your fingers with today’s technology so being via kindle or in a paper format there are plenty to enjoy.
Download my list of recommended books.

7. Winter is the new summer

Get out and enjoy winter. Everyone loves the summer. Hot days, long nights, barbecues! and the general impact that good weather can have on your well-being. But you can also reap lots of benefits and well-being from the autumn and winter months. DO not let a frosty morning stop you from wrapping up warm and going for a walk in the park. Go ut and take some photos of the beautiful autumn colours. Go sledging, build snowmen, throw snowballs. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that life stops in October and resumes in April.