Having a bad day?
Let’s admit it, relocation can often feel so overwhelming we just want it all to go away. With so much change and so much to organize, we are bound to have a bad day, a bad week, or even bad month, from time to time! Negative thoughts associated with change are completely natural and normal. Yet, if we have a better understanding of those negative thoughts and emotions and a few simple strategies to overcome them, our experience of relocation can feel very different.
Have you ever had a day where you started out planning to achieve a hundred different things, but actually find yourself achieving very little when nothing goes according to plan? Your head in a spin? You’re left feeling frustrated and upset?
When a simple thing feels like a huge challenge?
I certainly had these feelings when I first moved to Canada in 2014 with my husband and two sons (aged 3 and 1).
One such instance was when I spent an entire day with a sick child in tow being sent from store to store, trying to inquire in rusty French about a television booster. I was trying to get our British TV working on American voltage. It took me 3 days of hunting, and an entire city tour. I got there in the end, but not without feeling humiliated and exhausted in the process. I couldn’t believe it could be that difficult!
Another occasion I remember early on, was spending a day walking along the main street of central business district in Montreal, giving headhunters and businesses my CV. It was minus 24 outside and a full-on blizzard. I lost the feeling in my fingers and lost my way about five times! I felt useless and completely demoralized.
I certainly learnt a lot from those experiences, and many others like them.
It leads to inevitable negative thoughts
During these moments, it can be easy to feel disillusioned and alone, wondering why you ever signed up for this experience. Maybe you start feeling homesick and wondering why you aren’t back home with your friends or old colleagues doing the job you loved. Maybe you blame yourself and begin to question your own capability. You start getting the feeling that any other grass could be greener….I certainly felt like this, and more than once.
Believe it or not, this is normal but you can choose how to react
Through my experience I have realised having a bad day or even bad month is completely normal, and doesn’t mean it’s time to give up.
By thinking a little differently, catching myself when I have these negative thoughts, and reframing them in a positive way I have made things easier for myself.
Instead of feeling disillusioned and ready to catch the first plane home, I feel more positive and more equipped to embrace the change.
Want to know how I do it?
The first step is understanding when you are having unhelpful thoughts in the first place and knowing a bit more about them.
Psychologists often categorize negative emotions into 4 different thought types:
1. Feeling a bit irrational or over-reacting to a situation? Seeing everything as one way or another without a middle ground? This is called Black and White Thinking e.g. “I didn’t finish that job, that’s terrible!”.
2. Ever blamed yourself for something that went wrong, when really there are many other explanations. This is Personalising e.g. “My Partner seemed very angry today. It must be because they are mad at me”.
3. Ever felt like you can only see the negative side of a situation. This is called Filter Thinking e.g. “That was so difficult. I hate everything about being here”.
4. Ever been able to think only about the worst possible outcome of a situation. This is called Catastrophising e.g. “We are going to have a terrible time, because I didn’t manage to get it working”.
Once you have identified these negative thoughts, you can then apply a series of techniques to reduce their impact on your wellbeing. I’ve listed 6 of them in the infographic that I have created from my experience below:
6 tips to manage negative thoughts and emotions when relocating
A tool box for the future
From here, it is possible to turn any negative thoughts on their head into opportunity. We will, of course, continue to have bad days and even weeks or months from time to time. However, referencing a tool box of ways to react, can be very helpful.
And what’s even better is that you can call upon it in any aspect of life in the future.
Thanks to Katharine Baker for her guest blog.
Katharine is a Marketing Strategist who is currently living as an expat in Montreal, Canada. Passionate about helping companies and individuals communicate their strategic direction, she is interested in marketing capability development, flexible working approaches and the science and insights behind marketing decisions.
You can find her on LinkedIn or Twitter @bakerkatharine.