7 Ways To Fight The Winter Blues
I have a good friend who calls the month of January, “the armpit of the year”. If that’s not true, I’m not sure what is! Depending on where you live, the experience might be a bit different for you. In general people who live in the northern countries, or the countries north of the equator, feel the impact of the darker and colder months. I have struggled with clinical depression and anxiety my whole life, so this time of year is like a dark abyss of no return sunnier days. Every day, during the dark and dreary months, I wake up and look outside my window and I know, that I have to put on my shield and armor to fight the dreary feelings of Winter Blues. But experiencing challenging symptoms and feeling Blue can happen anytime of the year. Today I want to address the feelings that are associated with Winter Blues, which effects millions of people every year.
What is Winter Blues?
Winter blues is a milder form(not a diagnosis) of SAD (Seasonal affective disorder or Seasonal Depression). Shorter days and less light can have a great impact on a person’s overall mood. I get cranky and anxious. I love being in my garden and in the sun. So for me, January is the dreaded month when all the holiday parties are over, and most people are hibernating in their homes (and recovering financially). Each person’s definition vary on where Winter Blues crosses over to SAD. You have to be mindful and understand your own patterns. Don’t brush off severe symptoms as mere Winter Blues. Make sure you talk to a friend or a professional care giver about your feelings, if they start interfering with your daily life. Personally I go thru the same patterns each year during the winter months. I feel sluggish, have less energy and struggle with my sleep. Feelings of sad and lonely can appear too for no apparent reason.
Fight The Dragon
So whether you are experiencing milder or more severe form of Winter Blues, each day can seem like you are fighting this giant ugly dragon. Do not let yourself get defeated. There are tools and tricks to beat that miserable beast. Some of these ideas are actually scientifically proven to help with the fight. Other tips are more of my own. If you search or ask around there are multiple of other great ways that can help. With time I have learned what works best for me and helps me feel more empowered, when the dragon spits fire at me. Each day, even when the sun has not shone for days (oh boy!, ever lived in the Scandinavian countries?), remember, “No Matter How Dark The Sky Seems, The Sun Will Always Shine Again” -Katrina Mayer.
We all know the the benefits of light, but when natural light is not available, that’s when I pull out my candles and allow myself a moment of “mysig”.
These are my 7 suggestions…
*Be the Sunshine
How can I be the sunshine, when I don’t feel like it? I have discovered that one of the best ways to beat any form of blues is to get up, get out and help someone. Be another person’s sunshine. Helping a fellow friend or neighbor can give a great sense of joy and satisfaction. As we place our focus outward, energy starts flowing and not only does this help the receiver, but it becomes a powerful tool for ourselves with fighting that dragon. Sometimes just a great big smile can act as the biggest sunshine in someone else’s life.
*Surround Yourself With Flowers
This is my favorite!! If you can’t be in your garden, then bring the beautiful things from your garden indoors. There has been countless studies done on the emotional benefits that flowers and greenery have on human brain. Flowers alone make people happy. I know for some, plants and flowers can seem too demanding and take too much of their time. But the benefits outperform the little bit of care we have to give them. Flowers can improve our mood and help combat anxiety. There was a study done in Newcastle at the Northumbria University about the benefits of Rosemary. It was amazing to see how it improved the memory of the volunteers who took the test. The benefits of these beauties are numerous, and not just for women but for men as well (I seriously need to be writing a separate piece about this). I need to stop writing and just go and pick some flowers up from my local shop.
*Change Up Your Diet
If you think that Summer is the only time to eat lots of salads, then think again. If there were a time that would be more crucial to get colors and variety of greens in us, it would be during the Winter months. One of the biggest challenge with mood swings is our diet. Specifically our choice of diet. Recent study shows that Mediterranean diet can help with symptoms of depression (major at that). So, I can only draw the conclusion that it would help with the Winter Blues. I love making a giant colorful salad and just taking a minute to soak up all the sunshine that those veggies radiate. I now I sound a bit weird, but you won’t know until you try it. Drizzle some olive oil on your salad, (instead of the heavy creamy stuff) and you’ll start gradually noticing the impact is has on your mood. Olive oil is full of beneficial healthy omega-6 and 3 fats that are vital for our brain health. Eat foods that are high in fiber and good fats, such as nuts. Avoid heavy greasy foods that will make you feel even more sluggish and slow.
I am NOT talking about social media connection, I am talking about human face-to-face connection. I realize not everyone is social and outgoing. But whether we are introverts or extroverts, we all need human connection. Be the one to instigate a game night with some friends. Go out for a lunch (choose your meal wisely 😉 ) with a friend or family member who might need an extra “pick me upper”. If you are snowed in, then get your phone and call someone. Don’t just text, but actually call. In this world of technology we sometimes forget the benefits of actual human interaction.
*Work On A Project
My kids seriously get tired of hearing me say, “I need a project!” Yet my office desk is piled with work and things to do. What I need is a project that is out of the everyday things to do. It could be any DYI project like new fresh coat of paint in any room, or even the baseboard on the floor that has been beaten up with years of kids playing. My wish list never ends. There are some great ideas out there on specific small projects that work great during the Winter months. If all else fails, you can create your own herbal tea blends for a cozy cold nights.
This one may be not your traditional way, but using essential oils to boost your mood actually has shown to work wonders. I usually drop few drops of peppermint in my diffuser and allow my office to fill its benefits. Peppermint may be calming but it also helps with energy and helps with brain power. Frankincense is another essential oil that has proven to help with emotional well-being. But of course lavender is my favorite. Everything is lavender scented at my house. I have bunches of dried lavenders in my bathrooms, I use natural lavender soaps and lotions. I even use natural lavender lip balm. Some say that lavender induces sleep, for me it acts as calming and that’s precisely what I need when I get anxious about things I can’t control, like the weather.
Music is the very medicine for the soul. My own twin sister has studied the benefits of music for years (she knows her stuff!). In her studies she has found not only the benefits of actual singing or playing an instrument, but also the major impact positive music can have on our minds and our cognitive behavior. According to the American Music Therapy Association, music can have a great impact on managing stress and pain. Which makes music a great tool for me, both from the physical and mental health care perspective. Kick your shoes off and be a child again. Gotta love the music from the 80’s!
Find What Works Best For You
At the end of the day, each one of us have to find what works best for us. There are many other great suggestions out there, like my friend Melissa, who finds that making a list helps her, she says “Making a list of what you plan to do over the course of the day, week or even the next year is a great way to fill your mind with the anticipation of what is to come”. As for me , if there is no sunshine and the “dragon” is knocking on my door, I usually place flowers around my house, fill my diffuser with some essential oils, I make a bright salad, light my candles and dance (Yes! – by myself) the “Blues” away. I’ve learned, taking the first step to change is the hardest, the dancing part is the easiest.