Posted on: February 5, 2019
Featured Expert: Katie Perricone, LCPC
We have unofficially reached the point in the year that many of us have forgotten about the New Year’s resolutions, or have become frustrated with them. Life certainly seems to find a way of getting in the way sometimes. Well, I want to send you some positive re-frames, insights, and hopefully some encouragement about this difficult time of year.
January was character building. The temperatures were colder here than in Antarctica. Some of us may be struggling with motivation and, dare I say it, the winter blues. Our winters here in the Midwest have a way of bringing out some really difficult-to-manage feelings of lethargy, stir-craziness, and sometimes utter defeat.
So, what can we do to make the winter blues a little more manageable? How can we make it through this one without experiencing the lows that so many Midwesterners may already be experiencing? For starters, remember if you are here, you are already one of the strong!
A Brief History of Humans
It was not too long ago that we did not have fancy houses with heating and air. Only a couple generations ago, we had to hunt and gather to survive. Biologically, we have not really changed since those days. We are created to be responsive to our environments. We have systems in place to help us listen, to help us survive.
Did you know that most people in the Midwest have vitamin D deficiency? We naturally gain this important vitamin when we are outdoors in natural light. Vitamin D supports our mood and energy levels. This deficiency can look and feel a lot like depression.
When we add the lack of natural light with a lack of fresh air to a lifestyle that leaves most of us in desks for the majority of the day, with the stresses of plugging along each day to meet deadlines, study, learn, make appointments, keep up with our work, and all the other hustle and bustle of daily living, when it is dark, gloomy and below freezing, the odds are not ever in our favor.
On the flip side, we experience an increase in energy and moods when our weather is better. This is because our bodies are designed to be in sync with nature in ways that help us endure the harsh conditions and maximize the benefits of the seasons. We feel down in the winter because we are supposed to be taking a break. We have less energy because we are not intended to maintain the same pace that the rest of the year requires.
Some Tips for Common Symptoms of Winter Blues
If you are experiencing…
Fatigue: First, try resting more! If at all possible, let your time to rest be a guilt free zone where you allow your expectations of yourself to match with your needs for self-care. Rest with acknowledgement that you are doing something healthy for yourself. Keeping yourself healthy is the most important thing you can do, because without your health, everything else becomes much harder. If you are worried about how tired you are, and rest only makes you want more rest, try giving yourself a little bit of summer by being more active, enjoying citrus, and by talking to your doctor about your vitamin D levels.
Irritability: You are likely uncomfortable and irritated by the unceasing demands of the world which are at a mismatched pace with our climate, our bodies, and our needs. Seek comfort in people, places and things that are good for you. This is where comfy pants, a warm beverage and a good book or movie, might be soothing. Yoga and meditation can be very helpful as well. Try reorganizing your living space. Remember, by design, we are sensitive to our environments, so the more comfortable we are in our spaces, the more likely we are to find internal calm.
Feeling Down: This could be your need for your people showing through. We are not meant to be alone, and social isolation holds a strong negative impact on our sense of well-being. A simple text or phone conversation with someone could really help with any underlying sense of loneliness that we may or may not be aware of. We can easily become socially isolated under these circumstances, so make it a priority to reach out to supportive people, even if it’s just to say hi. When possible, be with people in person for some authentic human interaction.
Take a Break
Problems occurs when we do not allow ourselves permission to take a step back and rest. We are at a higher risk for breaking: breaking our resolutions, breaking the promises we make to ourselves, breaking our health, and breaking down.
When we listen to our bodies telling us we are tired and in need of more rest, we can listen, rather than fight against it. There will be an end to this season, and it literally ends with sunshine and flowers. In the meantime, if we honor our bodies by listening, we are able to recognize that we are beautifully made in ways that can live harmoniously with nature. We do not need to fight against our nature, but rather, we can work with it and embrace it. If you are experiencing less energy, increased anxiety, irritability, this is your body’s way of communicating with you.
Words of encouragement
This is the segment where you send yourself some words of encouragement. This one is all you. The fact is, I can say some encouraging words to you, but you are the one that chooses to absorb them or to dismiss them. Since we can often get stuck in loops of negative thoughts, I suggest counteracting thoughts of doubt, worry, exhaustion, and “when will this winter ever end?!” with positive reminders that we are strong and courageous. Writing notes to yourself or printing up some of those meaningful inspiring quotes and placing them somewhere visible is a nice way to put positivity into the environment. This way, when you are in your space, you are reminded of the beauty you know to exist, despite the things we cannot control.
End with Gratitude
We have so much to be grateful for. By sealing each day in a practice of gratitude we can make even the doom and gloom start to sparkle.
Thanks for reading and be warm!