I normally have a beautiful song in my heart, but lately, I've been singin' the Blues. This time of year in particular, so many struggle with depression and anxiety, making it incredibly difficult to get through the winter season. Christmas has passed, the new year has begun, and it doesn't feel like there's much left to celebrate. Though the holidays are often joyous and spirit-filled, it can feel like an incredible let down once the lights and decorations have been put away and the festivities have ended. Add in cold temperatures and mostly grey skies for months on end, and you'll inevitably wind up with the perfect lyrics to create your own version of the Blues.
I have been struggling ever since Christmas ended. I was so overly stressed and busy during the holidays that now that everything has dimmed and I have a moment to think, thinking is the last thing I want to do. I have space to breathe, a little wiggle room in my schedule, and lots of opportunity to set goals for the new year, and I just don't want to do any of it. I have my own personal reasons for feeling depressed, and I fight those on a daily basis, year round. I also suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, which leaves me feeling drained from the start of winter to the first hint of spring.
I have noticed that my spirits have dropped and I have even had a hard time getting out of bed most mornings. If I don't make an effort to do something about it, I know that it will only get worse from here. I don't want to be an unmotivated couch potato for the next two months. I have responsibilities, and have a beautiful family to care for. When I woke up this morning, I decided that this has to end, and my coping methods need to be replaced with healthy alternatives that will help me get my mojo back. I'm taking small steps that will make gradually make a difference and help me make it through the remainder of the winter season. These are simple things that anyone can do and I promise- they will help!
10 Easy Ways to Beat the Winter Blues
Don't Hit the Snooze Button
This one might be a hard habit to break. It's cold out, and you're snuggled up, nice and cozy in your warm bed. The alarm goes off at 5:30 am, and you hit the snooze. Five more minutes in bed turns into forty-five, and you've missed your window for a time of productivity first thing in the morning. Stay true to your alarm. Get up, get out of bed, and take that first little part of the day to be productive. Have a quiet cup of coffee or tea, check your email, go to the gym, or whatever it is that you do first thing in the morning. Enjoy the time you have before the craziness of the day sets in.
Cut Out Alcohol
So, this one may or may not be difficult for you. I have come to enjoy a glass of wine in the evenings. I find that it's a great way to relax. During the holidays, I found myself counting the minutes to 'wine time.' It became a crutch and way for me to deal with stress. I've seen the way alcohol has negatively affected members of my own family when used to escape or even dull the pain of everyday life. It's not a road I want to go down. An occasional drink is one thing, but if you're downing a glass or two a night, you might need to step back and ask yourself why you're doing it. Alcohol will only make depression worse, not to mention contribute to unwanted weight gain.
Take a Hot Bath
Seems like an easy thing to do, right? For me, it's easier said than done. My last spa type bath experience was over a year ago. I just don't make relaxing a priority, but it's something I need to make time for. So go ahead- draw a nice bath, light some candles, add some lovely bath salts, essential oils, and take a nice long soak to de-stress. It'll also help warm up those cold bones!
Get Out of the House
I work at home. It's an incredible blessing to be able to do so, but sometimes, my home feels like a prison. Being trapped inside for weeks can lead to depression and resentment. Getting out of the house for even just a few minutes a day can make a big difference in one's life. Meet a friend for coffee, go run an errand, or do a little window shopping. If you're obsessed with Target (like I am), stroll down the aisles while enjoying your favorite Starbucks beverage (I know I'm not the only one who just has to drop a few dollars at the 'Bucks before I shop). Make a point to get out and get moving.
Eat 3 Meals a Day and Add in Healthy Snacks
I'm definitely sporting an unwanted accessory these days- holiday weight gain! I'm mad at myself for letting the busyness of the season get the better of me. I fell off the exercise wagon, indulged in far too many treats, and let countless carbs sneak their way back into my diet. This month, I am getting back to meal planning, and making sure that I am eating three regular meals a day. Skipping meals is a no-no. Make the meals healthy and make them count. Don't forget to add in healthy snacks- proteins, veggies, healthy fats are great choices for snacks that will leave you satisfied and even help you slim down.
This is one of the most important things you can do to combat depression. I know that depression can make you feel like you can't get up, like you can't make your body do anything. Say to yourself that you are going to get moving. Squeeze in a 30 minute walk each day. Try something new. Join a gym, walk with a friend, use in-home work out resources available through streaming. Exercise will release Endorphins, which will elevate your mood, and ultimately make you feel better while your body receives multiple health benefits.
Don't Withdraw from Responsibilities
Stay active in your volunteer roles, or if you don't have a volunteer role, find one that matches your interests, skills or desires. Have a heart for helping others? Consider becoming a mentor or tutor. Love kiddos? Consider volunteering in your child's classroom, or at their school. Contact your church and ask how you can get involved. Don't shrink away from the areas you're currently involved in- get out there and use your time to help and bless others.
This one is so hard for me. I am a people-pleaser. To ever have anyone be disappointed in me in any way would leave me feeling incredibly upset and guilty. My friends, this is a learned behavior and personality trait. I come by it honestly, but am learning from my dear husband that it is simply impossible for me to do everything. Do you ever notice that the same people seem to get asked to serve on committees and such over and over again? That's because they're the doers, and they don't generally say no. Constantly saying 'yes' will eventually lead to burn-out. There ARE other people who can help out and who are perfectly capable of taking on a role you have been asked to play. You cannot let guilt rule your life. If you're asked to fulfill a role that you don't want to serve in, or just can't make the time for, be honest. Offer up suggestions as to who else might be a good fit, and then let the whole thing go. It's not your responsibility or obligation to make it work.
Listen to Music
Listening to new music can lift your spirits and increase productivity. Don't fall into the trap of listening to music that you know triggers grief, resentment, sadness or like feelings. Search for a new band or artist that makes you feel happy when you hear their music, and add them to your playlist. Create an energizing playlist that makes you think of sunshine rather than 'Rainy Day and Mondays,' (though I do love The Carpenters!).
Clear Out the Clutter
It's a new year, so this is the perfect time to de-clutter, get organized, and make a fresh start. Go through closets and drawers of your home and ditch anything you haven't used or worn in the past year. If you're holding onto toys or baby items for future kiddos or family members, box it up, label it, and store it in a dry place until you need it. Doing a clean sweep in your home will make you feel refreshed! You can even change out a few simple things like linens, textiles such as area rugs and curtains, and give your space a little new year makeover.
My last tip- and this is a bonus tip, is to write. Even if you feel like you're not a writer, or have trouble putting your thoughts down on paper, start writing. Keep a little journal that you can use to jot down ideas. Write about your day. Keep a diary of hopes, dreams, goals, and project ideas. Make some family plans. Getting negative thoughts out of your head is a healthy step in the right direction. Even if you never dare to share your words with another soul, you'll have shared it in a personal way which will lift that heavy burden you've been holding onto. Write it down and let it go.
I hope that you'll make the time to follow some of these tips. These are simple things that I do to help ease the pain that sometimes sets in during the dreary winter season. They work for me, though I am not a doctor, so please, please never shy away from seeking professional help or medical assistance if you feel that you need it. Friends, I have been there and done that, and it's one of the best things I have ever done for myself and my family. There's absolutely no shame in it. Your life is precious. You have a purpose, and my prayer is that you will be healthy in body, mind, and spirit this year, and always.
I do wish the very best for you!
From my heart to yours...