Updated: May 28, 2019
I have been waking up filled with excitement for the day, then as the day starts, I find myself staring out a window, playing a soundtrack made from emotional flashbacks in my mind for far longer than I should admit.
I want to adventure, but feel uninspired.
I want to move, but I don't know where to go.
I want to be around people, but it is easier to stay at home alone and be a hermit with my kitty.
I finally decide to be around people, but I am pretty dang broke and cannot justify spending money to do an activity or drink more alcohol than I need to.
So I end up back at square one. It turns into a cycle; day after day. This is my version of seasonal affective disorder or more commonly known as SAD or seasonal depression.
While I try to blame the lack of sunshine, I realized there are so many more factors at work. I want to address those and share inspiration to help you beat the winter blues!
First things first, when I see the sun shining, I feel happier. So what about when the sun goes away?
There are lots of things to do to help balance the lack of sun we get when the days get shorter and colder. There are the ever amazing sun lamps that we can get and do our indoor activities in front of while at home. Whether reading, watching tv, practicing a new skill, playing a video game, journaling or whatever you do in the privacy of your four walls, a sun lamp is a good way for your skin to get some well deserved rays--- without the sun! They sell a huge array of sunshine lamps on amazon, ranging from desktop to floor standing and priced anywhere from $30-100+. Check them out to find the one best for you!
Another good idea is to supplement with a good vitamin D pill. Despite the name, vitamin D is not actually considered a vitamin, but is actually a pro-hormone. Even though our bodies can create it, we run out of it quite fast. Most people, especially in the winter, run low and need external boosts to help the body maintain it's reserves.
Not sure if you should be concerned about vitamin D deficiency? Click here to check out this article and read more about it.
I feel lonely and want to interact, but don't know how. Staying home is easier--- and cheaper.
There are a few important factors to this statement.
The first being that the holidays take a lot out of us financially. Because doing free things outside are not an option for those in colder climates, it can feel overwhelming to spend money any time you want to go out. Even buying sleds to do a free activity can be a daunting purchase for some. Deciding to create a budget for holiday spending or even deciding to make gifts instead of purchasing can mean a world of difference to your wallet while also meaning the world to someone who receives it.
Another idea, create a crafts night, book club or free/cheap winter activity to keep you social and moving outside of your home space. Purchase some sleds and set up a Sunday fun day sledding date with friends followed by cocoa and dinner at a different person's house each week.
The second being that the holidays are great!... for those that have people to share it with. Couples, kids and family are amazing during the drearier times of year. So what if you do not have those around? Being new to an area, I can attest that having less intimately-bonded friends around me has resulted in more time at home on the phone with my close friends that are living, well, not so close to me at all. I take baths and spend hours on the phone. By the end, I feel connected while at the same time feeling sluggish and less connected to people around me.
A research study done by the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry with over 33,000 participants found that social isolation puts a large percentage of us at risk for mental health problems.
Some tricks to help: Search Facebook for events in your area (get dolled-up and take yourself out for a self-date! Who knows, you might make some great new friends...), donate your time helping people, whether it is at a food bank, a shelter, a hospital, an animal shelter, feeding birds or even a neighbor that could use help shoveling their sidewalk (or snowed-in car). Find someplace out of your home to watch your sports team play, the Olympics, a movie night or anything that allows you to be around people without having to interact if you don't feel comfortable to.
I have anxiety. Going out by myself, without having a plan, even having to travel to get someplace creates enough anxiety that staying home or going to a local bar is easier.
Anxiety is overwhelming and seems to take over my mind when I experience it. A few great techniques that have helped me? I know they seem difficult when you are in the middle of an attack or emotional lull, but working out, moving your body or even meditation help tremendously.
When winter hits, it is easy to curl up with a book and a warm drink or meal and stay in the comfort of our homes. But this does not help our bodies or minds in the long run. Even doing a non-routine amount of exercise on a daily basis is good for the body. Walk to work when you can, do a yoga or pilates session on YouTube when you can (I love these classes! Click here!), join a local gym, YMCA, swimming club, take a winter hike, go ice skating or sledding. The prices vary from a monthly financial/time commitment to a free or as-you-wish commitment.
If you are also looking at helping manage your anxiety and depression without much financial burden or medication, there is a great article by the John Hopkins University about meditation & relation to treating anxiety and depression. Click here to read it.
Practicing mindfulness meditation at least once a day can have free and amazing results for your body and mind.
The last part to look at in this statement is the over-consumption of alcohol on a day-to-day basis. While alcohol may help lubricate social interactions and seems to help you fall asleep easily at night, studies show that falling asleep with alcohol in your system may actually hinder your body from getting a high quality of rest. Not to mention those pesky hangovers you may get the next day....
Something to help? Buy one drink and nurse it as long as you can.
When you finish, make sure to drink a full glass of water before ordering another. Keep track of how many drinks you consume or even replace a drink or two with soda water, water with lemon (vitamin C boost for the immune system and digestion!) or even a soda if you want the sugary kick.
I want to make good food, but I don't have the energy to make it. Going to a local pub or fast food restaurant sounds easier, faster and yummy!
Most of us take on healthier habits during the summertime, from eating fresh fruits and vegetables, more salads, a higher intake of water and more general movement in our day-to-day lives. Then starting with Halloween, the change in weather and all the sugar-crazed foods, followed by the over-eating and fat-rich foods of the Thanksgiving holidays and finally leading into the Winter break/Christmas holidays with eggnog, alcohol and comfort foods... our habits take a turn for the worse.
All of these foods and beverages trigger the reward center of our brain and make us feel happy and comforted. While this is a great momentary fix, our bodies don't have the same reaction to it.
It is easy to develop addictions to these foods, especially during the winter season when healthy, fresh food is harder to readily come by and trekking to get it may not always be as easy as going to a nearby pub or restaurant.
"These foods are called hyperpalatables, and are sugary/fatty/salty food and beverage combinations which are typically refined or processed products," states Dr. Pamela Peeke, M.D., author of The Hunger Fix: The Three Stage Detox and Recovery Plan for Overeating and Food Addiction.
Taking the time to make sure that we intake proper nutrients throughout the day is super important. Even when you decide to go out, choose the salad or veggie/protein-rich meal instead of the fried appetizers and pizza. Make a shopping list and get some quick and easy recipe ideas for making food at home to enjoy or to take with you to work. Make a crock pot of soup to have ready for dinner as people get home or bring it to lunch with you. Check the links at the bottom for a couple of great, easy recipes chocked full of healthy proteins and nutrients.
Finally, the moral of the story.
Seasonal depression is not a one-factor emotional state. Everything we do for ourselves and our bodies affect us. Even if it seems like you cannot get out of the funk you are in, I assure you, you can. Give yourself a big hug, a good meal, take a breath, move your body and start working towards a happier you.
Did you try one of these recipes yourself? Post a photo and tag @allthingsastred!
Healthy recipes for inspiration? Yes, please! 50 Shades of Lassi (A probiotic drink for health & wellness) Quinoa Cakes & Gremolata Persian Split Pea Soup with Lamb/Mushroom Meatballs Brazilian Feijoada Mama's Lentil Soup Smoked Salmon - Vegan Style! Jambalaya with Honey Butter Cornbread Strawberry Pesto Ravioli Pan-Roasted Duck with a Creamy Dijon Sauce Ramen Made Easy