Winter Blues Survival Guide

depressedCold temperatures, short days, a higher than necessary cloudy to sunny day ratio, being cooped up indoors….it’s no surprise that so many people suffer from the winter time blues.  One important thing to keep in mind on days you’re feeling down – what you’re feeling is totally normal.  When you allow yourself to think “something is wrong with you” or start hounding yourself as to why you just can’t “snap out of it”, you’re creating a shame bubble and once there, it’s hard to return to a place of peace and calm.  On down days, it’s so important to tune into yourself and meet your feelings where they are.  From that space, and that space only, you can get through it and even learn from it.  Are there possible triggers or things that make certain days harder?  Does it feel worse at certain time of the day?

If you know this is something you deal with (I know I’ve struggled with it in the past and it still sneaks up on me sometimes), the best thing you can do is to have a few precautionary measures in place to ensure you don’t get in “too deep”.  Through my years of muddling through this myself and researching the best ways to combat it, I’ve come up with a  few that work for me that I hope will work for you as well or at least give you some ideas of things you can incorporate into your own life…

1.  Turn up the dial on self-care.  While self-care is always important and something I love working on with my clients – it becomes even more important when you are struggling with feeling down and out, sad or like you’re in a fog.  This is the best time to plan some extra “you time” into your week.  What would make you feel relaxed and refreshed?  This can and will look different for everyone, but some great ideas are getting a massage, taking a bath or hot shower, cooking yourself a gourmet meal, cozying up with a good book and a cup of tea or coffee, one on one time with your bestie, an evening full of sweatpants, the couch time and your favorite movie.  Anything that will help you feel re-conneceted to your body and yourself and preferably take your mind off of “feeling down” will work.  The key here is planning it and allowing yourself to do it…guilt free!

2.  Stick to a routine.  One of the biggest tell-tale signs of being in a slightly depressed state is that finding the motivation to do things seems to be nearly impossible.  One way to combat that is to create a routine and then stick to it.  Instead of leaving things you need/want to get done (i.e. getting a workout in) to “later today” actually schedule it into your calendar.  Set your alarm for the same time every day and have a plan for your morning.  Routines make the procrastination and lack of motivation less powerful.  This way you aren’t relying on ‘willpower’ and “if I feel up to it at the time” to dictate what you do and don’t get done.  Chances are, the more things you get done that are on your mind, the better you will feel about yourself at the end of the day.

3.  Ask for help.  The worst thing you can do when you are feeling depressed is to internalize it all and seclude yourself.  As hard as it may be in the moment, reaching out to a friend, family member or even therapist will do nothing but make what you’re feeling feel less paralyzing and overwhelming.  It’s amazing how strong the healing power of community can be.  Just the act of opening up and sharing your struggles, the thoughts that have been running around in your head, fears that are creeping up or anything else that has been plaguing your mind can leave you feeling like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders.  A common fear I hear in my coaching is that they don’t want to burden the other person.  But here’s the thing, if it’s some one you respect and trust, chances are they respect and care for you just as much (if not more) and would love to listen to you and help in any way they could.  If this is something you continuously struggle with, have one of these people be your “safety net” – the person you can call when you feel it coming on who will help you through…I promise, it’s more than worth it!

4.  Be extra cautious with caffeine and sugar.  While I firmly believe in balance and moderation when it comes to diet, this is one instance where you may want to be extra cognizant of how much caffeine and sugar you are allowing into your diet.  Both are stimulants which mean that when they wear off you experience a “crash”.  Now during the summer or other times of the year when you are feeling positive and peppy, this may not cause too much turmoil.  However, when you are fighting negativity and feeling down, steering clear of anything that is going to cause even the slightest of mood swings can be a game changer in keeping your mood stable.  Try switching to decaf or half-caf to start and see how that works for you…

5.  Focus on nutrients.  Bottom line, the food you eat is directly being used to fuel your body.  Your body derives energy from nutrients, so when you are feeling energy-less and depressed….step up the nutrient density of your meals!  I understand that it’s when you are feeling down and lethargic that you will crave sugar and caffeine and cheap carbs and it can be hard to go the “healthy” route.  So don’t overwhelm yourself with focusing on cutting things out and making extravagant meals.  Instead, focus on what you can add IN to every meal and snack you eat.  Can you add a serving of vegetables into your morning scrambled eggs?  Throw some chia seeds and nuts in your morning yogurt or oatmeal, top your salad at lunch with some hemp seeds, throw mushrooms (great source of Vitamin D) into your soups or stews or chili’s, bring fresh berries (loaded with antioxidants) to go along with your afternoon snack, etc.  The trick here is to provide your body with powerhouse nutrients that help stabilize your blood sugar, therefore mood.

There you go.  5 simple enough tricks and tips for battling through the winter blues.  Is this something you struggle with?  If so, what are some tips you have for combating it?  Share below!

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