9 Tips for Battling the Winter Blues

Positively Present - Winter Blues

 

As winter arrives, I'm taken back in my mind to last year... Last winter, I was really down and out at the start of 2019. I spent so much time in bed, engaging in unhealthy coping methods, and generally just feeling rotten about myself and my life. While I don't know for sure if this was general depression or Season Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) -- I should have sought professional help, but I didn't -- I do know that it was pretty terrible to feel that way. 

Though I feel very differently now than I did then (not gonna lie -- 2019 turned itself around and turned out to be one of the best years I've had in a long time!), when I think back on last winter, my mind starts racing and all I can think about is how to prevent myself from falling back into that darkness again this year. So, of course, I decided to do some research on S.A.D. and learn about how I could prevent it, or, if it happens to strike again this year, how I can cope with it. 

Even if you don't have S.A.D. or depression, you might find yourself facing the winter blues. With colder temps and darker, shorter days, it's not surprising that many people struggle during this season. You can't always avoid feeling sad (or S.A.D.) altogether, but here are some of the tips I've discovered that I think would really help if you're struggling. 

 

  1. GET A LIGHT BOX

    I've never tried one of these so I can't vouch for their effectiveness, but from what I've read, it sounds like they can really help people who are suffering with S.A.D. Apparently there are many different types (as well as something called a "dawn simulator" that's used to wake you up in the morning) so be sure to do your research and figure out which one would be best for you. 

  2. VENTURE OUTDOORS

    The lack of light and shorter days can make it tough to go outside (especially if, like me, you're not an outdoorsy type to begin with), but if you're feeling down, making the effort to spend time in the fresh air can really help. Even just a quick walk around the block can help! (Or get a pup so you're forced to take them out and get some outdoor time in every day!)

  3. TRY THERAPY (CBT)

    While I can't personally verify that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works for S.A.D., I do know that it's worked for me in the past to deal with other mental health issues and it's the therapy type I saw recommended the most while looking up info on S.A.D. Seeking professional help is one of the best ways to find solutions for your specific needs, so I highly recommend it. 

  4. MAKE SOME ART

    Art therapy really does work, and I honestly don't know if I would have survived last winter without making art. I know art isn't everyone's thing, but if you're feeling down, give it a try. It doesn't have to be traditional art either -- try writing, pottery, drawing, painting, sewing. Anything creative that allows you to get in a flow for a bit can help. 

  5. CONSIDER MEDS

    To get through S.A.D. some people need the assistance of medication. If you're having a difficult time, talk to your doctor about what you're going through to see if there might be something that can work for you. (Whatever you do, don't attempt to self-medicate. It never works out and often makes things way worse than they were.)

  6. PRACTICE YOGA

    Yoga is another saving grace for me. I'm not particularly good at it and I generally do it for about 10-15 minutes every day, but even when I half-ass it and don't feel up for it, making the time to do it always makes me feel a bit better. (My favorite is Yoga with Adriene on YouTube but there are tons of yogis online!) Exercising also works wonders if yoga isn't your thing. 

  7. SEEK SUNLIGHT

    Open the blinds! Pull up the curtains! The lack of sunlight is one of the reasons for S.A.D. so the more of it you can allow into your home, the better. If you don't have a desk near a window, as your boss if there's somewhere else you can work temporarily to be near a sunny spot. Going outside isn't always an option, but take advantage of sunny days indoors by allowing the light in. 

  8. MAKE PLANS 

    When I'm feeling down, the last thing I want to do is be around people. But I've discovered that it's often what my mind needs when I'm sad. I don't enjoy going out in the cold, but I'm planning to make an effort to make lots of plans this winter so that I'm busy and socializing. It won't be easy, but I know it's helpful for me. 

  9. STICK TO A SCHEDULE

    With the lack of daylight, it's tempting to go to bed super early or sleep in (if you have the option), but I've read (and also believe) that sticking to a schedule is important for managing or preventing S.A.D. The body and mind love to be on schedules and it gives your life a sense of purpose that's important when you're feeling down. Your winter schedule can be different from your summer one, but just try to stick to it! 

 

Of course, there are many other options to explore and if you're really suffering during the winter, seeking professional help (whether in the form of therapy or from your doctor) is always a good idea. If you're feeling down (especially after the holiday season passes and it feels like a swift change in pace), know that you're not alone and that it's perfectly normal to experience down days in the winter. Try to remember that, even when it doesn't seem like it, the difficult darkness will pass. There will be a spring again (or something that makes it feel like spring to you). 

 

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36 Truths from 36 Years


Positively Present - Age Is

Today I turn 36! Age is just a number, they say, and the older I get, the more I realize the truth in that statement. With every year, I feel both changed and exactly the same. There are parts of me that will always be and there are parts that will shift over time. One thing I know for certain is that, the older I get, the less I know. I gain wisdom, yes, but I also gain the realization that so much of life is a mystery (and so much is uniquely experienced in ways that are difficult to put into words). 

This time of year always puts me in a state of reflection, and this year I've compiled a list of 36 things I've learned (some of them just this year!). I might not know everything, but after 36 years in this place, I've learned something. Like the quote above implies, with age I've figured out a lot about how the world works, but I'm willing to get out of the way of what I don't yet understand. Miriam Makeba also said, "Age is wisdom, if one has lived one's life properly. It is experience and knowledge." Many bemoan getting older, but I'm thankful for it. Knowledge and wisdom is so important to me and the more I live, the more I discover. Here are just a few of the things I know so far...

 

  1. You are who (and where) you're meant to be. All of the time.  
  2. Opening your mind leads to more connection and contentment. 
  3. Being good at something isn't necessary for it to be good for you. 
  4. There's nothing wrong with enjoying being alone a lot of the time. 
  5. Healing (physically and emotionally) can take longer than expected.
  6. The fewer expectations you have, the more you'll enjoy it. 
  7. Wanting something (or someone) can be better than having it. 
  8. Paying attention to how people make you feel will provide clarity. 
  9. Laughter isn't technically medicine, but it is a kind of healing magic.
  10. It's alright (and normal) to have mixed feelings about those you love.
  11. Knowing the why of your moods can help you work with them. 
  12. Gratitude journals sound cheesy, but they actually do something. 
  13. You're allowed to say "no" -- yes, even to people you love. 
  14. The longer you keep doing it, the more you're going to learn
  15. What you focus on the most is what you will find.
  16. To deal with differences, try to seek out similarities. 
  17. When it comes to anxiety, try acceptance over avoidance
  18. Give yourself credit for the positive choices you're making. 
  19. Your thoughts are tinted by tons of things; they're not facts. 
  20. People usually want to help, so don't be afraid to ask. 
  21. Happiness and positivity are not the same thing. 
  22. Things you dread are usually not as bad in reality.
  23. Look out for the gray areas; very little is black-or-white.
  24. Creativity and worry are connected (for better or worse!).
  25. Doing absolutely nothing isn't always a waste of time. 
  26. Choose the words that follow "I am..." carefully. 
  27. A lot can change in a very little amount of time. 
  28. You're not obligated to be now the person you were then. 
  29. Just because something hasn't happened doesn't mean it won't. 
  30. It's okay (and even good, sometimes!) to be uncomfortable. 
  31. What you love doesn't have to make sense to everyone. 
  32. Telling your story can be healing, but it's not required.
  33. How people act is almost always about them, not you
  34. Productivity isn't a personality; you aren't how much you do.
  35. You can (often) control who you allow into your life.
  36. The way you feel now isn't how you'll always feel. 

 

It's my hope that this list has given you some new knowledge or insights. It's funny to write it because I know someday I'll look back at my 36-year-old self and chuckle at how little I knew. (Yes, I do this with my 26-year-self now.) I'll read things I wrote a decade ago and cringe, thinking how little I knew about what was to come. But that's the cool thing about life: we don't know what's going to happen or what wisdom we'll gain along the way. So, for now, I'll just keep sharing what I know the best way I know how. Thanks for following along with me as I keep learning (and especially as I'm working on my next book, which I'm so thrilled about but which is causing the blog to take a bit of a backseat).

If you want to help me celebrate my 36 years on this planet, consider supporting my work on Patreon, purchasing from the print shop, (use code "august23" for 36% off 'til 8/25/19), or checking out some of my digital products here. I appreciate your support! 


6 Ways to Shake Things Up


Positively Present - Shake It Up

 

For months and months, it felt like a dark cloud was hanging over my head. I don't know if it was seasonal depression or regular depression or just part of my biological mental ups and downs, but, man, was it rough. I didn't feel like doing anything, and I didn't feel like I'd ever get out of that dark fog of what felt like nothingness.

But, over the past few weeks, there's been a shift. I've felt something start to change, the clouds start to part a bit, if you will. I don't know if the darkness is gone (I mean, is it ever?), but I do feel a lot better than I was feeling. In fact, the other day, I was driving and it just hit me: Wow, I don't feel terrifically sad right now, and that sad feeling feels a lot like a memory I can't quite recall. This is often how it is with me -- when things are good, it's hard to remember them ever being bad; when they're bad, I can't imagine it'll ever be good again. 

I was stopped at a red light, thinking about how different things seemed now than even a few weeks ago, I was so thankful that the darkness (whatever it was!) seemed to be passing. I've been, little by little, starting to feel like myself again, so I thought, why not shake things up a bit? I know, this might, to some, seem precisely the wrong time to shake anything up, but, after months of nothingness, of feeling perpetually blah, shaking things up feels like the exact right thing to do! 

I've been trying a few of these shake-things-up ideas, and I thought I'd share them with you in case, like me, you're at a point in your life when you need to switch things up a bit (but not in a change-career-paths, sell-all-your-stuff-and-move-to-the-beach kind of way!). 

 

GO SOMEWHERE YOU'VE NEVER BEEN

Even if it's just somewhere in your town, go to a new place! This is a pretty easy way to shake things up (but not too much!). Obviously, going on a grand vacation to new country or something would work too, but, if you're like me, and you don't like too much shake up, just checking out a new spot (a restaurant, shop, museum, park, etc.) can enliven your day just a little bit! 

 

SWITCH UP YOUR EVERYDAY ROUTINE

I tend to bring this tip up a lot here on Positively Present because I personally love my routines. They're just so comforting and, because they are so familiar, I don't have to think much about them, which frees my mind to think more about creating! But switching them up (even just a bit!) can add a nice little spice-of-life to the day. 

 

LOCK YOUR PHONE UP FOR 24 HOURS

This one I haven't yet tried, but it seems like quite a good way for heavy phone users (like me!) to shake things up. If I didn't look at my phone for 24 hours, my whole life would be so different. (To be honest, I don't even know if I could manage this, but it sure would be worth a try, if just to shake me out of my phone-clutching habits!)

 

GET RID OF WHAT YOU DON'T NEED

Most of us have a lot of stuff we don't really need, and I don't know about you, but I always feel so refreshed and satisfied when I go through my things and donate them to people who might actually use them. This might seem like a "shake it up" activity, but I really do feel exhilarated when I do it (organizing nerd alert!) so I count it as a way to shake things up. 

 

HAVE A SOLO SING + DANCE PARTY

Personally, I try to do this daily. It doesn't always happen, but every time I take time to sing and dance, I feel better. There's also all different kinds of music and vibes for a solo dance party so you can switch it up just by changing the tunes. It sounds silly, but singing and dancing really has an amazingly positive impact on my mental state!

 

SIT WITH ANY MOMENTS OF BOREDOM

Another one I've yet to try, but am very intrigued by: sitting with boredom. I generally don't get bored (and why should I, with all the tech and books and music and art at my disposal?!), but boredom can be useful and if it's not something you experience often, embracing it could be a interesting way to shake things up. Just sit with it and see what happens!

 

So there you have it! Six fairly easy ways to shake things up in your day-to-day life. If you're going through a dark period, give these a try (even though I know it's really, really hard to do) because they might just help. If you're in a sunny time in your life, also consider shaking things up. There's no easier time to do it than when you're feeling that sunshine-y mindset. Regardless of whether you try these ideas or not, I hope they've inspired you to think a bit about how you might want to shake things up in your life. You don't have to embark on some dramatic journey or aim to transform you life in order to shake things up a bit! 

 

 

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