Hello friends! I hope 2022 is treating you right. I’m hearing from a lot of you that you’re feeling down, a little more so than usual, and having trouble pulling out of it. I want you to know you’re not alone.
There’s research that finds this is actually the most depressing time of the year, specifically Monday of this week. Dr. Cliff Arnall examined a number of different factors including: the weather, post-holiday debt, time since Christmas, failing New Year’s resolutions, low motivation, and lack of decisive action. Do any of those factors sound familiar? Add to that combo yet another pandemic surge and it’s a pretty good recipe for the blues. So what can you do?
I promised I would keep these posts short, so I’m going to get right to one of my strategies for coping with the winter blues, or feeling overwhelmed in any season, really. I have some others I’ll be sharing on social media and in future blogs, so be sure to follow me and check back here for more.
STRATEGY: STOP FIGHTING. So many clients tell me they’re “fighting off” the winter blues. Fighting is exhausting. You’re already fatigued. Putting up a good fight to push through sounds noble, but it just means you’re expending a lot of energy pushing away your feelings. Turn off the TV, your computer, put away your phone, and sit still in a quiet place. (Maybe even lie down, or treat yourself and light a candle, it’s entirely optional, just a suggestion.)
Most people fight the unknown. Things we fear often appear larger than they really are. What if you stop fighting and ask yourself what you’re feeling? And what if you give yourself permission to think about those things, without judgement, without noise, without trying to shut them out? You might find that they’re not so scary. (Or they might scare the hell out of you, which is also a good thing to know, it just means you might want to reach out to a professional to help support you as you process things.)
Once you’ve made a list of these things you now know (in your head or on paper) you can ask yourself two questions about each thing on the list. First: is it rational or irrational? Second: is it something I can solve, or something I have to accept? By the time you’ve made your way through the list, the answers to these questions will give you some clarity, a plan of action, and maybe even a sense of calm.
If you have symptoms of clinical depression that impede your ability to function on a daily basis, you’ll want to reach out to a professional for medical advice. This blog post is not in any way intended to be medical advice. And if you or someone you know is in distress or having thoughts about harming yourself and you can’t reach a medical professional, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text Crisis Text Line (HELLO to 741741). Things may feel unbearable in the moment, but there are professionals who can help you get through that moment and make a plan to get the help you need.
Seasonal Affective DIsorder (SAD) is also something to discuss with your doctor. It’s a type of depression that is cyclical, beginning in the fall and subsiding in the spring. It effects your mood, thinking, and behaviors for about four to five months in the winter. About 5% of Americans experience symptoms severe enough to warrant a medical diagnosis.
But Dr. Norman Rosenthal, a pioneer in the research on SAD found that an additional 15% of Americans suffer with what’s called the “subsyndromal” form of SAD, which means roughly 1 in 5 people struggle during an average winter. Factor in pandemic fatigue and there are a lot of people dealing with the “winter blues” right now.
Yes, there are some basic things we can all do to improve our mental and physical health. Drinking enough water, shutting down the screens, getting enough sleep, moving your body for 30 minutes everyday. Those are the basics. And there will be days when you don’t drink enough water, don’t put down the phone, don’t get enough sleep, and don’t get off the couch to go to the gym or for a walk/run/ride. No one is perfect, but we can choose to do better. One glass of water at a time.
I hope this is helpful. If you try the strategy I shared, be sure to reach out and let me know how it goes. And remember, we’re only nine weeks away from spring! Hang in there, and take good care. Xo, Meg