Learning to love winter and conquering seasonal depression
March 2, 2017
Each fall, as the winter weeks approach I find myself dragging my leather boots on the autumn leaves like a 4-year-old dreading the approaching snowy Utah winter. If you live in a seasonal place maybe you can relate to going through emotional changes as each season passes. For me, winter is the WORST. I don’t mean to sound like a negative nancy but If I’m being real with myself the fight against seasonal depression is REAL. Luckily, this year it wasn’t as intense as it has been in the past. I was able to reflect on the habits that I have created during the winter time that aid in brain fog and lack of motivation. I found that the best way to beat the approaching sadness was to embrace the fact that it was coming and try my best to be conscious of what causes this pattern, other than the obvious annoying below freezing temperatures. My personal vendetta is to find the healthiest way to deal with it so that I actually look forward to winter instead of dreading it.
This was something that I realized was a primary cause to my lethargic nature and foggy brain. For me, when the holidays approach it gives me an excuse to eat unconsciously. Seeing food as fuel helps me to maintain healthy eating habits most of the time, and the holidays are my weakness. Around this time I find myself pigging out and saying “Oh well it’s the holidays!” the problem with this is my body usually isn’t used to the consistent unhealthy foods so how I feel is greatly affected. On top of this, in the winter I tend to eat more because of the cold temperatures. I often have to remind myself I’m not a bear stocking up for winter. Cold foods are super unappealing to me during this time. I would say, I don’t eat very many salads or smoothies for a good 2- 3 months. In the summer that happens to be where I pack in the nutrients in my diet. Next winter I will be more conscious of this unhealthy habit too and find high energy foods that I can warm up and enjoy!
This one was a challenge for me to acknowledge this year. In the summer I’m the type of girl that is always planning my next adventure. I love to be outdoors and in tune with Nature. When I don’t get that grounding feeling I get from being surrounded by nature this can get me down. I didn’t realize this until I took some time this year to go out in nature despite my negative feelings towards the cold and snow. I chose to appreciate the beauty that the snow gave to the tree’s that I love to admire in the summer time. I was still able to find a few hikes in my area, put on my snow boots and wait for the littlest bit of sunshine.
Not going out with my friends consistently can give rise to my loneliness as well. In the summer the days are long and the sun is bright. When your days don’t feel as long I find it’s hard to go out all day because once you get off work/school it’s dark and your day nearly feels like it’s over. My advice, don’t let this stop you. MAKE PLANS! Here’s the deal, if no one wants to make plans take this as an opportunity to create some new hobbies. There is always something to do that will boost your mood. I took up art this year. I know that is a broad hobby but every time I was feeling low on energy I found some way to get creative and get a positive energy flowing. If you don’t have experience tapping into your creative side take a trip to your nearest craft store and see what inspires you! Another great way to do this is download “Groupon.” I find they always have some type of paint, cooking, pottery class in your local area to offer!
This one can go along with your eating and is an overall common downside to season depression. I want to start this off with the biggest mistake that you can make is drowning yourself in caffeine to lift your energy levels. I did this all winter and I found myself going to bed earlier and earlier each day. It’s not bad to go to bed early but when you wake up your body is craving the caffeine and the cycle continues. This winter was a big wake up call for me (literally) when it came to caffeine and my unhealthy relationship with it. I would consider myself a pretty motivated person but caffeine gives me that little extra boost to go through the day. The problem for me was not understanding that I seriously needed some moderation. With coffee, it wasn’t just me going for more caffeine I love the taste of it and the warmness in the winter. I found the extra doses were giving me high anxiety levels, made it difficult for me to focus, and either going to sleep too early or way too late. Overall I needed a healthier pattern and to be more grounded. I solved this by going for decaffeinated tea at night instead of coffee and steadily choosing water for energy over coffee.
Despite my efforts with caffeine, I still found myself low energy some days. This is a given because I wasn’t getting as much sunshine and Vitamin D from the sun. The dreariness of winter days doesn’t help as well. How I am working on solving this is working out more so that I feel more energetic and looking into what nutrients I am lacking and taking those to supply me with more energy and balance in my daily life!
Change your mindset!
About 4 to 6 percent of people may have winter depression. Another 10 to 20 percent may have mild SAD.
You’re not alone! Living in Utah I noticed that the more I talk about it with people, the more I realize that nearly everyone I know constantly feels this way every winter or has at least once or twice. The trick is to find the best way to look at each season positively and find what will make you FEEL the best. Make that conscious decision, and stick with it! This year things really started to change when I realized that it was me and not the season. My outlook on it and my negative habits were creating my brain fog and lethargic nature. Once I realized this, it became easy for me to take accountability for the way I was feeling and also realize that I had the control and power to change it. Just like everything else in life, how you chose to see the situation will determine your experience and this is no different. I wish you all the best in this challenge to have the best winter of your life! Who knows, it could become your favorite season. 😉