Chase away those winter blues

Chase away those winter blues

Posted by Hallie S. on Mar 3rd 2017

“Don’t know when I’ve been so blue
Don’t know what’s come over you
You’ve found someone new and
Don’t it make my brown eyes blue”

March is here. Yay. Really. Wa - hoo. Means spring is right around the corner, warmer temps, baby birds, flowers, all things beautiful and bright and sunny. Yep. Yippee. Insert enthusiasm. And blank face emoji.

It’s not that I’m not excited for spring - I am. But, like many, I got me a case of the winter blues. The blahs. The ‘everything is grey and dirty and oh how I just want some sunshine’ kind of attitude right now. A big case of SAD - seasonal affective disorder. And sad - like the boo hoo kind. I know it’s temporary but that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t latched onto me like a sugar deprived toddler to a lollipop. Thankfully, I’ve got some tools in my toolbox to help shake off those winter cobwebs and get me revved up and ready to go, chock full of a positive YES WE CAN attitude for the upcoming months ahead.

S.A.D. for smarty pants

SAD, or otherwise known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, by definition is a distinct and temporary type of depression that is seasonal. It starts at different times for people but generally begins in late fall and goes straight through until the end of March, beginning of April. SAD can make you feel tired, irritable, moody and, yes, sad. You may find yourself sleeping more than normal, gaining weight due to eating comfort foods that are typically higher in carbohydrates and a desire to not be around other people. Fun times.

There is no direct specific cause for SAD but there are some things that we do know contribute. And most of them revolve around that big yellow beautiful bundle of joy that takes a trip to Florida in the winter months, leaving the rest of behind - sad, depressed and consuming large amounts of Krispe Kreme donuts to make ourselves feel better. Blame the sun. Reduced levels of sunlight during the fall and winter months can disrupt your circadian rhythm, also known as your biological or internal clock. Reduced sunlight can also cause your serotonin to drop as well as impact the balance of melatonin - your body’s natural sleeping pill. Like I said, fun times right there.

S.A.D. for un-smarty pants

Seasonal Affective Disorder means during the winter when the sun goes away you feel crummy. Gross. Sluggish. Blah. No sun equals no fun. Starts around the holidays and goes til about Easter Bunny time. Happier days may have something to do with the onset of jelly beans or cadbury eggs but that’s just one of many theories. All that being said, for us common folk, SAD is just another term for the winter blues.

Most of us are motivated by the sun. It makes us feel good, it makes the world brighter, it’s magic wafts in through open windows and entices us to get outside. Think about it. We work outside on nice days. We grill out on our decks on nice days. We walk the dogs, play with the kids, wash our cars (not me - Rob’s job) and, in general, let our bodies rejoice in the rays of the sun. It’s a natural mood elevator. Yes, there are scientific reasons why (go back to the smarty pants section above) but the bottom line is the sun makes us feel GOOD!

Now that we’ve discussed why SAD makes us sad and everyone that wasn’t sad before is now probably huddled in a corner with their blankie, let’s figure out ways to superhero that nasty SAD villain. Oh I got mad skills on this one so come out of the corner, get ready to take some notes and Let's GOOOOOO!

10 Ways to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder

1. Outdoor winter activities.

Yes, I know for many of us it’s cold and maybe it’s grey and dirty. Whatever. Brush that aside and get those buns outside! Grab the fam and hit the slopes. Take snowboarding lessons. Order a drink and sit on the deck and watch for your kids to come down the mountain. (My favorite part of skiing, just sayin). Cross country skiing, snow tubing, fort building, shovel a path for the oil guy. I don’t care what it is, if you get outside and enjoy some winter fun you will feel better.

2. Take a vacation.

I realize this isn’t feasible for everyone. But if you can, get AWAY. There are so many great deals online for winter getaways, quick retreats, Disney, Aruba, Jamaica man - save up your pennies throughout the year and go! It’s amazing what a quick weekend or week long vacation in the sun, in the warmth, no responsibilities other than doing what you want to do - amazing what that can do for your attitude of gratitude. Even if it’s just to a nice hotel with a pool, a spa, a whatever. It will elevate your mood, it does give you hope for the warmer months ahead. Plan it. Save. Do it if you can.

3. Take your vitamins.

Vitamin D especially. Vitamin D is obtained from sunlight, food and from supplements. When your skin is exposed to the sun it triggers Vitamin D synthesis. You can take a vitamin D supplement daily, especially during the winter months, to help with SAD. Additionally, you can get vitamin D by eating foods that are rich in vitamin D. Help yourself to some goodies such as egg yolks, canned tuna fish or some swordfish or salmon. Or fry up some beef livers and sardines…that has YUMMY written all over it…said no one ever. Get your vitamins. Hit up CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Walmart and get yourself some D’s.

4. Brighten up your environment.

Change out those bulbs for brighter and higher wattage. Turn on the lamps first thing in the morning. Throw back the curtain. Open up the blinds. Sit next to a window. Read a book in front of the fire. Say to heck with the electric bill and get those lights on! Whatever kind of light you can get, whether it’s sunlight or artificial light, more is more is BETTER!

Here's an office before with all the shades and blinds drawn.

Same office but with all the shades and blinds up - HUGE DIFFERENCE!

5. Think goLite.

There are some products on the market that can help with seasonal affective disorder and one of those is the Philips goLite Blue Energy Light. This tool is super super cool. The goLite mimics the natural power of daylight and sitting in front of it for 20-30 minutes a day can help increase your energy levels and elevate your mood. The blue LED light is UV free and the light is rechargeable. Use it at home, at the office, on the go, place it on your husband’s chest while he’s sleeping - whatever works! If you are taking antidepressants or other medication that impacts your serotonin be sure to check with your doctor first.

6. Add some color to your wardrobe.

Bring some color to your clothing. Seriously. Add in some reds, some greens, some hot pinks and lime greens. Adding a bit of color to your wardrobe helps you fake it til you make it. Bright colors have a tendency to add a bounce to our step, helps us to think spring and generally serve as a little bit of a mood elevator. Pair those black leggings, your dreary black suit coat, whatever dark attire you’re sporting with a pop of color.

7. Eat your feelings.

This is one of my favorites. I’m NOT talking about making a big turkey dinner and sitting down to eat the whole thing yourself. What I mean is indulge in some healthy comfort foods. I am a crockpot lover and use it at least three times a week. Or try to at least. There are some awesome stew, chili, one pot meals out there that are a breeze to throw together, easy on the pocket book and let’s you hide some veggies for those picky eaters in the house. Do a search on Amazon, hit up Barnes and Nobles or even check out Cooking Light magazine for some ideas. Winter is a great time to take advantage of being indoors and consume some of those comfort foods that fill our bellies and make us happy.

8. Read it/Watch it.

Now. Before the spring and summer months are upon us, make a list of all those books you wanted to read, all those movies or tv series that you wanted to watch and do it. Get a big old furry blanket, a big old furry dog (or in my case both), plop yourself down on the couch and hunker in for some reading and movie watching. Trust me - it’s a treat, especially for those of us that have a hard time sitting when there are oh so many other things that need to get done right now. It’s a great opportunity for family time as well and who doesn’t like to watch The Conjuring in the middle of the day with their 17 year old daughter!

9. Start a project.

Don’t tell me you don’t have a to-do list, a honey-get-it-done list, an oh-I-wish-I-had-the-time list. You do. I know it. I don’t care if it’s written down or tucked away in the corner of your brain, we all have one. Pick a project and get going on it. If you don’t have a list then a. you’re lying and b. look around your home. I guarantee you there is a room that could use a fresh coat of paint, holes in the wall that can be spackled, boots that need to be polished, cars to be vacuumed out, etc. Get a list of projects together, create a timeline of getting them done and get the whole family involved. Cleaning grout and wiping floorboards a great way to occupy ‘bored’ teenagers - just ask mine.

10. Surround yourself with positive peeps.

This is key. Super duper important. Surround yourself with like minded others. Trust me - I got friends that always have something negative to say and I have friends that are so up they need to be attached to a balloon string or they’ll float away. Be with those that see the light, see the good, lift you and others up. Trust me - being around those that are always complaining, always problem ridden - it becomes a drag and, for me, it has negative effects on my mood and my attitude. Positive breeds positive breeds positive.

Where do I start?

I’ve given you all of these fabulous ideas on how you can chase away the blues but let’s face it - in all likelihood you’re not going to just jump out of bed and say “Let’s go skiing today family!” You might, which is great, but most won’t. So where do you start? You’ve put your finger on what the problem is, you’ve got some solutions - how do you get yourself going and implement your feel better strategy? Read on - I’ve got you covered.

Get the family involved. Listen, I am my family. Their moods, their attitudes, their little beings have a profound effect on me and me on them. So involve them in your strategizing. Set them up for success by giving them plenty of notice of projects that will be done on the weekend - as a family. Cleaning the garage for instance. Tearing apart closets. Give everyone a room or rooms and what your expectations are. Turn up the music, order pizzas and do it together. I don’t care what anyone says - it does count as family time and yes, you may be surprised to even create a good memory from it. From littles to bigs, make it a family affair.

This goes to for planning an outdoor excursion or a family vacation. Whether you have older kids, younger kids or a little bit of everything in between, carve out time to just be a family. It doesn't matter if it’s a day on the mountain, an overnight at a hotel in the city or planning a destination getaway - get some feedback from each member of the family. You might be surprised with some of the ideas that the kids have and, if you plan far enough in advance, for older kids it can incentify them to save their own spending money for the trip or contribute in some way. This not only teaches them a valuable financial lesson with regards to saving for a major expenditure but my experience has shown me that when it’s money my kids individually have earned, they are much less likely to spend it foolishly.

Make it a part of your routine. Okay, what EXACTLY does that mean? Add some of these suggestions to your routine. When you come down in the morning, turn on all the lights in the kitchen. Open up the shades, throw back the curtains, pour a cup of coffee and read for 20 minutes before the day starts. Reflect for a few moments on what you want the day to bring, create a daily to-do list and add one of those projects or a portion thereof to your daily activities.

This also goes for nighttime. Some are at their best at night. Take a half hour to read a chapter, catch up on something you’ve dvr’d, plan your meal for the next night. If you have a hard time with vitamins in the morning, take them before you go to bed. Making these a part of your day to day routine helps to create consistency. And consistency becomes habit. And who couldn’t use more positive UPLIFTING kick-SAD-in-the-pants habits!

Devote a day or an afternoon to doing inventory. Grab your partner, go at it solo, a pad of paper and a pencil and go room to room. Write down the room, what needs to be done, give it a priority and spend the afternoon cataloging projects for the house. Yes, this list can be overwhelming when you’ve finished. My husband and I did it two weeks ago and all I could see were dollar signs of what it was going to cost. But it was eye opening and we sat down, went over what was a need and what was a want and we have started checking things off the list. And having that list holds each of us accountable and makes it easy on the dreary days to tackle something - because it’s right there in front of us.

And make note of everything you can think of in each room. Does the closet need to be cleaned out? Are there light bulbs that need replacing, outlets to be fixed, broken lamps, tired dingy molding to be washed? Making a list of everything and anything shows you what can be fixed just with time and elbow grease and what needs to be worked into the budget. Again, this also provides another way to get the kids involved especially when it comes to their own living area.

Utilize social media - a lot! Social media is a great way to get you motivated, give you ideas for cooking, reading, movie watching etc. Seriously. Have you not seen all the Tasty videos? I must have 20 of them saved. Ask for recommendations on good books, a new TV series to catch up on, etc. Typically we are connected on social media with like minded friends that have similar interests and it’s easy as pie to pose the question and read the responses from people you trust. Ask for cheap ways to add a little color to an all black wardrobe, best place to buy light bulbs, I need a recipe for dinner - the responses will most likely come flooding in.

Social media can also be significant in helping you realize that you aren’t alone. Maybe it’s a kick in the pants from someone that is always posting something positive or a heartwarming story of kindness or something that is posted that inspires you. I have learned to unfollow those that are always posting something negative and I keep those that uplift me at the top of my feed. It made a huge difference for me personally.

What about me?

I’m a fairly positive person in general. I see the glass as half full, I try to combat negativity with something positive, truly I do try to see the good in most situations. That has been a long growing process - very long if you ask my Rob - but I’m happy for the journey and it’s given me some tools for success.

I get outside as much as I can. With three dogs that like to drag me around the block it’s easy incentive to let them rid themselves of excess energy and I get a little fresh air. Given that I’m not a huge vitamin taker it also gets me a little bit of light exposure daily and just is an overall mood elevator for me. I have a family wedding at the end of the month and treated myself to a pair of electric blue heels to go with my little black dress and I must say, that pop of color puts a smile on my face! And my husbands…men.

As far as projects, I’m fairly self-motivated and having a high school graduation coming up and lots of family flying in is keeping me VERY accountable to my get-it-done list. And I am religious about surrounding myself with positive people. Fortunately for me, I have a gym that I love and a great group of uplifting friends that aren’t afraid to shut me down if the negativity starts taking over. You are the company that you keep so make sure it’s good company.

It’s not all butterflies and unicorns

I’m not telling you my life is all sunshine and roses. March 25 will mark the one year anniversary of my nephew’s death and it’s like a cloud that follows each member of my family around. I can’t begin to imagine how suffocating it must be for my sister and her husband, how much they must be dreading each and every day. And no amount of positivity is going to combat those feelings. I try to keep my energy focused on how as a family we are going to honor Colton on the 25th, what we can do to keep his memory vibrating in our hearts, how we can let my sister and her husband know that never has their son been forgotten. But make no mistake - it is hard.

Shake off those winter blues, chase away the blahs, get your buns outside and take in some vitamin D. Remember that each and every day is a gift, a present and it’s a day that you can never get back. Find the joy, show grace and kindness and be grateful for your haves!

“Here’s a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don’t worry, be happy
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double
Don’t worry, be happy!”