Let’s see. Shorter days, cold weather, limited sunshine. Once the holidays are over, what’s the point of winter anyway? It’s no wonder such a thing exists as the winter blues, that general blah from which many suffer during these bitter months. The symptoms include hideous states of being such as feeling unmotivated, wallowing in lethargy--some even slip into severe depression.
Here are some tips to arm yourself against this energy-sapping thing we call winter.
After the indulgences of the holiday months, a lot of our New Year’s resolutions seem to revolve around exercise and eating right. Act on those resolutions. Find an activity you enjoy, anything, from taking a walk at lunch to training for your first 5k. Exercise is a great stress-buster, and the effects of exercise last long after you’ve taken your last step. Longer than the buzz you get from a cup of coffee, even. When you get physical, you’ll feel more in control and your confidence will get a boost from following through on your resolutions.
There’s no such thing as a time machine (trust me, I keep Googling it) but there is a way to trick yourself into forgetting it’s winter. Nothing transports me out of sub-freezing temperatures to those summer months than the taste of fresh fruit and vegetables. They may not be at their peak, you might not be picking them up at your local farmer’s market, but you can still get fruit and vegetables through the winter months that will give you the boost you need to make it until those first buds start appearing on the branches of trees. For me, it’s anything with cilantro in it, or grapefruit. What does summer taste like to you? Pick a night and make a make-believe summer meal. Hide your Crock-Pot and toss a salad together, maybe treat yourself to a margarita. Crank the heat up in your place and put on a sun-dress, whatever it takes. In the winter months, it’s easy to reach for comfort foods, aka foods full of sugar and fat, salt and starch. Be sure you are balancing those winter meals with fruits and vegetables to keep your energy up, which in turn will keep your mood elevated.
Find The Silver Lining
And expand on it! The only thing that makes winter worth it for me is the excuse to wear huge sweaters and ugly boots. Do you like sitting by a blazing fireplace? Drinking hot toddies? Wearing footie pajamas? Cold weather is a great excuse to stay inside and watch a marathon of your favorite guilty pleasure reality show. Make a list of the things you do in cold weather that you enjoy and make sure to treat yourself to at least one of them daily.
Have You Seen The Light?
Is it just a happy accident that the condition Seasonal Affective Disorder has the very appropriate acronym SAD? If the winter blues turn into a depression that renders you unable to function normally due to your winter malaise, you might have SAD. Symptoms include less productivity at work, increasing your sleep by up to four hours a day (or, conversely, insomnia), cravings for sugary and starchy foods, weight gain, lack of desire for social contact, and severe depression. SAD should be diagnosed by a psychologist or psychiatrist, as these symptoms may be those of a more serious medical condition that could go untreated if they are simply labeled as the ‘winter blues.’ The condition is treated with phototherapy (aka light therapy) which involves exposure to intense light using a ‘light box’ through daily sessions that can last from fifteen minutes until two hours. Psychotherapy and medications are also used to treat the condition.
Stop Being A Hater
I am flabbergasted when I see Facebook friends post ridiculous things to the effect of “Yay, snow in the forecast” and “Sweater time! Bring it on!” Being a sun worshipper and having enjoyed the paradise of living in Southern California, I simply cannot imagine why anyone would celebrate any aspect of winter. What is it these people know that I don’t? If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Find out what your friends are doing to not hate the season. What activities have they looked forward to all year long, activities that inspire them to put ‘yay’ next to ‘snow’ in a sentence. Skiing? Sledding? Snowboarding? Snow-shoeing? Ask them if you can join them on one of their excursions. It will be worth it just to see the look on their face, and maybe you’ll get hooked on something that will make you stop being such a winter-hater. Half the hell of the winter blues is dreading winter the minute you see the first leaf fall from the trees. If you have something to look forward to, the dread will be just a distant memory.
Finally, remind yourself that winter is not a permanent condition. Before long, it will be July and you’ll be complaining about that too, looking for ‘ways to stay cool in those hot summer months.’ It’s all in perspective. As writer John Steinbeck said, “What good is the warmth of summer without the cold of winter to give it its sweetness?”
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