Bust Out of The Winter Blues

Winter is coming, the temperatures are dropping and so is the amount of daylight we receive each day. When I was a kid, my dad would come home from work into our Upstate New York living room, stomping the snow off his boots and taking off his layers of added warmth, and would say, “I feel like a Mole; I leave when its dark and I get home when its dark.” As a child this just produced giggles- thinking of my dad as a Mole πŸ™‚Β  As an adult, I realize that this is the reality of many people. 😦

There are a lot of studies showing what produces the winter blues and the SAD effect in a percentage of the population. As a psychology-research-counselor person, I really enjoy them. But for the purpose of sharing tips on how to break out of the blues- probably not necessary to get into all of them πŸ™‚ Please be sure to read the bottom of this blog though to discover a bit about the differences between the blues and depression! It could save a life-seriously. One is like having a small cut on your leg that needs some cleaning and a band-aid. The other is like having your limb hanging off and trying to convince yourself that it’s fine. BIG DIFFERENCE.

These tips are for the Blues Only. Here are some ways to shake out of that cabin-fever feeling:

  1. Sunlight! Get out during the brightest part of the day- for AT LEAST 10 minutes with bare skin so you can absorb that amazing Vitamin D! Good mood food!
  2. Exercise. 35 minutes/day for 5 days a week is recommended but just do what you can! If you can walk for 10 minutes at lunch, do it! Walk to the mail box, park farther away at the grocery store or coffee shop, etc. Endorphins come from exercise and those are feeeeel gooooooood chemicals for your brain! More Good Mood Food!
  3. Remember that you’re not really hibernating. This is my hardest one in the winter because it is waaaaaay too easy to cozy up with some tasty snacks and Christmas movies! However, too many simple carbs and too much sugar does not necessarily do a body – or a brain – good. Bummer, I know.Β  :/
  4. Happy music! This has been shown to uplift your mood and light up some feel good portions of your brain! My current favorite is “Grace Got You” by MercyMe. Check it out and tell me if you can keep your toe from tapping!
  5. Hydration! It is so common to overlook this in the winter because we don’t feel as thirsty. (And cocoa tastes better than water, amIright?!) But we must remember to nourish our body to keep the energy flowing! (And hello… winter dry skin? Water can help that too!)
  6. Plan a trip! Pick a fun destination and get to planning a fun time for you and your family- or just you! Whatever πŸ˜‰ The point is to have something fun to look forward to! When you finish one, plan your next adventure!
  7. Herbal it up! Get yourself some Happy Teas that have organic ingredients like St. John’s Wort, Lemon Balm, Lemon Myrtle, etc. Make sure they areΒ  the beneficial parts of the plant in there πŸ˜‰
  8. Essential Oils! Gaaahhhh, such an overused word right now and you know what? It drives me crazy! All these crappy oil companies coming out of these unknown dingy underground tunnels, with greasy long hair and dirty chipped fingernails, putrid breath and holding out a bottle of “oil” from the sewage system and people are actually reaching for it. SMH. I can’t even. Get some good oils that aren’t so dang cheap and shady so they can actually help uplift your mood! Citrus oils, Lavender, and my BFF Frank are always good choices to soothe the soul!
  9. HELP OTHERS! I love this one. Probably because I “get my kicks” from helping others. You know what’s cool though? This is truly the pay-it-forward effect because not only does the giver receive feel good chemicals for doing the kind deed, but the people that witnessed it get a chemical boost too! Good deeds = Good moods πŸ™‚
  10. Don’t be Scrollin’! Say what?! Yeah you heard me. Only get on social media for short, purposeful moments of time. Why? Well here’s the long and short of it- you get on social media, you post something. You know your cats the cutest, so it’s going to be a hit. You get a bunch of “likes” and tons of “hearts”. Woo, feel good chemical rush! Just like Pavlov’s dogs, we go back because we want the rush (the brain treat) again! But when you posted that awesome pic of your new haircut, barely anyone commented or “liked” it. Instant downer. Instead of feel good chemicals, how about feelings of insecurity, anxiety, etc.? Oh and let’s not forget that little comparison game that people like to play on social media. JUST. DON’T. You’re comparing someone’s highlight reel against your lowest moments. Yeah, that’s an idea for the trash can. There is a direct correlation between time on social media and depression. Interesting, isn’t it? … you gotta save yourself and look up and out at the rest of the world . There’s some really cool stuff out there. πŸ™‚

Okay, I could go on but it is almost 1am and I need to go get my butt on tv in the morning so I should probably jump in bed! Say you’ll join me and give me a dopamine rush for the show, would ya? πŸ˜‰ In all seriousness, knowing that you all like the show is the entire reason why I do it. I mean, it’s hard to stay in hibernation season when you get pulled in front of the camera! LOL!

**Notes on the Winter Blues vs. Depression: You NEED to be sure you are only experiencing the blah’s of weather changes and NOT something more serious, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder or any other type of depression/mental struggle. A big indicator for the blah’s is that you may feel down and a bit lethargic as the weather changes, but it DOES NOT STOP YOU from enjoying life. On the other hand, if you are becoming uninterested in things that you previously enjoyed, are breaking off planned appointments and get-togethers with friends, etc., and are experiencing feelings of hopelessness, despair, frequent periods of crying or anger, deep sadness that won’t go away, increase or decrease of sleep, appetite, etc. than it may be more than the winter doldrums. In these cases, I highly recommend a counselor. There are very high success rates of overcoming and handling feelings of depression by seeing a counselor. If you need a counselor, I have an office in the Roanoke, VA area (you can find my info on psychologytoday.com). If you are out of the area, you can use that same site to find someone nearby that is suited to what you need. Please keep in mind that if you are experiencing feelings of wanting to hurt yourself, someone else, are feeling unable to take care of yourself and/or those you are responsible for, contact 911 right away. Do not pass go, do not collect $100.00. Make the call.

Whether it’s the blues, depression, or any other feelings that just feel overwhelming, please know that it CAN get better. There is help. Just call up a licensed counselor and get in the office for your appointment ASAP.

Make this Fall and Winter the best yet πŸ™‚ Come along with me, the best is yet to be…

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Kettle Corn

My friend has cancer. Not just any cancer but Stage 4 breast cancer that has spread throughout her entire body. And not just any friend. She is my soul sister, my mama hen, my bff. She is the kind of friend you always feel comfortable with no matter what.

She has been fighting stage 4 cancer for almost 17 years- can you even believe it?! This woman is a fierce warrior. The doctors have recently finished trying the last strand of chemo that they can give her. They are out of options. What awful words. Unacceptable.

I know she is in pain. Not because she tells me-she has never ONCE in all our years of friendship complained to me about having to go through all of this. She amazes me. I know she is in pain because of tumor markers, doctors appointments, how much hair she has, the way she may walk/her gait, her level of energy and how much she is able to move about.

In life, most of us have a small circle of people that we are truly close to and within that circle, there are one or maybe two people that we consider our soul sisters (or misters). It is that person you meet and you know almost instantly that you both are kindred spirits. You click. You gel. You understand each other without even having to speak. You just “get it”.Β  This is my friend. You don’t get many of these in life, so when you find it, don’t let go for all the money in the world.

My friend does not ask for anything. She is a giver to the extreme. Her heart is so kind and her thoughtfulness in a selfish world is such a breath of cool, fresh mountain air. So when she asked me a question about getting her some kettle corn if I came across some at any Fall events, you know I was going to do whatever it took to be sure she had that treat.

We all have this desire to want to fix or make things better for those we love. I can’t fix this. I can’t make it better. But girl, you want kettle corn? I’ll move mountains!

Today we went to an event where there was kettle corn.

We decide to get it on the way out so we don’t smoosh it while apple picking. As we are heading out of the orchard, we see that the vendors are beginning to shut down. My hubby knows this vendor though so he says, don’t worry, he pops extra.

We get over there and my husband says hello and asks him if he has any kettle corn. The kind elderly man standing by his copper kettle says that he sold completely out. Internally, my heart dropped. This one thing. This one simple thing. And I want to do it so badly for her. To say, “here, I helped!” (in some tiny way). But in that way I hope that maybe, just maybe, that it will be a balm to her tired and beautiful soul.

Just as my heart is moving down the elevator from my chest to my gut, a girl shows up and says “Here you can have my bag; I haven’t even opened it.” I could have cried. I asked her a couple times if she was sure and she confirmed that she was certain. She didn’t know the story. She didn’t know why we wanted kettle corn. She simply came by and gave us hers.

I am so excited about this bag. I placed it safely in the front seat of my blue mom van. I gave the kids a different snack so they wouldn’t be eyeballing “The Precious”. And home we went, where that bag now sits on my kitchen table until it goes over to my friend’s house tomorrow where I will excitedly present the bag of kettle corn and tell her that I know without a doubt that God saved this bag just for her.

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The Signs Are Unclear (to say the least)

I am pretty sure I talked in my sleep last night- and by talked, I mean urgent yelling. I had a dream that I was on my way to the airport. I kept trying to tell Google the address so I could get the directions, as I knew I was drawing closer to my exit but I wasn’t sure which one it was. Every time Google would repeat back to me what I said, “OK, find the airport…” it would be full of fuzzy background noise like a radio station that isn’t tuned and it would give me the address to someplace with a similar name but in the wrong state.

Since GPS was letting me down, I knew I had to figure this one out on my own. I was almost certain that last time I drove to this airport, there was a sign off the interstate indicating which exit to get off for the airport. Well surprise, it wasn’t there anymore. All the signs seemed to be in the wrong places.

I ended up having to turn around in some busy parking lot and backtrack when I figured out that the signs were nowhere to be found. I go up this hill and there it is- finally I find the airport. It is a hot mess. People everywhere, all with somewhere to be. The airlines are in alphabetical order- easy enough, right? Yes, if they were in a straight line. But instead they sort of zig-zagged throughout the parking lot.

I don’t even know which plane I’m on or where I’m going at first but as I’m running through the zig-zagged airline portals, it comes back to me that I am looking for United Airlines and I am heading to Hawaii- no wait, San Francisco. Yes, that’s where I am going. San Francisco. (Though I have no idea why I am going there and I am pretty sure I would prefer Hawaii…) I do know, however, that I have 30 minutes before my flight boards. For some reason my parents are suddenly at my vehicle (well hello there, how did you sneak up on me again? πŸ™‚ )Β  when I arrive to the airport and as I take off into a run to find the airline, my parents are supposed to be getting things settled with the car and bringing me my luggage.

So there I am at United’s counter, and the lady is trying to sell me this one-way ticket that is way over my price range. I’m racking my brain thinking, didn’t I already buy one- a round-trip one?! Finally she finds my ticket and I am paying to stow my bag. As I am leaving the Kiosk, my father comes up with a smaller version of my purple Liz Claiborne suitcase that could easily be stored on the plane. Thinking that he must have put it all in an easier-to-manage bag for me, I feel filled with good feelings of the cozy sort that someone is taking care of me, and I run back to the counter and tell the lady that I won’t be needing to stow my bag after all. She says no problem and begins typing on her computer to get things switched. I unzip the bag and find all my husband’s dirty clothes and shoes in my bag.Β Dang it, dad. Didn’t you even look?? It seemed like such an easy task- just bring me my suitcase. Sending my dad back again to the vehicle with those instructions, I head toward my gate.

Remembering I still need my bag as I arrive to the gate and the airline attendant begins boarding call, I run to the escalator and look down to see if my dad is there with my luggage. IΒ  know I can’t go down there or I will have to re-go through TSA and there is no time. I see my dad and I yell to him. He is waving a turquoise cooking pan that looks like a Rachel Ray. Though a nice cooking utensil, it is NOT my suitcase! At this point, the frustration builds to explosive emotions and I begin yelling that the pan is NOT my suitcase and I have to board NOW!

I am pretty sure I yelled this into the real world because my kids are suddenly waking me up in real life and asking me if it is time to get up. My voice fells a little hoarse. I feel exhausted. Tired. My body feels like lead. And I’m irritated.

Getting up, my focus turns to the kids and getting them ready for school, though in the back of my mind, I am feeling pretty dazed and feel like I need to go back to sleep since that entire dream felt like pure stress, extreme pressure and nonstop running.

The signs are all so unclear. The road signs are not in the right places. The Kiosks are in some semblance of order but not really. Everyone around me is doing something but seemingly having trouble getting it right. I am getting through by the skin of my teeth but I don’t have what I need.

In my rational, awake mind, I know I can’t blame anyone for me not having my suitcase or being late to the airport or even the airport’s crazy set-up. It is my life to live and if my father brings me my husband’s dirty work clothing and then a cooking pot as luggage and the airport is set up in cartoon proportions, I should have planned for that… right? I should have just brought my bag with me instead of trying to save time, right? I should have planned for missing signs and crazy airports… right? But… can you ever really plan for some of these things?

But on the other hand of that same statement is the insinuation that you can only trust yourself to get it right and that somehow there is a way to get things “perfect.” And we all know that’s a farce because none of us get it right all the time. And if we think we do, then we are wrong a whole lot more than we realize. Thinking only we can get it right is like having mud all over our face and thinking that we look amazing. The only person we are fooling is ourselves.

What a dream. Missing signs. Stress. Oddness. Unplanned craziness. People who let you down. Letting yourself down. Maybe I made the flight or maybe I didn’t. I don’t think the flight was ever the point. The process was.

Life is unpredictable. Sometimes stressful. Definitely crazy. Sometimes the path we are on makes complete sense and we are filled with such clarity. And sometimes we can’t find any signs, we can’t find the road, everything is zig-zagged, out of place and we don’t feel like we have what we need for the journey ahead of us.

Sometimes the path will be smooth and it will feel like we are gliding- maybe even gracefully waltzing, through life.

Other times we will be at an airport with a pan and no plan. I think it’s fairly easy to see which path I am on right now. πŸ™‚

I suppose I could always find the courage to put that pan on my head (without being mad at those around me for “getting it wrong”) and waltz my way onto the plane, where I will fly into the unknown with grace and humor. It would be way more fun than grumbling and being stressed. And it looks like I’m going for a ride either way…

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Path splits two directions, fork in the road

 

I don’t want to be a product of the “Me” generation

This thought has been nipping at my heels for awhile now. There are so many things that we think are “needs” when NEWS FLASH, they aren’t. Almost all of us in America live better than the Pharaoh’s did in ancient Egypt… let that sink in.

We think having to pass on a Starbucks means we’re paupers. Most of us have debt up the wazoo because we “needed” something. And of course I understand that there are true emergencies that can also put us in debt and in those instances, I am grateful that we can “charge it”.

I think of my Great Grandmother. She was born in 1911. She lived through the Great Depression. She worked day and night, saving every penny she could and never complained when she was exhausted with not much to show for it- that was just life. She always told me, “have a penny, save a penny.” But do I ever save a penny? Not really. I justify everything, thinking, well of course I “need” this… but do I?

My Great Grandmother worked so hard to provide for her family. She saved enough money to pay for multiple weddings and funerals in cash, as well as owned her home. She never drove, never had a license. She walked everywhere. She lived in a small little pink home with plastic all over the furniture and photographs. She preserved everything to make it last. She had a tiny stove. In fact, her whole house looked like a Barbie doll playhouse compared to what we live in today. She didn’t live beyond her means. In fact, she lived under them so that she could save for emergencies. She called it her “rainy day fund”. She didn’t have a closet overflowing with clothes or shoes and she didn’t waste anything. She, her husband and children did not go out to the movies or bowling for fun; they played cards at their small kitchen table and her kids read books from the library. My Great Grandmother even made her own card holders out of plastic food lids and a fastener in the center. She was the ultimate DIYer!

My husband’s Grandfather and Grandmother also lived in a humble home. Grandfather went to work and labored every day of the work week. Grandmother stayed home and took care of family and the house. There were no HGTV remodels. In fact, she didn’t even drive. It wasn’t because she was disempowered; it was because they were living within their means! They had one car and Grandfather took it to work. On the weekends, he would take his wife out to go peruse the town but they never got spend-happy. Grandfather and Grandmother saved all their lives and when retirement came, they decided to use ALL of their savings to build a big family home to grow old in with their only daughter and her family.

We live in that very home today. What a legacy to leave! There is so much to learn from the hardworking generations of the past. They weren’t frivolous. They didn’t have shoes to match every style and outfit and they didn’t order pizzas and buy subscriptions to Amazon Prime (guilty!) or Netflix.

I’m not saying any of this is wrong or right. What I am saying is that for me and my family, I want to go back to the basics. And it is going to be so stinking hard! I LOVE Starbucks! And Italian Restaurants! And Halo Cookie Dough ice cream! And movies! And going out on the town! And chocolate truffles! And Torrid!! And cute shoes! And ALL THE CLOTHES!Β  And books!!! Man do I love books! The list goes on and on because I LOVE BEING COMFORTABLE!! I love yum and fun!Β  I am always drawn toward glitz and glam and I DREAM of an HGTV home (the “after” not the “before” πŸ™‚ ).

I think of organizations like World Help, Compassion International and the D. Gary Young Foundation, all with countless ways we can help those who TRULY “have not” . I am assured by trustworthy friends that have been onsite at all of these organizations and mission fields, that these are legitimate and 100% of all donations go straight to the people in need. If we don’t feed the starving and get people out of sex slavery, who will?

How often do we think beyond ourselves? And for how long? It’s sad, isn’t it? Most of the world still doesn’t have CLEAN DRINKING WATER (that’s right- they have muddy holes filled with animal poo and disease and they GET THEIR WATER from there because there are no other options. They try to “boil” it first but there are not many resources for them to have that “luxury”).

Yet here in America, people on government assistance have access to all the food, clean water, baby supplies, healthcare, help with electric bills and yes, even cell phones. We could split hairs and talk about what we think is working and what isn’t, but the point is, there is help from our country!

Did you know that most countries do not have those resources available for its people? Babies starve to death and die of preventable diseases while we scroll Facebook. That’s hard to hear, isn’t it?Β I sponsor a little boy who is 7 years old in Haiti named Dawens. He sent me a letter the other day talking about his home. It is made of blocks and has a piece of metal over the top. He is one of the blessed ones who gets food and education to get himself out of poverty because he has a sponsor in America helping him. He has hope and no price could ever be put on that.

We have all changed the channel when the “bleeding heart” commercials come on, asking people to sponsor a child and they show a hungry face with a bloated belly. We tell ourselves it’s a fraud or that we just don’t have the money (while sitting on furniture in a house with a roof and a remote in our hands). We tell ourselves whatever it takes to avoid feeling uncomfortable.

I am challenging myself as much as I am challenging you. What are your true needs? And what could we put aside to help others? Don’t fool yourself into thinking that life is all about you and your family and your comfort and your fun times. It’s not.

Don’t live inside the box of delusion or denial.

There is a world out there that needs us and if we won’t help, who will?

I don’t want to be a product of the “Me” generation. I want to be a product of selflessness. I want to forfeit my comforts to help others. I want to stop convincing myself that my needs are greater than your needs. I want to discontinue the story I tell myself that I don’t have enough money to ________ (fill in the blank) and that someone else will have to help those in need because I have too much _____________ (fill in the blank) to take care of. I don’t think I could ever be Mother Teresa. But I could say “no” to a few more luxuries to save the life of one more child in need.

You will leave this world one day. And you will find out that these few years on earth were supposed to be for much more than “building your Kingdom.” What short-sighted thinking we all fall for. “Just live for today”…. “Get yours”… “It’s all about me”… “I deserve”….

Yeah, whatever. Look beyond yourself. You may find that you feel a whole lot better when you’re not stuck on yourself. I know I do. We will never do this “perfectly”. But we can make progress everyday toward helping others in whatever way we can and making someone’s day a little brighter, simply by putting ourselves aside and thinking of others.

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