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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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…

πŸ™‚

Path splits two directions, fork in the road

 

Well Bless Her Heart…

After 11 years living down South (12.5 if you count FL πŸ˜‰), IΒ  heard a new saying today and all I could think was “ain’t that the truth!” (Because I think Southern-Style in my head too …Except when I am really mad- suddenly I turn into a New Yorker again- really fast lol. 😳 πŸ˜‚)

Want to hear the saying? It was: “Have you ever listened to some folks for a minute and thought to yourself, ‘their corn bread ain’t done in the middle.'” For some reason after the past few months I’ve had, that struck me as pretty dang funny! 😊

I might just have to get that tattooed on my arm, amiright?! πŸ˜‚ I’m thinking like a tattoo sleeve…. Some grits and cornbread – maybe some pinto beans wrapped around it, all fancy-like. πŸ˜‚

Man if you don’t know me and you’re reading this right now, you have got to be thinking, what is wrong with this girl? Maybe HER cornbread isn’t done in the middle. So let me assure you, it’s done – I think I’m just a little crisp around the edges πŸ˜‰

Life definitely has a way of causing us to feel a little cynical, sarcastic and sometimes just straight-up bitter, doesn’t it? I know I have my moments when I am just fed up! Get that cornbread away from me!!!

I am always reminded during rough days of the book/movie called Tuesday’s with Maurie. If you want an emotional, meaning of life movie, I defintely recommend it. In the movie, there is a moment where Maurie, a once fully self-sufficient college professor becomes so old and unable that he literally cannot move on his own. He is dying. And this “young buck” that he used to teach at college comes by to visit his favorite professor and he is SO angry about life and how could this be happening?!?! Maurie looks at him in a way that only people who have experienced life and THEN took time to examine their lives can, and he says, (paraphrasing) “Every day when I get up, I give myself 5 minutes to have all the pity I want. I whine, I grovel, I cry as I ask ‘Why me?’ But when those 5 minutes are passed, I say ‘Maurie, that’s self-pity and that’s enough of that. It’s time to move on and start your day.” And you see Maurie living life in a way-while even confined to his bed, a liquid diet, unable to use the bathroom on his own and knowing he is laying there to die-he is still constantly looking at the positive points of life- the good memories, the beautiful tree outside, the little things throughout the day….

Shew, what strength of mind that takes- to pick ourselves up by the bootstraps- everyday- whether we feel like it or not- whether the whole world is against us or not – and to move forward, only seeking out and focusing on the good in your life and not giving up. That skill is not something that just happens- Ooooh no. It is a day in, day out practice of shifting through your thoughts and pulling out the good ones and discarding the self-defeating ones…. That is something I am constantly working on and admire so very much in others… Persistance. Fortitude. Enjoying Life. Working hard. Looking for the good. Positive attitude. Never giving up. Going after their dreams regardless of the odds not being in their favor.

Last night I felt like throwing corn bread and burning those biscuits (another Southern saying) because life can be hard! Today I picked myself up by the bootstraps (or leggings, really) and reminded myself that no one can live my life for me. I can hold myself back or I can move forward. I can get bitter or I can get better. I can have a lifetime pity party about all the unfairness; I can complain about the hand I was dealt until the day I die OR I can move on and look for the next opportunity, the next blessing.

Guess which one I’m choosing?

How about you?