7 Ways to Prepare to Battle the Winter Blues-Advice From a Southern Belle Rhode Islander
7 Ways to Prepare to Beat the Winter Blues From a Rhode Island Southern Belle
It's November in RI. Time for less sunlight, colder weather, and holiday stress. As we prepare for the inevitable winter beating that is about to hit us, even the hardiest Northerners sometimes struggle with maintaining those bright sunny dispositions the North is known for! :lol: As a Southern transplant, I have developed quite a few coping strategies...
I’m a beach loving, Southern lady with a Calypso soul and I live in Rhode Island! Winters are a little hard for me. And Fall is tough because the days are getting shorter and we have our first wicked cold days interspersed amongst really nice days so they suck with an extra sucky suckiness! After enduring 8 New England winters , I’ve learned how to cope . By mid-December, I will be walking around drinking iced coffee in the middle of a snowstorm, figuratively flipping off Old Man winter, like a native. But…it’s still a little bit of a process to get me there. And I will probably have a few days where I lose it. I’m sure I’ll share those stories later! For now, here’s how I’m starting:
The blahs hit early this year. I have a little trouble admitting how quickly I can feel myself sinking into depression. After all, I have a blog called “Happy Choices, Happy Life” and all ten of my readers have high expectations of me having it together all the time! But this past week, I felt myself slipping…
I was tired from a long weekend. I had gone to visit my kiddos in NC and it was a blur of a weekend: a long exhausting trip, and not enough time with everyone (and then there was that episode of TWD!) And the worst: I woke up Monday morning to coldness!!! I HATE being cold. I love Rhode Island, but when that first really cold day hits, I question every decision I have ever made in my life that led me here. I consider running away to Ft. Lauderdale, live on the beach and make a living pretending to be crazy and selling sea shells and trash to tourists.
I got up, turned the alarm off…then went back to bed. I literally laid in the bed praying, “OK God remind me of why I should get out of bed and do this day!” There was no burning bush moment, I really didn’t even want an answer. I pretty much just wanted God to warm up my room (or tell me he likes the Ft. Lauderdale plan!)
After a while, I had to admit that I wasn’t going back to sleep so I got up and drug myself to the coffee pot, which was cold because it had shut off an hour before. I reheated a cup then sat down to eat and sip on burnt coffee. I sat there thinking about how much everything stunk and I didn’t want to do this day…then my own annoying words came to me, “You should write a letter to the children in bonded labor. I’m sure they would be inspired…” Grrr…I knew there wasn’t really anything wrong. Then I heard another of my annoying sayings, “How you feel isn’t the same as the way things are.”
So, I finished my coffee and forced myself to get up. I half-heartedly did the things that I knew I needed to do to avoid being depressed. I wasn’t perfect. I ate a Nutella and cream cheese sandwich for lunch which was not a super good choice for making me feel good! But I did enough things right to make me feel hopeful and know that I am going to once again conquer the winter blahs like a boss.
Here are some highlights of the things that I have been doing over the past week to stop my downward spiral. This Monday was a lot less sucky than last Monday (and not just because it was warmer!) and as I finish this post on Tuesday, I can say, the blahs are still there lingering in the background, but I made them my b&^%# (I’m sorry…I can’t type that. My mom reads my blog!)
- I consciously changed my self-talk to strategy talk: I’m not a fan of stuffing your emotions and pretending everything is just peachy. I’m all for loving yourself (and everyone else) but I’m not for glossing over issues. Love for yourself means being the best you that you can be. It’s OK that I’m overwhelmed with my life right now. It’s not OK for me to stay overwhelmed and bring everyone around me down. So, I give myself grace: (this is going to take a while to get through and that’s fine.) and I plan ways to get better (I’m going to eat healthy, exercise with my hubby, and have fun handing out Halloween candy tonight) Everytime, I write about positive self-talk, I'm always reminded of the SNL skit of the kind of living in denial, everything is great, kind of person I don't want to be. HILARIOUS!
- I reached out to people who care about me: We need people. It helps to let people know that you are struggling and let them know how they can help you. For me, I need people to hold me accountable for exercising, eating healthy, and not taking on other people’s problems.
- I listened to my favorite music: I challenge anyone to stay depressed while listening to Calypso music and old gospel soul! Music definitely influences our mood. Put some upbeat music on and dance a little. It will improve your mood. (If I’m really struggling in February, I’m going to have an all-out beach party. Last year, I just used a heat gun to strip paint, which overheated the hallway I was working in while listening to Calypso music full blast!) Who could be depressed when listening to this song called Don't Ever Worry!!!
- I made plans to do fun things with my friends: This helps for two reasons: first, I have something to look forward to. Secondly, it helps battle some of my negative talk. When I start getting depressed, I tend to think that no one cares about me. I feel like people only want to use me when they need help, but no one cares if I’m going through a hard time. Reaching out and making plans with other people reminds me that I have friends. We are all just busy, stressed out, Americans that need to learn to make more effort to hang out with friends.
- I had meaningful quiet time: For me, this means reading the Bible, praying and journaling. It is important to take time to sort through what you are feeling. When I pray and journal, I can really see that my negative thoughts and feelings aren’t the way things are. I can choose not to be controlled by them all day. For example, as I journaled on Wednesday, I felt like my life had no real purpose. I want to do something huge and I don’t see that anything I’m doing really matters. As soon as I sat and reflected on this, I realized that a lot of my feelings in this area come from societal expectations that I should be making money. I made a conscious decision to walk away from social service type jobs because I wanted to be free to help people in ways that I think are best. I didn’t want to spend tons of my time going to meetings, filing reports, and fundraising. I just want to encourage and help people and, at this point in my life, I have that freedom. So, why do I feel inferior when someone asks me what I do for a living? I love my life. I love the choices I’ve made. It’s far from perfect but I’m doing what I want. It’s funny that I need to remind myself of this so often, but I do! So, I take time most every day to reflect.
- I picked one area of my life to improve on: Whatever the area, from fitness to shyness, it just feels awesome to admit that you have a problem and know that you are improving in that area. Yesterday, I chose to improve on organizing my house. I’m a terrible housekeeper. I often say, “My house is sanitary and always about an hour from being clean.” I’m quite comfortable with letting things go undone. However, I do feel a nagging sense that I should do better. So, I made a list of things that I think I should do and I decided to pick one to do every Monday. (Things like wiping out the window sills and vacuuming out the couch). I actually knocked out three of my items and felt super empowered because I started out my week conquering something I don’t like doing. And look how clean my floor was!!!
- I planned my meals: We all know that eating healthy is important and it makes us feel better but we don’t always follow through. It is super important to plan your meals when you are feeling down. Otherwise, lunch will approach and you will just start snacking because you don’t feel like making the effort to eat something nutritious. It was super important yesterday because we have Halloween candy. If I didn’t have a plan for something that I actually wanted to eat for lunch, I would have totally eaten about 20 snack size candy bars (telling myself, that probably only totals 2 real candy bars…and I’m totally going to the gym tomorrow!) Eating junk or carbo loading puts me in a vicious cycle of ups and downs, supplemented with coffee. (I’m currently replacing most of my coffee with herbal teas…not the morning cup though…it’s sacred! Lol)
This blog actually keeps me accountable too. I know that I don’t have tons of readers but I do enjoy sharing my struggles with other people. I know that a lot of us are in the same boat. Anxiety and depression will always be a part of my life, but they don’t define me or control me. I am bizarrely thankful for the struggle because it has made me a better person. The battle with the winter blahs will be with me as long as I live in New England but I love my life here and the battle is worth the reward.
I’d love to hear from you! Please share your struggles and strategies. We are all better together!*
I do not apologize though because he’s my son: I probably said it a long time ago and just forgot!! LOL