How it feels, how to deal. How not to freak out.
Let’s face it, these winter weather patterns we are experiencing, are crazy under normal circumstances, and to put it mildly winter SUCKS. I’m not talking about the normal cooling of things, and a cute mountain cottage with a fireplace, but the face freezing, skin drying, what the hell is this 8C to -20C fluctuation, urban cruel, dark, kind of winter.
Our bodies like nature experience somewhat of a powered down, closed off, let me hibernate till this torture is over kind of state. But since we don’t have the luxury to go into a cave and wait till spring fully wrested and hungry as hell, we have to cope with the day to day fluctuations of weather, ailments, lower energy, fucked up office climate control and other people’s colds, sneezing, coughing, and bad moods.
I have been experiencing somewhat of a depressed state, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Having dealt with more severe depression in the past, I’m thoroughly convinced it runs in my American side of the family. My coping mechanisms were different at various stages of my life and in most cases did not involve heavy medication. Before I continue, let me clearly state.
I’m not here to advocate for or against anti-depressants this is NOT that kind of personal account. I had consulted in the past with a primary care physician who immediately, without extensive blood work or any further tests; prescribed anti depressants despite not knowing anything about my physical history, or even if they were really that effective for me. For those who do feel anti depressants or mood stabilizing medication works for them, short term or long term, I’m glad they have provided some normalcy.
Despite the many roadblocks and difficulties of seasonal affective disorder, I have amassed enough tools in my arsenal, over the years to deal with my mood fluctuations and sleep patterns in a more holistic manner. Over the last 20 plus years I’ve spent countless hours practicing yoga, following proper nutrition, researching health and wellness journals, and attending lectures, workshops and seminars about sports nutrition, breathing techniques and proper diet. I can do this right? Well not exactly.
In order to truly begin this journey of proper mental and physical care, and to properly tend to our needs physically and mentally, we have to fully dedicate ourselves to fixing those aspects of our daily lives from the inside out. It’s a balance of nutrition, exercise, supplemental nutrition and mental health care. This is not a short term project, it’s for the rest of our lives.
I firmly believe we can train and retrain our selves to listen and give our bodies what they need order to directly and more effectively influence our emotional and mental state. (old tricks for an aging dog). On the other hand, we must challenge what we have long been mislead into thinking; that we don’t have control over our own bodies, our own health and our own well being. Somehow we have fallen pray to and mercy of endless experts and even more doctors, but in the end what we eat, how we sleep, and how much exercise and emotional balancing we do on our own, can bring far more positive change in how we cope with seasonal depression.
Change, Coping and Lifelong wellness.
Aside from slamming your first against a wall and buying a ticket to Spain to avoid the endless gray skies of an equally endless, winter (yes I’ve done this in the past, don’t recommend it); There are many less painful and far less destructive things we can do to survive and cope with SAD.
Here is my personal list of tips and personal care rituals that keep me sane, and have proven extremely helpful during some very dark and heavy winter days. Again I’m not saying this will work for any of you, but some common sense tools often add to whatever else you might be trying.
- Daily exercise, yoga, and stretching – If you have time to binge watch Netflix you have time to do some self care. (that’s me talking)
- Clean up your daily food intake. Take out or greatly reduce sugar and complex carbohydrates. Even more so for processed or pre-packaged foods (no I don’t mean all carbohydrates we need those for energy- unless you suffer from Celiac disease where clearly all gluten is out). Eating a balanced healthy home cooked meal should not be a privilege. Eat clean to think clean.
- Abstain from alcohol, coffee, sugary drinks and any other over stimulating or over depressive drinks, replacing them for a 3-4 weeks with herbal teas, water, fresh seasonal juices, and naturally carbonated drinks.
- Take pre and pro biotics for a healthy gut. It has been proven, time and time again that a healthy digestive system leads to betterment of overall health and especially emotional health. Eat clean to think clean.
- Aim for a healthy and balanced sleep cycle. Cell repair happens faster while sleeping, and getting proper physical and mental rest. (so no binge watching Netflix till 3 am)
- Get a massage, (and if you can’t afford one get a friend to massage you!) acupuncture, or any other kind of body work. Physical touch helps alleviate cortisol levels (stress hormone) and helps increase dopamine and serotonin production.
- Have more sex. (you think I would leave that out??) also serotonin production during sexual activity in both men and women, also production of testosterone in men. In the alternative: self care is the best care.
I’m not saying any of these “tricks” or personal rituals will work for anyone else, solely on the basis of my experience, but any and all of these practices are about a way of life, not just a 10, 20 day trial. Taking up more exercise, eating better food, and making time for your mental and physical well being is a daily practice. For many of us, these suggestions can be in addition to medication and talk therapy. We owe it to ourselves to work with these better body practices, so severe depression, and seasonal depression have less of a chance of having such a tremendous hold on our daily lives. And who the hell wouldn’t want more sex.
would love to hear your thoughts on winter depression and what you do to cope!