Health and Wellbeing

Battling the Winter Blues: 5 Tips to Help

I admit, I’m writing this post mainly to work myself out of a case of the winter blues.  It was bound to happen a little bit at least.

Thanksgiving was such a major event for our family, traveling to Utah.  Then Christmas saw all the kids home in Alaska, and New Years was at Alyeska.

So now, the kids have headed back to school, our average temperature has been 0 to -5, and the struggle is real.  I sat down, and lined out some ideas that I find help when the winter blues set in.

I figured I’d share them with the understanding that this in no way is intended to replace medical help if required. Should you feel beyond just being a bit down, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

The Winter Blues Defined

While not getting into a full clinical definition, basically I just feel down.  Energy is low, grouchiness is prevalent (that may be menopause), and my focus is drawn inward and towards negative nonsense.  Sleeping in sounds pretty awesome, along with a bucket of Ben & Jerry’s, Diet Dr. Pepper, and cheese sticks with ranch.  Not super productive or efficient when it comes to achieving fitness goals!

What to do?  The first step is admitting you have a problem.  “Hi, I’m Janet, and I’m feeling 50 shades of blue.”

Second step, don’t wallow in it; find a way out of the muck.  I came up with 5 tips to help myself do this.  (We have cool Christmas lights right?  I’m not taking them down because they actually help!)

The Winter Blues, find light

1.  Make a List:

I know, we just did this (and checked it twice!), but this is just a simple list of things you need to get done daily, so time just doesn’t slip away.

Earl Nightingale was once asked how he managed time.  His reply was, “You don’t manage time.  You only manage what you do with it.”  Earl stated that he would write six things down on a piece of paper that he needed to get done and carry it around with him.  Then he would start at the top and work his way down checking them off as he went.

If something didn’t get done, he’d put that first on the list the next day.  If he accomplished them all, he’d reward himself with a movie, or hobby that he enjoyed.

This works for me, because I find when I have the winter blues, my productivity suffers.  I tend to procrastinate A LOT more.  So my list for today: laundry, write blog post, clean kitchen, do Jeff’s background check, make dinner and run kids to school and activities.  My reward?  I’ll watch the college football championship game!  Tomorrow, I’ll make another list…and just do it.

2.  Eat for Energy:

High fat, high sugar, high sodium empty calorie foods that often are the first choice when one is depressed (guilty) only make the problem worse.  Blood sugar fluctuates high and low, bloating happens, and additional hibernation pounds pack on.  This does nothing to improve the psyche.

Since health is a big part of my goals, I’m planning 3 solid meals and 1-2 snacks a day that focus on whole grains, fruits, veggies, and lean protein sources.  My goal is to branch out into more vegetarian options this year, so I’m expanding my horizons!

If you are struggling significantly with this, write out your meals, shop with a list, and plan in a little splurge 1-2x/week.  I do know that mentally, I feel so much better when I am eating well.

Winter Blues

3.  Get active:

Proven fact, exercise produces endorphins, IE, you feel better.  This step alone goes a long way for me!  Once again, I move closer to my fitness goals.

Find a way to incorporate more activity throughout the day in addition to scheduling regular exercise (add that one to your daily list, in fact, make it the first item if you’re struggling).

I bought a FitBit and challenged myself to take the stairs at work daily.  If I’m working on the 6th floor and go up and down 4-5 times/day, wow!  Feel the burn!  But, I’ll also be on a regular high and hopefully not just from gasping for air.

4.  Get some fresh air and sunlight:

Oh this can be a tough one in Alaska!  Some places get no natural light.  If I lived there, I’d definitely have a sun-lamp.

Even though it’s so cold, and frequently windy making long term exposure miserable unless you dress for it, I find that something as simple as letting the dogs out, stretching on the porch and taking a deep breath of outdoor air is revitalizing.

When tolerable, I try to include some outdoor exercise.  Lumping in a dark, stagnant room makes the winter blues worse for me.  Anything outside helps!  (And take a good multi-vitamin with good Vitamin D if you are in a low light area like AK.)

5. Remember your Goals:

For me, actively working towards accomplishing something gives me a purpose to keep on truck’n!  I use my one word trigger (Thrive) to remind myself I’ve got places to go and things to do…NOW, not this summer!

Also, focusing on service for a worthy cause moves focus from internal issues to external.  I can’t help but feel better when I serve someone else.  Even if it’s just Jeff and the kids, I’m not focusing on my potential misery.

Time will pass on, and in the blink of an eye, even in Alaska, spring and summer are right around the corner and there’s light at the end of the winter blues tunnel.

And that’s my plan to slay that downward roller coaster I’m riding after the holidays.  Hopefully, if your feeling blue, some of these tips may also help you.

Sunrise in Palmer

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