December 12, 2016

When is it More than the Winter Blues?

A little lower now… How low can you go?

A photo posted by Lindsay Lock Butler (@butlin81) on

It’s too damn cold out there
And f*cking cloudy too.
I get all distraught at
All the mad hullaballoo.
I’m feelin’ so alone and don’t know what to do…
Because I’m feeling the lows of winter blues

I know I’m not the only one out there who feels this way.

I do not like winter. I’m also not a huge fan of the holidays. I know. I sound super Grinchy (well, except my heart isn’t two sizes too small). I don’t consider myself a Scrooge either. I’m generous, kind, and loving.

So, I wondered: What’s the deal?!

I would throw myself in with all my heart, trying to find happiness in the traditional celebrations my family held. I would follow the faithful, daily observations prescribed to me by my well-meaning family and friends because I thought that was the way to spirituality at the time. Time and experience taught me to look for my own path.

This path exposed that much of my unhappiness was, at least partially, due to a false sense of glorified busyness, which was harmful to me. 

For years, I couldn’t figure out why the joy so many experienced seemed to evade me, but I have finally learned all the hardship was twofold: It was in part that busyness, but it was also Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD):

>> SAD usually starts in the fall as the days get shorter and lasts throughout the winter, zapping sufferers of energy and leaving a sense of sadness. I knew it was more than the blues when I felt this way the same time every year.

>> Other symptoms can include: grumpiness, feeling heavy, sleep issues, appetite changes, weight changes.

>> Interesting tidbit: 60-90 percent of persons with SAD are female. (And apparently I’m one of them.)

Before the sun rises, life seems so damned hard.
The darkness of my room mirrors how dark I feel inside.
Even once the sun comes up, I miss the damn sun.
I go for days without ever feeling or seeing the sun, obscuring clouds.
I miss feeling the rays beating on me, warming my soul. 

To help me with that early morning sluggish yuckiness, I invested in a salt lamp which helps some. (Some other people I’ve known with SAD have sworn by light boxes as an alternative.)

Other things that help me with my mood during the holidays:

1. Move it! Exercise releases endorphins. Personally, I’m a fan of yoga. There are plenty of poses that can help with depression.

2. Going outside. While I don’t like cold, it’s really the lack of light that affects my mood more than the cold. Plus I can always layer up.

3. Being mindful of my budget. Money troubles can really bring down my mood.

4. Slowing down. It’s okay to say no. I don’t have to do every single thing or fulfill every single holiday obligation.

5. Evaluating if I’m feeling left out. Sometimes as a single person, it’s hard to see couples and families being together while we’re alone. Instead, I volunteer to feel of benefit or get out with my kids or friends.

6. Watching what I eat. If I put sh*t in my body, I will feel like sh*t.

7. Watching the booze intake. Alcohol is a depressant, so I try to remember to drink in moderation and always hydrate with water.

8. Connecting with my kids’ sense of wonder helps me see the beauty around me more. Adulthood can suck: Bills, responsibilities, meal prep. Sometimes, it’s okay to put down responsibilities for a bit to engage in some maitri.

9. Checking unrealistic expectations. It’s okay to plan, but after making those plans it helps to, “Dare to live by letting go,” as Tom Althouse said.

10. Checking triggers from the past. Let’s be honest. Not all memories with the holidays are positive ones. By looking closely at what’s driving my feelings, I’m able to better adjust. I make my own traditions and eliminate the ones that don’t make sense for my path. For example, instead of doing a daily advent countdown, my kids and I do a few activities interspersed with their regular activities. Things that we’ve kept: mindful gift giving, homemade card making, making ornaments, making cookies (which we deliver to friends), and donating items to children in need.

Yes, I still have bad moments or bad days. But by being gentle with myself, I recenter from the chaos and darkness that surround me into the present.



Author: Lindsay Lock

Image: Flickr/Emergency Brake

Editor: Travis May

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