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How to Cope with Winter Blues

This time of year can be happy for some. Lots of family traditions abound, good home cooked meals, festive décor, twinkling lights, and quality time with loved ones.

But the lack of sunlight coupled with this pandemic that keeps us 6 feet away. The cancelled plans, the isolation, the pressure to provide gifts during this particular season, where so much uncertainty, unemployment and overall loss affected so many of us, may cause a lot of anxiety and even pain.

The lack of sun alone in the winter months is proven to affect many emotionally. Studies have revealed that among northern peoples a small percentage of the population suffer from seasonal affective disorder aka SAD. What an appropriate acronym don’t you say. That’s exactly the emotion many are overwhelmed with, sadness.

My Nona suffered from depression and it would get stronger in the winter months. A lot of the time all she wanted to do was sleep. One thing that did help her overcome the sadness was her love for the holidays.

Christmas was her favorite season. Nona would love to have one of us drive her around at night and see all the lights. She loved decorating the house and sewing a new dress or two for herself so she could debut at the family gatherings.

I lost my Nona 2 years ago. And while I have always been quite the Grinch for such festivities, I catch myself getting teary eyed from time to time when I see all the lights. The Christmas décor makes her absence stronger. Last year, I had to run out of a local grocery store because I began to ugly cry when I saw my Nona’s favorite Panettone on display. She loved to eat that sweet bread with dried fruit in it with mate.

The winter can be tough.

Here are some practical suggestions that many I know have implemented in their lives to help them combat the winter blues. Just want to clarify that I am no expert. These suggestions have helped me and people I love overcome seasonal depression and I hope they can do the same for you.   

  • Get Up Earlier: Yes, you read that right. This provides you an opportunity to be exposed to more light. Take a nice stroll around the block when the sun is highest in your area and make sure to bundle up. Remember, fleece is your friend when the temps drop.
  • Increase the Vitamin D: As we all are aware, nutrition plays a vital role in our overall health. Because sunlight helps the body produce vitamin D, the lack of sunlight can cause a deficiency of it. Including foods rich in Vitamin D such as fish, liver, and dairy products in our diet can help out. Or you can find your favorite supplement brand and take some good-ol vitamin D pills. If you go the supplement rout, I suggest you start popping those bad boys a month before the winter hits, so you aren’t waiting for the vitamins to work their magic once you’ve already started feeling the effects of SAD.
  • Reach Out: There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving. God said that. It is the honest truth. That’s why you feel so good after you volunteer at a food pantry or any other community service event. It really is rewarding. Take some of the spotlight off of your pain and sadness and shine it on someone else. It will help you gain a new perspective, allow your mindset to shift focus, and you are doing good for someone in need. It really is a win-win.
  • Don’t Isolate: Depression is so sneaky. It makes us feel gloomy, which makes us not want to be around others because we don’t want to bring them down. Or maybe we don’t want people to see this side of us, because it really isn’t the real us, so we tend to bottle these emotions up and deal with them on our own. Close the blinds and stay in the dark. It can be excruciating to reach out. All your energy is zapped and it’s not like you don’t want to respond to those texts or reach out to someone, but SAD just won’t loosen its grip around you. However, this pandemic has taught us that we are not meant to do life alone. One of the lyrics to a song I love to sing says: “with a trusted friend beside us, we will never fall.” We can’t always be that strong friend for others. Sometimes we are the one that needs a true friend’s support. I know it’s easier said than done, believe me, I like extending help, but asking for it makes my insides churn a little. But that’s pride. Don’t let pride rob you of healing.
  • BE KIND Most importantly be kind. What may seem small to you can have a huge impact on someone else emotionally. We don’t know each other’s past. We don’t know each other’s triggers. Lots of grace and kindness.

I end this post with quote with a powerful statement from an amazing woman named Jasmine Star. Jasmine says, “everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”

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