As I reflect on 2020 events and witness the current political crisis – it’s hard for me to comprehend the long term impact all this collective mental and emotional stress could be having on us. At the same time, I am continually amazed at our resilience and our ability to support each other in uncertain times.
All of us have made sudden and massive shifts in our home/work lives, a very large sector of our population is weathering prolonged financial stress, there are those with compromised immunity who are fatigued from extended vigilance, and lastly, those of us who are typically nourished by travel, connection, and creative pursuits – we’re feeling lackluster and even depressed from the extended isolation. I am appreciative of the eternal optimists and those who can hold onto a brighter ‘big picture’ for the future- this has been something I’ve been finding challenging lately.
I personally started to notice symptoms of my first Winter Blues/S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder): mood swings, apathy, loneliness, lack of concentration, and a more pessimistic attitude. I had the foresight to get a light box early in December, and it has been rather helpful for improved concentration and better quality sleep. I am also noticing that the more I commit to time outside and more vigorous exercise, the more positive my outlook becomes.I wanted to share my experience as I feel symptoms like these could become MUCH more commonplace this winter. Here are some symptoms of S.A.D. to be aware of:DepressionLack of focusDecreased motivationMore pessimismFatigueSocial withdrawalLonelinessGeneral discontentExcessive sleep or insomniaFatigueAppetite changesWeight gainWinter is usually a time that I recommend people do less, slow down and allow their nervous systems and adrenals to rest and repair. Winter typically isn’t the time to start complex new projects that require burning the candle at both ends. I typically love winter because it’s the perfect season to cozy up with a blanket, warm beverage and good watch/read. This winter, after all of the isolation, I’m looking at things differently. I believe it’s very important to strike a balance. We do want to be resourced for the more extroverted Spring time; however, we have been so cooped up – that exercise, creative pursuits, and plenty of outside time are all in order now. We need to restore and build resilience without getting further stuck. Some tips to support your happiness this winter:Exercise regularly – especially getting heart rate elevated to support the release of the feel good neurotransmitters endorphins and serotonin. Consider dancing to tap into your creativity – dancing has been shown to improve memory and develop new neural connectionsLight Box – Great way to replace the light we miss during the winter. Light exposure is critical for serotonin production and also for regulating the circadian rhythm. I am using the verilux full size as I check my email in the morning.Time outside- for a minimum of 15 minutes of real daylight every day.Seek out more connection with others for support- however that may look now – outside time together, virtual connection, or maybe you have a group of family/friends you feel safe spending time together in person with. Self care to better manage and release stress: meditation, breathing, yoga, and even knowing clearly when you need to say ‘no’. Creative pursuits to inspire and uplift. Everyone is creative! Even doodles or shading in a coloring book for adults will engage the creative side of the brain and get you out of ‘default mode’.