Cover Photo Credit: pixabay.com/photos/road-trees-snow-cold-ice-frost-4730553/
Fall and winter can be hard seasons to cope with year after year. Some get sad knowing that the end of the summer marks the time when the temperature and daylight begin to change. The winter blues typically starts in the fall and winter seasons, when daylight hours are shorter. Feeling the winter blues does not necessarily mean that you have a mental health condition. However, the best way to determine that answer is to consult with a mental health professional who can assess and recommend appropriate interventions about your thoughts and symptoms.
The fall and winter holidays can worsen these feelings for you. Memories of loved ones combined with cold weather and the early darkness in the sky does not help. Although Christmas is my favorite holiday, I do dread the dark skies and cold weather. You would think that I would be used to it being a Midwesterner, right? I am, but it does not mean that I do not want 90 degrees and an eternal summer (hello California). If your are overly consumed with your feelings and they are interrupting your daily living, or you are feeling hopeless and helpless, then you need more specialized care. I want you to pay attention to your symptoms. Personally, I conduct what I call "self-introspection" for myself especially in the fall and winter. What this means is that I focus on "self-checks" because I can get in my feelings and become annoyed and/or irritable with the darkness as the seasons change too. My personal self-introspections consist of the following:
You can do the same thing(s) in order to check your winter blues, and to begin to unravel where you determine the problems. The one issue that I repaired for myself this fall and winter is to exercise more often. I mentioned on a live video that I bought a walking treadmill. I use it daily, at minimal twice per day in 30 minutes intervals up to one hour. Soon, I'll be weight training as well. The other pattern that I repaired was to socialize more often with loved ones and friends. Like you, I get wrapped up in my immediate family and career that I am sometimes guilty of leaving out socializing with close friends and other family members.
Beating the Winter Blues
One thing that mental health professionals may fail to tell you is that you need to normalize your feelings. We are too busy diagnosing symptoms instead of humanizing your experiences combine with teaching you to cope better with them. Society tells us not to cry, especially men. Others will make you believe that feeling down, or having the winter blues, makes you weak or not as strong. I am sure that you have heard, "Suck it up" and move on. Not ok! There are people who seem to repress their feelings (yes, neurotic) and avoid them. Try not to do that because our bodies are designed to not only feel our feelings, but to handle them. What it cannot cope with is an overabundance of feelings because we withhold them. It causes chronic ailments (i.e., sickness, anxiety) and/or we learn to use unhealthy methods to make our bodies calm down (i.e., excessive drinking during the holidays). Instead, allow your body to manage your feelings and to let it become emotional. For example, if you have lost a loved one, why not cry if it hurts? If your girlfriend left you right before Thanksgiving, why not feel irritable about it? If you lost a job, why not panic and feel your rapid heartbeat or worry behaviors? Your Instagram smile is only real if you feel the joy that comes from it.
Sometimes, society can make us feel as if we are unstable if we mourn over a loved one for too long or show that life issues attack and hurt us (i.e., job loss). However, we feel better when we feel: "I just needed a good cry." Heard of that one before? I have many times and it works to restore balance within our bodies, as well as emotional stability. For example, I rarely get angry but when I do, I allow myself to feel it for as long as I need to until it starts to go away on its own. Disclaimer: Do not take your anger out on others. I internalize my anger, write it down, cry if needed, think, talk, and when it dissipates I am ok and feel better. You can allow yourself to feel the winter blues and recover from it. To help, add interventions to your end of the summer routine to help you prepare for your winter blues. Here are some recommendations that I share with my personal friends and family:
Our cookies made you smile, right? Training your brain during your winter blues can be easy. Focus on you first to inspect and determine where you need work, then make it happen. Along the way, make sure that you remind yourself that it IS acceptable to allow your body to heal by being emotional. (Cry when needed or punch a punching bag) Then, create a yearly plan to include interventions to prepare for your winter blues (this is no different than preparing for difficult family members at holiday parties). Once you increase your awareness of your winter blues, intervene, and prepare for it, you are learning more about yourself, your emotions, and ways to improve your winter blues. Most of all, your joy/happiness begins to surface which is what you want to happen not just in the fall and winter seasons, but for your lifelong journey.
Merry Christmas to You and Yours!