Five ways to relieve the winter blues

by Janelle Holden

It was April 19th, 2009.

My psychiatrist checked her chart. “Oh yes,” she said. “You were last here … let’s see on … April 19th, 2008.”

She looked up and smiled. “Classic Seasonal Affective Disorder.”

I wasn’t smiling. I was dreaming of Florida. Seasonal affective disorder, in non-clinical terms, is when you feel like gaining 300 pounds, hibernating under your bed covers, and growling at other human beings for approximately four months of winter. It is relieved when the sun doesn’t go down until after 9 p.m. and when it’s warm enough to wear nothing outside. Mid-April is when my body and brain has really had enough of it.

“When will it end?” I groaned.

She sighed and reached for her prescription pad. “Well if I took a guess it would be June, but I think you should take something for it before then.”

Wonderful idea. But as it turned out, I am allergic to anti-depressants.

The All-Natural Cure to Seasonal Affective Disorder

So, I had to learn my own all-natural route. This included going gluten-free, which has helped me clear my mind, and hiring a life coach. But when I woke up this week and felt the familiar blah da blah da blah-ness descend, I realized that it was time to return to extreme self-care. What is extreme self-care? Well, it’s a lot like an extreme sport, and almost as intense, but actually a lot more fun. It’s my cure for the winter blues. If you have the winter blues, I hope you’ll participate in extreme self-care too.

Here are five extreme self-care methods to relieve your winter blues:  

1. Sweat – I would have typed “exercise” but really, exercise is too subjective of a word. Not that a walk around the block won’t do you some good, but finding a way to sweat is really your ticket to a good old-fashioned endorphin rush. If you want to kill the blues, make sweating your first priority in your day. It could be a run. It could be a Zumba class. It could be dancing around your kitchen. Whatever it takes, get your sweat on.

2. Sleep –  When you let your body meet strain and tension (exercise) and then recuperate, you encourage an excellent healing cycle for your body. And in winter, you’re going to need to rest more, instead of push more. If you’re on the extreme self-care regimen, you’ll go to bed before 9 p.m. at least once a week and you’ll set a regular time to go to bed and wake up (no cheating) with plenty of naps thrown in for good measure. This, by the way, is harder than sweating, but worth it. If I go to bed after 11 now I wake up feeling like I drank 5 tequila shooters and danced on the bar table when really all I did was read a book past my bedtime. Sad, but true.

3. Light – Get yourself a bona fide full-spectrum SADS light that has at least 10,000 lux power and soak in some light with your eyes open for at least 30 minutes every morning.  If you want extra bonus points, you’ll actually get outside for 20 minutes when the sun is at its zenith, and you can get a fresh burst of it in your eyes. On your lunch break actually take a break from indoor lighting and stuffy air. It’ll do you good on all sorts of levels.

4. Vitamin D - If you have celiac disease (or if you live in a state where you wouldn’t be caught dead in a bathing suit for 10 months of the year) you might be deficient in Vitamin D. You can actually get your D levels checked with a blood test, and consult with your favorite medical provider on how much to take. I was low in Vitamin D in the fall of the year (when I should have been high) so now I supplement my diet.

5. Gratitudes - Start a gratitude journal, and say what your grateful for out loud. On your walk or right before bed, share with someone you love (including yourself) what you’re grateful for that day. Keep your gratitude list posted on your refrigerator door. Training your brain to look for the positive instead of the negative will help you notice and appreciate all the beautiful parts of winter that you had previously ignored. It’ll also help you keep your brain from going down the depressive path that it likes to take. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Benjamin Franklin, and well, he’s right.

A word about depression …

Finally, I want to say a word about depression. On the emotional level, depression is not the absence of happiness or joy. Depression is an absence of energy. It’s a constellation of emotions including anger and sadness and it’s actually a brilliant method for the soul to stop us to say, “Look kid, if you keep on the way you’re going, someone (probably you) is going to get hurt. Now pay attention.”

I, for one, will.
Janelle Holden is president and founder of the Gluten Free Life Coach, a company dedicated to helping people with food sensitivities learn to love life and discover their new favorite foods so that they can live healthy, balanced, beautiful lives. To get your questions answered, schedule a complimentary Get Acquainted Call with Janelle today.

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About Janelle

Janelle Holden has spent hundreds of hours coaching people world-wide with celiac disease and food sensitivities how to transition to a gluten-free diet, stop struggling with food, travel with food sensitivities, and do more of the things they love. She is the author of, "Six steps to grab control of your diet and love what you eat" and an award-winning journalist, international coach, and speaker.

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