Updated: Feb 9
Winter can be a difficult time for many of us. Whether it's the letdown after the holidays, the dark cold of winter, or the credit card statement after Christmas, winter can really take its toll on our mental, emotional, and even physical health. I live in Arizona, so I'm not going to pretend to know what a real winter feels like! However, I know I tend to swing toward melancholy in the winter, and I know I would never make it anywhere with a “real” winter. Perhaps God knew my limits? Not everyone can pick up and move to a sunnier place, nor do they want to. Managing feelings of winter sadness is a good skill to have, regardless of where you live. I feel like each year, I get a little bit better at managing winter blues and thought I'd share what works for me.
The world is so connected these days, it seems unfathomable to disconnect. The FOMO (fear of missing out). The guilt associated with it, as if you're saying, “I don't care about anyone.” In reality, what it means is that you're taking time to care about yourself. Back in the day, it was so nice to go weeks, months, even years, and figure things out on your own. You didn't have to share what you were doing, and you definitely didn't have strangers weighing in on your every move. It was blissful. It is possible to benefit from the connectivity of modern day society, and have privacy. You just have to manage it. As a parent, it was hard to come to terms that social media will always be part of my children's lives. That's when I realized my job was to help them manage their connection to the world, with the connection to themselves, and help them understand the peace that comes with being elusive. Retreating to a private space, whether literally or figuratively, is a good first step. Close the circle around you, and only allow people in who love and care about you. Everyone else can wait.
I've been listening to Australian Open updates everyday while the tournament is going on and there's lots of talk about matches extending deep into the night, sometimes finishing as late as 2am! Players can't be expected to perform at their optimum level when they don't get good sleep. You and I aren't elite athletes, but we're no different. Have you ever made a rash decision, picked a fight, fired off a nasty text or email, late at night when you're exhausted, only to wake up and think, “Wow, now that I'm rested, it's not that big of a deal.” I definitely have. The holidays are filled with late nights, events, eating sweets, drinking alcohol, stressing about getting the right gift. What we could all use is a good rest. Getting good sleep is a crucial first step. When we're well rested, we can make better decisions.
“What am I even doing with my life?” “Should I be doing something different?” These are the thoughts I come to, the instant I have idle time. It's good to take a step back once in a while. Like Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living." The solitude of winter, and the beginning of a new year is a great time to reevaluate. Your focus, your relationships, your goals, can all benefit from a little audit. Remember why you started. I know this is so cliche. If you're passionate about something, and it's important to you, keep going! Whether it's being a parent, running a business, taking up a new sport (like tennis), learning to play piano; whatever it is, stay with it. I've always told my kids, “Everything looks like a disaster in the middle.” Building a house, raising kids, building a career, going to college, running a marathon, all of it can look like a hot mess in the middle. It can be discouraging, especially when you don't see results. You'll hate it, want to quit, want to give up. But If you can push through the doubt and see it through, there's no better feeling! For me, I wanted to step back and think about why I started my blog. What my goals were, and refocus on them. It's easy to get caught up in the world around us. Comparison is the thief of joy, and your journey is unlike anyone else's. We're all different, and no two paths are the same.
A lot of us have a pivotal event that changed our lives, and our lives can be defined as, “before the event,” and, “after the event.” Maybe it was the death of a parent or a child, a divorce, a job loss, an accident. Whatever it was, it changed your life forever. For me, it was skipping the 4th grade. It seems silly, something so long ago can have a lasting impact. When I think about depression, this was the first time I felt very depressed. Really dark feelings crept into my mind and settled in. Unfortunately, I've carried them with me throughout most of my life. I've been working on this for quite a while now (I'm talking years), but I decided this is the year I let it go, and all the ridiculous thoughts and ideas of worthlessness that it created in my mind. The voice that says, “You're not good enough," “You're not good,” “You're not enough.” I imagine myself pulling these thoughts out of my brain, like the thin paper strip in a Hershey's Kiss. Pull slowly and gently until it slides out completely, leaving nothing behind, and all that's left is the perfect chocolate kiss in a shiny wrapper. Before I skipped, I was really happy. I was funny and silly, I loved painting, reading, and walking around our farm, swinging on our tire swing, and daydreaming. I wanted to find that happy little girl and get her back. I spent an entire day at my moms, looking at photos of me before middle school, the ones where I'm smiling, sitting up straight, happy to be alive. That's who I want to be.
I recently read an article about the scientific evidence that proves reading prolongs your life. That should be reason enough to pick up a book! I love reading. I typically have a physical book on my nightstand, one on my kindle, and an audiobook going all at the same time. In an effort to disconnect from electronics, I read a hardback book by one of my favorite authors- The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O'Farrell, and it was a great book to start the year with. I highly recommend it, and her debut novel, Hamnet. I've also become slightly addicted to long walks. While I walked, I listened to another book called Wintering by Katherine May. I loved it. The narrators voice is British and lovely, I found myself re-listening to several chapters. She explores how people and animals in the natural world “winter," especially in places with “real” winter, like Iceland and Norway. Here are some books I really like, and find myself going back to for positive reenforcement. Maybe You Should Talk To Someone by Lori Gottlieb has so much great insightful information on managing our relationships. For those of you embarking on a “Dry January,” Quit Like A Woman will give you major support!
I'm a thinker. It's a blessing and a curse. I decided to start a journal this year, and I find it very therapeutic. Whatever I'm feeling, good, bad, angry, sad, I write it in my journal. If there are things I'd like to say to someone, but I'm not sure if I should, I write it down first. Sometimes that's good enough. It works like an unloading dock, whatever your feelings are, you can unload them in your journal and they don't weigh you down anymore. I'll admit, I don't do it every day, but I'm hoping to continue the practice.
After you've taken the time you need for yourself, ease into your routine for the new year feeling refreshed, well cared for, and full of hope and perspective!
Until next time,