With all of its festivity and yuletide joys, winter’s official kickoff in December is easily greeted, but something sinister looms on the other side of New Year’s Eve, the winter blues. I began to experience a frustrating decline in energy in January, apathy lulling me to malaise with its emotionless song. Even though frustrating at times, I’m thankful to have responsibilities (most noticeably in the form of four children) who demand I get out of bed; otherwise I would have gladly hibernated in leggings and down comforters.
This past winter was one of Portland’s coldest winters on record. Let’s not even talk about how much rain poured down, or THAT SNOW. When March finally arrived, I decided enough was enough. It was time to fight. I couldn’t let myself sink into depressive habits likely to drag me and my family down. Existing was no longer enough, I had to get back to living.
I am happy to report that the fog has lifted, but it wasn’t as simple as the sun coming out. Helpful as that is, after an extended season of emotionally-damaging behavior, habits developed that HAD to be broken. Everybody’s journey is different, and I make no claims of medical authority; I am simply a mother who has been there. These are mom tips, not pro tips. Nevertheless, these five things have helped me battle the winter blues, and I hope they help of you, too.
1. Let the Light In
Opening the window shades in my room to greet the morning has made a world of difference for my mood. The sun’s appearances in the PNW lately has been a glorious sight! Not only does it highlight our beautiful rivers, hills, and mountains, but it also impacts our health. Studies show that the winter blues, more professionally known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) may be linked to the sunlight. Our biological clocks, serotonin, and Vitamin D levels are all impacted by that celestial luminary in the sky, and if it can break through the clouds to touch our skin, magic happens. So while it is out, take advantage of it.
2. Get Out in the Community
It is really easy for a mama with littles to stay in the house all day. The home is a place of safety, security, and sanctuary; why would you step outside? There are other moms struggling and people rejoicing. Shuck off that cabin fever, interact with your fellow humans, and do something to serve your community. As W.H. Auden reminds us, “We must love one another or die.”
3. Diet and Exercise IS as Important as They Say
For about twenty years people have been telling me, “You know, you won’t be able to eat like that forever.” I continued to eat whatever I wanted and consume ALL the carbs, but like I said, I was desperate. Finally, I was willing to change the diet, get off my tush, and feel the endorphins that accompany making my muscles move in ways that will build them. Guess what? Big surprise, I feel better.
4. Shut off Unnecessary Tech
The collective mind of the internet is constantly reminding us that the light from our glowing rectangles that we love so much is messing with our sleep cycles. Andy Crouch, author of “The Tech-Wise Family,” suggests setting time limits for your tech use, and asking yourself how you feel when that time is over. These simple tools have helped me see that I am pulling false rest and fake joy from the time I spend on my phone, and I have much more to gain by looking up into the world around me.
5. See your Doctor
If these winter blues aren’t leaving as you tweak some of the practical habits that make up your life, go to the doctor. There is no shame in asking for help for SAD, depression, anxiety, or simply a noticeable decline in your quality of life. The Seattle Times reported that most people in our area are deficient in Vitamin D. Why not ask a professional if this is true for you? Taking time for an appointment that could improve days, weeks, months, or years is worth it. Your kids are worth it. YOU are worth it.