Sunday, February 07, 2016

Seven Things That Are Saving My Life This Winter

Winter took a long time arriving to New England this year, unlike last year when we were buried under feet of snow by this time and winter showed no sign of letting up. We just received our first plowable snowfall this past week, and it looks the bitter cold is coming behind on its heels.

Generally, by this point in deep winter, I have fallen into what some might call "winter doldrums" or the "winter blues", but its more serious form is scientifically known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I find it a tad bit ironic that the acronym is SAD, because that is exactly how I feel by the time we hit mid-winter; sad. By the time the end of February rolls around, I feel like I can barely push through my regular day-to-day activities. Housework is hard. Interactions with other people are hard. Some days, just the simple act of getting out of bed is hard. I don't feel like going out into the world, and just want to hole up in my house and do...well, some days, nothing. It's almost like a hibernation from life, and on some of my worst days, I have sat in a chair in my office staring out the window for hours. Activities that I enjoy such as knitting, reading, writing, and even getting together with friends and family feel like a monumental chore that involves far too much energy that I just do not have.

Yet every year, once the daylight returns and the days begin to get longer, the darkness creeps back, and I begin to feel like my normal self again. Usually by April I feel like a new person, and I can get back to the business of living again, because during that period of deep winter, it sometimes feels like a slow death.

This year, however, I am in a far better place than I have ever been before. I don't know if it's because we have had such mild weather up until now, or because of some of the steps I have taken, or a combination of both. Either way, it's deep winter and I'm still my same old self, and I'm going to keep on this path and see what happens. Here's what I'm trying this year:  (there are NO affiliate links in this post)

1. A Happy Light by Verliux. My therapist recommend this to me back in the fall, and almost every day since November I have spent two hours in front of this light each morning. The directions that come with the lamp call for a minimum of 30-60 minutes, but my therapist said two hours, so that is what I have been doing. Fortunately, my job is at a desk, and so I turn it on 15 minutes after I arrive and do all the essential "non-desk" things I need to get done right away, and then I just do my regular work. It has a half-power setting for people who need to use it later in the day, but it can mess with your sleep cycle also, and my sleep is messed up enough, so I just stick to the morning.

2. Vitamin D3, 1000 IU's. I started this last year, after both my primary care physician and ob-gyn recommended it, and then my therapist also brought it up, so 3/3 doctors can't be wrong. Plus, I am dairy intolerant, so the added vitamin D is an important dietary supplement. I get D in my multi-vitamin, which is why I don't go for the 2000 IU's. Too much D is bad for you. I take Mega Food's supplements, because they are made of whole food products, are allergen free, and contain no artificial anything or fillers. Win-win.

3. Omega 3 Fish Oil. I wasn't sure how I felt about this, especially since my gall bladder is failing and I've had to go meat free in order to keep it from flaring up. However, other oils don't cause it any issue, and as it turns out, taking 1 Fish oil capsule in addition to my daily vitamins does not cause any issues. I had to make sure my capsules were allergen friendly, so I went with Spectrum Essentials.

4. The Miracle Morning. Hal Elrod wrote a book about starting your day off on the right foot. 6 steps that you can do, each morning, that set the tone for the rest of your day. You can do them in as little as 6 minutes, or spend as long as an hour or more. I generally spend between 30-40 minutes each day on this practice, and it is changing my whole outlook. I do my Bible study, spend time reading personal development books, and even have time to journal and plan my day.

5. Daily Walks. Back in December I fell (OK, I was knocked over by my puppy) and broke my wrist. In the healing process, it turns out I also have some tendon damage). Due to this, I haven't had much use of my left arm/wrist for almost ten weeks now. Exercise of any kind has been essentially non-existent, but with the lack of snow and ice, what I have been able to do, is walk. Well, except when it rains and freezes, because I also have not been able to risk falling. It's amazing what a brief ten minute walk around your neighborhood can do for your mood, especially if the sun is shining.

6. My Bullet Journal. I could write a whole blog post about this, and I might yet, but if you haven't heard about this yet, then check out that link. It's no secret that I am a very organized-down-to-the-last-minute kind of person. Being able to keep track of "all the things" as my kids would say, in one central location has been amazing. Of course, being the creative type, I have modified mine to suit my own needs, and doodle and other things to get my creative needs met while I'm busy with college and work. That's the great thing about the system. You can use it however you want, and all you need is a pen and a notebook.

7. My puppy. I have heard about therapy dogs, and how spending time with pets can increase your mood, and all of that, but I never really paid much attention to it. Maybe because I never really had a pet who loved on me as much as my puppy. Our first dog was defiantly my husband's dog, and she only loved on him as much as she could, due to the circumstances that she came to us from. Our Willow, however, is a love bug. She loves on everyone, and is happy to snuggle in your lap and kiss your face until whatever it is that is bothering you has become a distance memory. I am convinced that she is a big part of why I am sill smiling, here, in the depths of this winter.