Feeling low and stuck in a hole? Bummer! Winter blues are more common than we think. So many of us experience overwhelming feelings during this time, or the well observed fatigue and illness that go hand in hand with excess and Xmas shenanigans. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is now recognised as a common form of winter depression, and one may experience symptoms such as lethargy, unexplainable sadness, weeping, lack of motivation, fatigue, negativity in general, loss of appetite and finding it hard to see the light.
If any of these ailments apply to you, it´s important to remember that you are not alone. Nor should you feel shame in any way for this condition. Many of us experience depression at least once in our lives, and just knowing that we are not the first nor last may provide a source of comfort.
Here are some offerings for ways to feel better (especially if you can't fly south for the winter!)
1. REACH OUT AND TOUCH
Make an effort to connect to someone, however small. Isolation can exacerbate sad feeling.
2. SEEK HELP
Whether going to immediate family or friends or to consult your doctor for sources of healing through counselling. Sometimes, just having a compassionate ear offers solace. If you are looking for further support, Mind are a fantastic organisation who do great things. They are based in the UK. Check out this index for some informative details and useful links.
It was a little more challenging to find the equivalent in Norway (!) but lovely Hanne sent me this link for mental health support in Norway. You can also call “livskrisehjelpen” the Bergen phone no: 55568754 or drop in at Bergen legevakt. There are other regional numbers depending on where in Norway you live.
Wherever you are in the world, there are resources available to help you move forward.
3. GET SOCIAL
If leaning on friends and family is part of your worries, may I remind you, you are not a burden and often the anxiety of telling people you care about is much worse than doing it. You will feel lighter and can practice the feeling of being supported (a challenge for many of us!). But if that´s too much to handle, then reach out to a stranger. Smile. Start a conversation. Hear their story. Receive a new perspective.
4. TAKE CARE OF YOU
5. ASSESS YOUR DIET
Are you getting the right supplements? I never realised the value of this until my first (very long, very dark) winter in Norway. I spoke with a sweet friend who was also a nutritionist, who knew I was also a vegetarian at the time. She checked how I was obtaining my sources of vitamin D during the winter months, and after a blood test, i discovered my vitamin D and iron levels were beyond deficient! In fact, many of us in the Northern Hemisphere are deficient in vitamin D, and it´s something so simple to balance. If you think your blues might be related to something deeper, would really recommend seeing a doctor and having a health assessment. There could be hormonal elements at play that have a major influence on how you feel.
You are what you eat, therefore consider if you´re nourishing yourself in the best way possible to function as your optimum self`? Warming and hearty foods can be super toasty and really easy, which is particularly useful if you are low on energy. Here are some of my favourite suggestions for winter treats via my Mat Meg droolboard.
6. TRY YOGA
If you´re not feeling up to a class throw a pose into your day (or as many as you like) to help lift your mood.
Standing warrior poses like Warrior 2 can increase confidence, encouraging you to observe your power and feel the support beneath you.
Backbends can lift your mood, so start small and ensure you´re warm then try locust post (alternating between rests on your belly with your head on your hands, bend your knees and sway your feet for a soothing hip release). My fave backbend? Supported! A rolled up blanket placed under my mid spine. Lay/melt over the support and enjoy luxe city.
Twists are great for rinsing out blockages, so unclog with a simple seated twist such as Bharadvaja´s Twist.
If you´re feeling more energetic, an arm balance can be wonderfully uplifting. Handstand against a wall is a super way to turn your world upside down, and shake out any stagnation. Take it easy though, especially if handstands aren´t a part of your practice. You could try hanging out in a standing forward fold and have a change in perspective!
Remember child´s pose is a super nourishing, supportive and calming posture, which can soothe nerves and trigger the parasympathetic system. It can offer solace in those times when other postures may feel too much. Try it supported, with a pillow or blanket between your bum and heels, and place a duvet or cushions under your head and belly for a sweet touch. Turn your head each way for 5 (or more) breaths to gently stretch the neck too.
If all of that is too much to log, here´s a video practice i made for combating winter fatigue!
And here´s a gentle little practice with some help from a blanket and a wall to unravel the chest, hips and low back. Sprinkle a little of this as often as required!
Take a minute to observe how you´re breathing (or not), then ask if it´s fully supportive, expansive and fluid. If not, see what you can do to breathe in a way that uses your full lung capacity. Guarantee a minute of conscious breathing will leave you feeling miles better.
You can also try to sync your breath with this animation below.....vibes...
*don´t force it babes...!
8. GO FOR A WALK
Weather poops? No such thing as bad weather (i´m repeatedly reminded), just bad clothing! So get your thermals/waterproofs out and add a dollop of colour therapy (oranges and yellows work a treat) to have a visual reminder of light and warmth. If you have accessible light, then great, make the most of it. Otherwise, enjoy spotting cosy lights outdoors (perhaps take a flask of something to warm your cockles!).
9. HAVE A GOOD CRY
We often fight this one for being told we must ´hold it together´. Actually, the build up of tension from holding in something that wants to be released can do us more harm than good. We are humans with a range of emotions that need to be expressed, So allow yourself a period to cry, weep, sob, wail, have tissues and a pillow handy (and perhaps brew some tea). After our allotted time, and when you´re feeling it´s “out”, wash your face with cold water, focus on bringing the breath back to a nourishing and supportive rhythm, and hows about that tea eh?
If you´re feeling it, reach out and call someone who inspires you. An uplifting Skype chat when we´re raw and vulnerable can be just the ticket.
10. LIGHT UP!
I know i'm partial to any kind of fairy light, candle, or disco laser action, but reminding ourselves of the power of light can be liberating in a time cloaked in darkness.
Light up your environment, make things cosy (ensuring your flames are safe, mind), and if you have access to one of those mood enhancing lights then go get your vitamin D dosage! If you don´t have access to one of those lights, head to a local hardwear store and asked to try one out and notice if it makes any difference to your mood.
Want to go a little further Trataka meditation can be a great way to refresh eyes (and have a cry and a cleanse whilst you're at it). Starting at a flame without blinking in a darkened room can be mesmerising. Make a ritual of it!
11. HAVE A BATH
Immerse yourself in warm waters with optional drops of essential oils (providing you have no skin allergies). Or make yourself a natural scrub. If that's too challenging seek a yummy smelling something from your local health store. Citrus (lemon, lime and orange) essential oils can be energising and uplifting.
12. LUBE UP!
It's luxury time! If it´s cold in your neck of the woods, the biggest organ in your body is no doubt suffering, so show your skin some love. Self massage with home made oils or use a pre-made treat (for those in Bergen or the UK, Lush offer small sample pots of stock, so go talk to them for a divine all natural treat…ps they are not sponsoring me to say that!).
13. TREAT YO'SELF
It doesn't need to cost! For many of the soups i make, i double up and indulge in home made turmeric milk for a yummy treat. Here's a recipe!
14. WRITE IT DOWN
I'm a firm believer than better out than in, and carry a notebook with me at all times for that purpose. If so inclined, try writing down your feelings in a two-page stream of consciousness feed. Don´t even think about it, just write what comes off the top of your head. Sometimes being able to see what we are holding in writing can help us identify where problems, issues or blockages occur, and by identifying what we are dealing with, we can sooner find our path to resolution to heal ourselves or the situation that we are faced with. It way well just serve as a way to shift the stuff that´s occupying us inside, and make room to move forward (onwards and upwards!).
Any time i'm a bit grumbles this no doubt turfs me out of Grumbleland. Get a piece of paper and list three things you're grateful for right now.
Finding it hard? Start with your immediate surroundings. The breath. Perhaps someone in your life you care about. If you´re struggling, go onto TED or The Moth or Good News for inspirational stories from people doing wonderful things in this world. Or consider all that you have and consider those who do not.
I mean, like, now. Put on a tune that is irresistable (no shame here!) and let it all hang out. Public/private, Wadæ. Feel free to sing along, release and let go.
Repeating a phrase can offer support and encouragement, plus be a useful rhythmic tool for the breath. Here are some nice ones:
“This too shall pass”
(inhale) Let (exhale) go
Music has immense power to heal. Here's a Spotify playlist and a hug for you.
To open up and seek help is the best thing we can do, staying connected and present and knowing that it will pass. Remember, you are not alone. You can empower yourself to feel better. Try one (or all) of the above. Stay in the light.