By Samantha Pollack
I’m a certified holistic health coach and certified personal trainer. I love food – talking about it, reading about it, and impressing people with my cooking. In 2010, I left a stress-inducing career in Boston for the fresh air and mountains of Asheville, NC (there might have been a man involved as well). I run a meal-planning service for families of one or two at Insider Wellness. Also, my mom swears I proclaimed my childfree intentions at age 12!
February should also be known as National Abandon-Your-Resolutions-and-Curse-Groundhogs-Everywhere Month.
It’s also the time of year when the Winter Blues run rampant. If you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (so named because of its convenient acronym), the shortest month of the year can feel like an eternity.
If you live alone, you’re especially susceptible to a winter “funk.” Without co-habitants to distract you or reflect your mood and behavior, it’s oh-so easy to eat the entire pizza while gorging on SVU reruns. But, what if this season has something to teach us? What if we’re not supposed to overcome the winter, but embrace it?
Seasonal depression is no different from regular depression – it just happens to occur in the winter. Depression is mostly characterized by (among other things):
- Poor sleep/bad dreams (or, excessive sleep & fatigue)
- Food cravings, especially carbs & comfort food
- Anti-social hermit tendencies
- Lack of desire to do much of anything
- Negative self-talk (otherwise known as beating yourself up)
This “disorder” affects millions of Americans, which is why there’s so much information about how to overcome it. As for embracing it, that’s a horse of a different color. This is what I propose:
The reason so many people get depressed in the winter is because our modern lifestyle is in conflict with our true nature. It’s silly to think we wouldn’t be affected by seasonal changes. We’re a part of this world, despite our best efforts to ignore that. We have lights when it gets dark, heat when it gets cold, A/C when it’s too hot. Our jobs demand constant performance through all four seasons.
Most of us expect to be able to meet these demands, not just at work but in our personal lives as well. At the exact time of year when nature is screaming at us to hunker down and cozy up, we’re screaming right back that it’s time to shape up! Quit eating so much crap! Stop smoking!
The two are incongruent. We’re pushing and pushing, when maybe we should all just relax.
The more you can align yourself with the season, the less frustrated you’ll feel. For example:
- If you can, sleep a little later in the morning. Go to bed earlier too.
- Give yourself permission to rest. Exhaustion is a surefire way to get sick and/or depressed.
- Drink lots of water – winter air is very dry. Hot water with lemon and ginger is a nice morning warm-up.
- Eat warming foods: ginger, hot chiles, curry. Have hot cereal in the morning instead of yogurt. Make lots of soup.
- If you’ve got snow to play in, do it! Connecting with the elements is key in every season, but it’s especially vital in winter, when we spend so much time inside.
- Explore your quiet, introspective side. Write in a journal. Do some arts & crafts. Take up knitting. Winter is an ideal time to take stock of what’s working (or not), and create some new intentions.
- If you live alone, you need to be hyper-vigilant with your self care. When you spot signs of depression, gently encourage yourself to make plans with friends. Call your favorite family member. Watch funny movies instead of SVU.
Do you suffer from the Winter Blues? Which of these strategies will you try first?