It’s not even officially winter yet, but I feel it in my heart and bones.
Emo AF, I know!
You would think as a 32 year old Canadian I would be used to winter by now, but I’m not. It kicks my ass every year and I hate it.
I’ve picked up several coping skills over the years & want to share them with you because given the response to my mental health posts on instagram I know I’m not alone in this! While I’m not a mental health expert or medical professional, I’ve learned that my personal experiences are valuable to many of you. That said, please keep in mind that the following is obviously NOT medical advice, and if you are self-harming or suicidal please seek professional help immediately!
First thing to always remember:
The only permanent thing is change.
Mainly, winter won’t last forever and neither will these feelings. Spring will come and things will bloom and life will feel good again. It always does!
But also, everything changes. Like, everything. We are more of a process than a fixed THING and so is the world around us. Some people take this as a negative, but I see it more as an opportunity. If everything was permanent we would be bound to our current reality, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Think about your life 10 years ago. Some things will have remained the same, but it is inevitable that there’s been significant change in your mind & thoughts, physical body inside and out, relationships, job, finances, etc. The more we can accept and utilize the slow and continuous process of transformation that is life rather than grasping to everything as if it were permanent the happier we will be. Can you tell I spent several years studying Buddhist Philosophy? Impermanence is arguably THE foundational concept at the core of Buddhism and I could write a whole blog about it but that’s all I’ll say for now. Let me know if you’re interested in learning more about this and I’ll put something together!
On to some PRACTICAL TIPS! For me, often the hardest time of the day is first thing in the morning, so establishing a go-to routine for when I’m feeling under the weather first thing has proven to improve my day.
First, MUSIC. I’m so grateful for Jungle Music because it’s often the jolt I need to get out of my head and on with my day. Sometimes I don’t feel like it, but I put it on anyways and within a few minutes my head is bopping and I’m dancing around. I know reggae with 200 beats per minute isn’t for everyone, but whatever upbeat music does it for you, crank it & feel the vibration! Sometimes the boost of energy is enough for me to think “okay, I got this!” and start getting shit done, starting with..
COFFEE. If you follow me on instagram, you know I’m obsessed with coffee. It’s probably the least healthy thing on this list, but in moderation it’s a Godsend. That said, this winter I’m going to make a concerted effort to make healthier choices to feel better physically & see what it does for my mood! Healthy food, lots of water, vitamins, yoga, and maybe some microdosing! Any tips here are appreciated!
I’ve realized that I really value PRODUCTIVITY.. Even if I spend a day crying and feeling shitty, at the end of it I will feel good about myself if I got something DONE, big or small. For this reason, I’m a big fan of To-Do lists. Sometimes a never ending list of tasks can be overwhelming and discouraging, but I learned such an awesome strategy from Dr. David Burns book Feeling Good that I wrote a whole blog post about it below! The flipside of valuing productivity so much is that if I don’t get as much done as I planned to I can be really hard on myself to the point where it actually makes me more depressed and even less productive. It’s a TRAP! Do the best you can today and be proud of your efforts & tomorrow is always a new day, that’s all you can really do!
If I still can’t shake it after crossing everything off my to-do list, I do the following things as HEALTHY DISTRACTIONS. If your only coping mechanism is to distract yourself by binging Netflix or sleeping (been there), it’s not good. But distractions aren’t inherently bad. Sometimes you just need something else to focus on to disrupt your thought patterns and in turn, mood. I may not be “cured” after doing these activities, but they are positive actions that pass the time in a more enjoyable and satisfying way than dwelling or doing nothing - there’s also a bit about this in my last blog post.
CLEAN.. I know not everybody likes cleaning like I do, maybe it’s partially my revere for productivity, but it also just feels good to live in a clean house. If I’m depressed and thinking negatively while the house is messy, it’s just another reason to be hard on myself and continue the downward spiral. Essential cleaning tips - get high, crank tunes, get shit done!
COOK. When I’m in a bad place I often eat poorly and it results in another vicious cycle of feeling crappy. Making healthy food is a distraction that results in feeling good both mentally and physically. I also like to bake - I try to do so as healthy as possible in order to munch out guilt free. I have a ton of recipes on my Pinterest!
LOGIC PUZZLES. I’ve been a fan of puzzles since I was a kid - I used to be obsessed with Sudoku but these days I’m hooked on Hanjie. I think I like it as a distraction from my emotions because it requires the exact opposite mindset. Feelings have no value when solving logic puzzles and there’s something satisfying about there only being ONE right answer. I get so into it that time passes unnoticed and I can go ages without focusing on my negative thoughts or mood. There’s something I like conceptually about doing puzzles as well.. At first you have NO idea what the answer is but you find a place to start and just keep building on it step by step. It’s an applicable life lesson as well - the big picture of our future or answer to a problem may be so unclear that it looks impossible to solve, but if you just get started and make one baby step at a time the answer will slowly reveal itself. Just get started!
MAKE ART. Sometimes I make nice things, sometimes it’s trash, but it doesn’t matter. I find the process therapeutic & wouldn’t care if I burned most of it when I was done. I’ve recently started learning how to use watercolors (thanks, YouTube!) & I think I enjoy it for pretty much the exact opposite reason that I do logic puzzles, with a similar result. Instead of there being one right answer, there is no right answer. I like to try to remove all expectation and ego and just play with color and form. It’s hard to articulate what I get out of it, but it’s a relaxing activity! Part of it is also that I’m learning & practicing a new skill, which is super satisfying and always a healthy thing to do!
LEARN. You could study the world every waking hour for your whole life and still not know everything there is to know. Sometimes we get comfortable in our own little bubbles - break out & watch a documentary about a country you’ve never heard of or a topic you know nothing about. The internet is an endless resource - use it! It sounds super basic, but learning new things is a great way to pass time and enrich your mind and you never know what might have an impact on your life! One of my favorite websites is www.topdocumentaryfilms.com - it’s all free & there’s no shortage of interesting things to watch & learn about!
LAUGH. Sometimes I have to force myself with this one too, but if I can’t shake a mood and I need some uplifting background noise I put on stand up comedy. Cliches usually have some basis in truth and I think there’s good reason for the phrase “laughter is the best medicine.”
GIVE LOVE. One cliche I don’t find to be true is “misery loves company” - rather than complaining & dragging others down, I’d rather spread some love & try to lift someone up! Making a friend or even stranger feels good and we have the power to do it for free all the time! I am blessed to have connected with so many people through instagram & love to use the platform to reach out to others who may be struggling. I know I can’t solve anyone else’s problems, but I love to give them a boost and make them feel less alone..
GET OUTSIDE. I get cold very easily so going for a walk in the winter just for fun isn’t so fun, but I still bundle up and do it as often as possible. Being in nature and getting exercise are both important, even it it means getting cold!
SOCIALIZE. this one is hard for me, because when I’m not doing well I tend to isolate myself and the thought of socializing is not even on my radar. But really, most of the time if I force myself into going I’m usually happy I did. Other people are a good distraction!
TALK TO A LOVED ONE - ok, so a lot of these are hard for me! I’ve never been good at talking about my emotions or communicating what I’m going through, especially if I’m deep in a depression. Part of it is feeling like people won’t understand or know what to say, or that it will burden them, but an even bigger part has been overcoming the struggle of articulating my feelings into words - even to myself. That sounds weird, but sometimes my winter sorrow is more like a physical feeling that results in tears rather than a specific problem or thought that is troubling me.. But how do you explain that? And what can anybody do about it?! But your loved ones DO want to be there for you, you just have to let them. It’s not easy and I’m learning that even if I don’t discuss my emotional state, just connecting with and spending time with loved ones face to face is important but a video or voice call work too!
If you don’t have a loved one to reach out to, find a stranger! The internet is a magical place and there are countless opportunities to find someone to talk to. There are apps that offer real-time counselling and millions of people are on social media at any given time - there’s no excuse to feel alone! If you don’t know where to start, I’d suggest searching either local or interest-specific hashtags on instagram - like & comment on any photos that resonate with you & see if you can strike up a conversation with someone new! People say it’s hard to make friends as an adult, but it’s not as difficult as you may think, but you have to get out there!
That’s all for now - I hope you find some of these tips to be helpful! I love hearing your feedback, leave me a comment below or send me a DM if you want to chat!