For most of January I remained silent in my business. At first I thought I'd take a week off, then one week became two. Each day I would silently berate myself for not putting any content out with my business. By the third week I decided to allow myself till the end of the month to simply be. This post is to share what's been happening in my world along with the five biggest ways I've been working my way out of seasonal depression.
I'm not going to lie, it's been a rough winter season for me emotionally speaking. I'm a summer loving lady and have always had it rougher in winters spent in the Pacific Northwest (which has been 64% of my life so far, you'd think I'd be more used to it by now).
Working through 2018 emotions
It started with the holiday season that I don't care much for and going into the new year. 2018 was a different year for me. I quit my full-time job to devote myself to this business. I went from a steady paycheck to making not much at all. The guilt around this is a lot. I would feel guilty to devote time to my business during the week. It was really silly since I quit my job to do just that. The mind is a funny place and can really get you spinning in a circle. Needless to say a lot of processing behind the scenes took place, and if I'm honest, a lot of avoidance of dealing with life also happened.
By the time January hit my seasonal depression was well established. It crept up on me for months until I could voice why it was I feel so tired and sad. It didn't help matters that I decided January was the month to quit caffeine and alcohol too. I mean January is THE month for big life changes right? Or, more correctly, the month we feel pressure to begin a new chapter.
Now the booze part didn't bother me as this wasn't my first dry month rodeo (I plan on keeping this going the entire year, more on that later), but the caffeine did a number on me for sure. Did you know that caffeine withdrawal is viewed as a legit drug withdrawal? It makes sense because caffeine is a stimulant, but I kinda glossed over the severity of it since caffeine is wildly available and normal to consume.
Not all people feel this way when they give up caffeine. Only 50% of people experience withdrawals, but I was a multi-cup all day long coffee drinker for 13 years so I felt it ALL. The headaches, all day fatigue (even doing a single simple chore felt like too much), nausea, and depression. Oh boy, depression is a symptom of caffeine withdrawal and I was already feeling depressed to start. Yay...
I'd been proud of my coffee loving self and it was a part of my identity for so long. One big part of self work is letting go of exterior things that we feel define us. The thing is this work of removing the labels can be hard and painful at times. Especially when the work comes in the depths of winter.
While I'm still not my usual happier Spring / Summer self yet I do see more lightness creeping back into my world. While time plays a role in this I do also believe that the 5 methods I'm instilling into my everyday life that have helped me immensely. Maybe one or more can help you if you've been in that seasonal funk like me.
1. Eating better foods and snacking less.
Eating better is always a goal for me. Some weeks or months I do great and then slowly my diet begins to consist of sweets and chips and my weight starting creeping up the scale. I started to feel uncomfortable in my skin and so I started fresh with a new diet.
I began eating more plant based foods, cooking and baking new dishes, taking my vitamins again (give me alllll that Vitamin D please!), and I stopped snacking between meals. I also began drinking apple cider vinegar drinks in the morning along with an afternoon green juice a few days a week.
The first week and a half was rough. Cravings and not feeling / seeing any changes makes it difficult to keep eating healthy, but in the past week I've started seeing changes on the scale, with my mood, and how I felt in my body. I feel I've gotten past the big initial resistance where cravings for junk food start fading away.
2. Moving my body with intuitive exercise.
I found myself spending most of my awake time sitting on the couch or laying in a bath in January. Spending too much time without movement is a surefire way to feel stagnant. I started moving my body while watching tv. Then slowly I started prioritizing physical movement during the day with intuitive exercise.
For those who may not know what intuitive exercise is it's when you move your body however you feel like in the moment. I would go between jogging in place to doing cha cha dance moves and pumping my arms up and down. I stretch in positions that feel good. I do squats and sit ups and I walk up and down our stairs a bunch of times in a row. I do this in the morning for an untimed number of minutes and then again in the evening. The only thing I measure are my steps.
If you're like me and can't seem to stick to an exercise regimen I highly suggest you give this type of low pressure exercise a shot. Do what feels right and good for your body in the moment and don't worry about reps, sets, time while you do it. We have the power to create our own exercise routine.
Even the smallest act of movement helps to move the energy within your body so you feel more alive. I'm happiest when I feel alive so this one has been a huge eye opener for me to move my body more often.
3. Breathing fresh air.
This one is huge for me. Yesterday I was feeling the lowest I'd felt all week and didn't know why. Then my husband asked me if I'd been on a walk. I realized I hadn't purposefully gone out of the house (besides the grocery store) since Tuesday. I work from home so I tend to not talk to anyone besides my husband and cats most weekdays. I love my alone time, but in winter I feel isolated fast.
I went on two hikes with a friend this month and a walk with another. Those days had me feeling the most like myself. My creativity came surging back on these days and I was able to escape the non-serving thoughts in my mind.
Now I know that in winter I need to do more hiking. Getting out into the woods is when I feel like I can accomplish everything I dream of in life. Plus I get to see some amazing views like watching the sunrise after a dark hike up to a lookout.
4. Having self compassion.
This one is hard. It sounds simple right? Be kind to yourself when you're feeling down. We all hear it and think yeah yeah yeah. The thing is when we feel depressed it can be downright impossible to think nicer thoughts in the moment. It takes a lot of willpower to change course and believe what you're saying.
I spent the first part of January berating myself even though I understood that behavior wasn't helpful. I did it because it took less energy than being kind would take. As the month went on I decided to be okay with the season I found myself in and start telling myself that I deeply and completely love and accept myself. As I start to treat my mind with better thoughts I then wanted to treat my body to the better diet and exercise I mentioned above.
5. Consuming less content.
Allowing ourselves to feel more, especially when those feelings aren't good ones can be frightening, but it's work we need to do when the emotions get heavy within us. The thing is we're at a time in society where we can avoid dealing with our emotions without even trying.
I do this with tv, podcasts, blogs, youtube and instagram. Constantly. Sometimes on purpose and other times without realizing it. By avoiding my emotions they just start piling up within me and I feel dragged down by it all. Journaling or doing healing work on myself felt draining at times so I took little steps. More moments of stillness where I focus on myself. Small journal entries of incomplete thoughts written down. More spending time with myself and nothing else to distract me with.
I can really see a difference in days when I jump from content to content. I feel more harried and out of touch with myself when I have days like that. While I still love keeping up with my fave tv shows, podcasts, accounts, and blogs I do see the importance in keeping up with me on the daily too.
And that's the five ways I've started coming out of my seasonal depression. I'd love to hear about the one that resonated with you most or share one of your own down in the comments!
My hope with this is if you've felt similar that I've helped you feel less alone. If you have a friend feeling low and think this article could help them out please feel free to it send their way.
Thanks for reading!
*Disclaimer: this is my personal story with dealing with seasonal depression. Depression is a meaty topic and I don't claim to have the right answers for everyone and am not a medical professional in any way. I share this as tools to use when feeling down, but there are many other tools and medications that may be crucial for others in dealing with their depression.