The Winter Blues

Seasonal Affective DisorderThe Winter Blues = Seasonal Affective Disorder

(Updated from November 2015)

It’s that time of year. It hits me every fall with the time change and even though I’m aware it may come . . . it stills kicks me in the butt every time. The winter blues.

This has been a really tough week of feeling that “Seasonal Affective Disorder.” I’m down, negative, grumpy, unmotivated, tired . . . you know the symptoms. If you are feeling this way too – take heart! It’s SEASONAL, right? So it’s not permanent, it’s not forever, and the winter blues can be managed. (I’m writing this for myself as much as anything.) So, here’s what we know from studies: First, eating healthy and exercise really help. Those two things are crazy hard though when one is feeling crappy like this. All I crave is comfort food – aka carbs – and I have absolutely NO energy to get up and move. Then I feel fat and lazy, which makes me feel even worse, which makes the cycle continue, right?

Small Steps

Okay, small steps then. Start with light. Turn lights on, add an extra lamp to your desk or room. Light a candle – it’s surprisingly soothing and cheery. Turn on some upbeat music – “Happy Music” I call it. Make yourself a collection of songs that give you a good feeling, make you smile, remind you of fun times. I’ve just done those three things at the start of writing this blog, and honestly, I feel a bit better. I may even go to a yoga class tonight!

Practice Gratefulness

And finally, think about starting a “Gratefulness Journal” (idea stolen from Oprah). Take just a moment to jot down one or two things each day that you are grateful for. Years ago I saw a bumper sticker that said, GRATEFUL PEOPLE ARE HAPPY PEOPLE AND THOSE WHO AREN’T, AREN’T.” I’ve never forgotten that saying and recently made a cute chalk sign to hang on my fridge as a reminder. The winter blues will pass.

Okay – let’s go! We can do this.

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Posted in Depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder Tagged with:

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How to Practice Joy this Holiday Season

How to practice joyAs expectations mount, the stress of the holiday season can dampen even the most well-intentioned spirit. It’s hard to feel festive when disappointment looms large. If you give yourself the gift of joy this season, it just might ripple to others in your circle and make the season brighter for both you and your loved ones.  Here are five tips on how to practice joy from an assortment of sources:

Plan ahead. Approach the season with the intention of practicing joy.

In a recent Huffington Post article, Michael Thomas Sunnarborg suggests, “one solution is to find positive small ways to nudge us towards things that are more joyful than painful—more productive than destructive.”

Accept what you cannot change and reward yourself with time to recover.

In her Psychology Today article, Dora Calott Wang, M.D. prompts us tosimply accept what you can’t change—and know it won’t last forever.  Enjoy what you can—and keep the end of it firmly in mind.”

She also suggests that you plan “a relaxing reward, and keep it in mind, through the holidays.” She takes it even further by adding, “after exhausting holiday celebrations with relatives, some families take a separate vacation on their own, to recover.”

Ditch the phone, remember what you already have, and truly connect with others.

Emma Sappälä Ph.D. tells Psychology Today readers, “ironically, stress reduces our ability to really connect with others empathically. As a consequence, we may be with other people, but not really forming any meaningful connections. You might still feel lonely in a crowd, or irritable or even sad.” She goes on to remind us that, “by focusing on what you can do for others, research shows you will not only be happier, but also healthier.”

One way to accomplish this, according to Sappälä, is to “take time off of work: When you notice your mind wandering and an itch to check your work email, take a deep breath and come back to the here and now. This is an opportunity to reconnect with the things you enjoy doing.”

Set realistic expectations and avoid feeling trapped.

In an article for Popular Science, California State University Psychology Professor, Pamela Regan, points out that “Sometimes, as we work through the discomfort of shifting familial roles (kids growing up, parents getting older), we snap back into old behavioral paradigms.”

In the same article, Terri Orbuch, a relationship expert and sociology professor at Oakland University, suggests the following:

  • “…manage your expectations, to set realistic ones so that you don’t get frustrated or angry around the holidays.”
  • “Keep the mood light, keep people laughing; you can guide the conversation to avoid topics that you know are stressful.”
  • “…make sure you arrive at the gathering with your own method of transport so that you don’t feel trapped if you feel like you need to leave.”

Take a cue from the bible.

In his Psychology Today article, 3 Examples of Self-Care in the Bible, Steve Austin references the following biblical passage:

1, Jesus said, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:26-30 MSG

I wish you joy this holiday season. If you need a jump start, book a session with me and I’ll help you map solutions for the season.

Lisa

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Posted in Counseling Bainbridge Island, Stress, Uncategorized Tagged with: , ,

Be Thankful for You

ThankfulThe Benefits of Being Thankful

By now it’s no secret that practicing gratitude improves your health. The scientifically proven benefits are numerous and widely reported by Forbes, Psychology Today, Huffington Post, and the like.  Being thankful can:

  • Strengthen your relationships by accentuating the positive
  • Improve your physical health by boosting your immune system and reducing hypertension
  • Improve your psychological health by decreasing stress and granting a sense of belonging
  • Enhance empathy and reduce aggression by promoting prosocial behavior
  • Help you sleep better by clearing your mind of negative thoughts

Did you know thankful high schoolers have higher GPAs? At least according to a 2010 study the Journal of Happiness Studies.

 Are You Thankful for You?

As we approach Thanksgiving, many of us take time to express gratitude for our families, friends, homes, and communities; but we don’t often take time to express gratitude for ourselves. When was the last time you were thankful for you?

We are often so focused on what we’re doing wrong that we forget to acknowledge what we’re doing right. Even beyond what we do, we need to be grateful for who we are. Take a moment and name three things about yourself that you’re thankful for. They might include passions, abilities, traits, or attributes.

Now answer the following:

  1. When were you brave (even in the smallest way)?
  2. What are some good choices you’ve made?
  3. When did you turn a failure into a lesson that propelled you forward?

Thank yourself. Acknowledge how far you’ve come. Be kind to yourself and try to recognize the good qualities other people see in you.

“Today you are you: that is truer than true. There is no one alive that is youer than you.” – Dr. Seuss

I’m thankful for you.

Lisa

 

 

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