Does Your Mood Drop During The Winter Months? Here are 5 Ways I Cope.

if-im-getting-lively-about-it-its-because-i-feel-lively-about-itNot so long ago, I sat outside in the garden, a swath of blue sky above my head, the warm sun on my face. I could smell the clove laden Viburnums and the softer Daphnes, see the papery roses zigzagging the fence, the Magnolia with its small creamy flowers stood in a bright ceramic pot. Fat little bumble bees fed on delicate flowers and Butterflies skimmed past like tiny fragments of silk floating through the hot air. I sat reading a book or flicking through the pages of a newspaper or bent down on the soft brown earth pulling weeds or raked the grass after it had been cut. The long, warm days kept me out there, from early morning, listening to the birds sing on the telephone wires or perched upon the chimney pots to the golden peachy dusk when the air cooled and it was time to go back in. When summer is here, it can be hard to imagine anything else. Summer doesn’t whisper or creep, it’s not shy, it throws it’s light against your curtained window each morning and wakes you from lesser dreams. Sun dapples your wooden floor and illuminates your pale, muted walls and unlike winter when you pull the covers back over my head for two more minutes, now you bound out of bed, ready to take on the day.

Sound Familiar?

You wished it lasted forever, the long hot days when you felt optimistic and carefree, but it’s not to be. One day you wake later, and the sun feels weaker than usual and the dark creeps in at the corners. Before you know it, mornings are shaded in darkness and the days are grey and stuffed with plumes of melancholy. Your optimism wanes and you don’t feel carefree, you feel sluggish and lethargic and depressed. In the mornings you feel like you are in quicksand, falling down into the cakey layers and you wonder whether you will ever come unstuck, manage to get some purchase with just one bare foot.

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When you do pull yourself out of the bed, it’s not with excitement, you aren’t looking forward to a new day and the things you need to do or the people you will see. You are hoping it will soon pass, so you can creep back into the warm folds of your duvet and dream about warmer climates, some place else.

Not knowing what to do, you eat sugar laden cake and squares of smooth milk chocolate (for the endorphins) and sometimes drink more, bottles of cheap red wine and drams of smokey single malts. You think at all the things you have planned:  books to finish, ideas to plot, short stories to create, articles to write, days out where you will visit that longed for bookshop and a haircut next week in that hairdressers with only two chairs and your upcoming birthday with presents and cards and a beautifully made meal and probably a film or two. Nothing catches, nothing brings a smile as you think of days to come.

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Still, you feel depressed. When the nights become dark, it’s not just the skies that become sombre, it feels as though our output is toyed with and turned down. Animals hibernate and you wish that you could, hide in a dark, cool cave and shut your tired eyes until spring returns and reasons to be alive float like messengers on the air. Instead, you carry on, but your reserves are dry, you feel deficient of sun and light and anything representing joy.

It feels as if one doesn’t have to suffer from depression to be affected by the lack of light, but if you already struggle, it makes it worse, thinking of months coated in darkness with no holes to let the light in. It wipes out two whole seasons that you could enjoy, instead stuck with a SAD lamp to trick your bewildered brain and the hope that spring will soon appear.

Every year, I forget about these months, the long days of spring and summer make forgetting easy and so each year, it feels almost new, harsh, something I wasn’t expecting and it makes it harder to deal with. If I had known, I could have prepared, but I forgot and all I can do now is roll with it.

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What do I do:

I try and keep busy, as depression with a unoccupied mind save for negative thoughts isn’t a great option. It will probably convince you that you caused the lack of light. I do all of the things I am supposed to do, no excuses.

I go outside every single day. It may look gloomy, but there is light out there and trying to soak up what amount there is good for the brain.

I do whatever I can to elevate my mood. It’s no different to when I feel depressed and it’s not autumn or winter. As soon as I feel it coming, I work out what will help decrease it or at least not allow it to take hold.

I watch my food intake. The dark, cold months are the ideal time for warm soups and broths, so I stock up on vegetables and I also like cottage or shepherds pie. It’s nice made with vegetarian mince and you can always use sweet potato for a heather option.

I keep watch of my sleeping habits. I always want to sleep when depressed, but it’s often the worse thing I can do, making me feel more dreadful. I sometimes find if I am not sleeping too much, the other thing that can happen is I become less productive due to lethargy and generally not feeling bothered. It will bother me at the end of a day though when I have achieved very little.

Don’t hide away. I know we often want to and sometimes we need to, I really believe that but at other times it’s good to push. We may just get a break, get out of our own heads for half an hour and as we all know, this can be the needed break we need.

Try a SAD lamp. They’re expensive, and can be a great tool to use to help our poor brains find some sunshine.

There are probably lots of other things you can do, but these are my humble things that help me.

And that’s about it. Do you struggle in the darker months? Would love to hear your experiences and what helps you. Leave me a comment below.

© Copyright Henrietta M Ross.

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