SAD is not fun but it’s manageable with the the right tools. I’ll be sharing some of my tried and true secrets that I use to kick your depression and anxiety to the curb. The secret is to help yourself first because your family and friends can’t always be around to pull you up.
One word: Try.
3 letters that are so difficult to live up to when all you want is to keep cozy under your sheets, sleep for hours until your butt and back are sore, and shut the whole world out for eternity because life feels so sucky. But you might just survive winter and win against SAD if you keep trying your best. Get ready – this is a long one. That’s why my hair is so big – It’s full of secrets. Get it? Mean girls. I love Damien.
1. Create an outside plan and inside plan
This should be easy for all my type-A buddies out there; I know you love lists and spreadsheets. But if lists aren’t your thing, please do try to make a plan of some sort. It’s a million times harder to try when you actually have to think of what to do when you don’t want to do anything at all. Start making your outside plan by writing a list of everything you like to do in the summer, then modify these to accommodate the winter months. The same applies for your inside plan – figure out what you like to do inside, whether it’s binge watching Netflix or reading a book, and write it down. You can keep this list on your fridge, by your bed, or on your phone. Just make sure you know where it is so you can access it right away when you are a complete blob.
2. Get dressed and go out
Winter is cold and sweatpants inside a warm house sounds like the best thing ever. Like, what are waffle weaved long johns? And how expensive is merino wool? And why are boots not the same weight as sandals on your feet? Seriously. There’s no denying that layers are heavy but staying in your pajamas and sweatpants indoors won’t help when you’re battling SAD either.
I mean, you know you aren’t happy inside so what do you have to lose by stepping out for 5 minutes?
Start with baby steps – what do you do first when your roll out of bed? The bathroom is my personal destination but getting there is my biggest battle. I spend about 15 minutes contemplating the worthiness of this travel, and another 5 minutes wishing for a teleportation device before I finally push myself out of bed. Sometimes this works and sometimes I just fall back asleep after 5 of the 15 minutes, but hey, I tried. I didn’t just bury my head into my pillow and cry about how miserable I felt. They are baby steps for a reason. Don’t make yourself feel more miserable by focusing on what you couldn’t do. When you wake up, try again.
Nourish your body – what’s your go-to breakfast? My appetite is shot when I’m depressed and anxious so no strong breakfast game for me. Everything tastes like cardboard in my mouth but my mood will definitely be worse if I don’t eat. What will your mitochondria do without it?! Think of the mitochondria!!! But again, start small. Maybe it’s a glass of milk or a bowl of Cheerios but ingest something. A protein shake works too – 1 scoop of protein with a glass of water or milk, then shake shake shake. My personal favourite is the Diesel New Zealand Whey Isolate. The cookies and cream flavor tastes like dessert in the morning. Didn’t make it to breakfast? Breathe – it’s OK. Forgive yourself. Remember: Just. Keep Trying. You are the little engine that could.
Exit the home vicinity – but outside is too overwhelming so what can you do? Pin point a nearby destination before leaving your house, then bundle up and exit your home. I love to just walk and explore my city. Toronto has always been my home and I never stop finding more nooks and crannies just by walking. My tried and true “summer-to-winter” activity is skating at the harbourfront. In the summer, I like to hang out by the harbourfront to watch the funny duck things that ducks do and all the tourists walking by. During the winter months, there is an ice rink there too.
Some of my other “outside” examples include:
* Walking to one of my favourite tea/coffee shops or picking up a dessert from one of my favourite bakeries
* Walking to one of my favourite areas of the city and just people watch, or
* Trekking through a few walking trails closeby to hear little birds scurry around
3. Take a break and stay inside
Check in with yourself first before you decide if you should stay or if you should go (yes the Clash!) Maybe the best thing for you in that moment is just to stay inside. Here’s a tip for pushing yourself out the door: set a timer for 15 or 30 minutes to get some fresh cold air outside, then cozy up back at home as a reward. Just don’t push yourself too much because it might create more anxiety and highlight your depression instead. Try to let go of the things you can’t control this winter.
So your body is telling you to stay inside – what will you do? Start by nourishing your body as I’ve mentioned above. But instead of going outside, do what makes you feel good while staying inside. If your answer is to stay in bed, then create breaks during the day. For example, allocate X amount of time to Netflix binge, then X amount of time to eat again, then X amount of time to nap or lay in bed. Then repeat, change up the activities, and go with the flow. They don’t have to be rigid time limits but just keep score with yourself. After all, this process is about you and there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Some of my “inside” examples include:
* Watching whatever my favourite show is at the moment. Since they’re all online, I make it a goal to watch 3 episodes or 1 movie before I’m allowed to sulk in bed again.
* Lighting lighting lighting! My best friend hates how “dark” my house is sometimes, but it’s all about romancing myself. Sorry husband. So pick up a few candles and light ’em up!
* Filling up my tea cup, whether it’s honey and lemon or some delicious cream of earl grey from David’s Tea. Nothing warms my soul more in the winter time.
* Junk food is my worst enemy but I tell myself, “Everything in moderation.” I know I can’t destroy my body because, well, it’s junk and it isn’t great for my mental health in the long run. But… if I eat some popcorn whilst watching TV, then eat a whole red pepper with a tall glass of water, it’s all gravy right?
* Colouring or painting is so therapeutic because it keeps me focused on one thing and temporarily blocks out all the sadness and destructive worrying thoughts. Art allows us to create while letting go of what we can’t control.
* Puzzles and Tetris, because my grandmother is a Tetris master and I grew up playing this. When I’m feeling awful, I have a game on my phone called 10 Block King. It is the best. You’ll love this if you love Tetris because it’s like Tetris in with the added bonus of tangrams – mindblowing. I can at least break down a few blocks if I can’t seem to solve my own personal puzzle, right?
Notice how my inside list is so much longer? It’s hard to get outside when it’s freezing. You don’t any incentive to go out by yourself.
But SAD is hard. Depression is hard. Anxiety is hard. Winter is hard. I hope you remember this when you try to do anything but stay in bed. It’s all hard and you deserve a gold badge for just trying. You can do it lovelies. Try your best this winter and keep tabs of your mood.
I hope this can help you in some way to prepare for the long winter months to come. I’ll be right here with you with a new post every Friday, no matter the weather.