FREE DOWNLOAD: MENTAL HEALTH CHECKLIST: Winter Blues Edition
A good amount of Chicagoans and Region Rats dread the winter for 2 large reasons: the cold and the dark. From November to February, we go through a dark time where the sun seems to disappear by the time we leave work. Why does it feel like 8pm at 4:30pm?!
The days are getting shorter, vitamin D deficiencies are rising, and people are getting sad. Here are my best daily tips for staying on top of your mental well-being through the dark months.
Simple Daily Steps to Make
The Winter Blues More Manageable
1 ) Drink water
You knew this would be on the checklist. It's on every health check list that exists! Drinking an 8oz glass of water in the morning kick-starts your organs and wakes you up. Sleeping all night brings on dehydration. I personally like my water plain and at room temperature. The best thing about water is you can add anything you want to it. Feeling a little citrus? Add lemon or orange. Minty? Add mint! Need some extra hydration? Liquid I.V. (https://amzn.to/3lNi2Eu) * Simply pour water into your favorite water bottle, add Liquid I.V. and drink. You'll be hydrated 3x over!
Talk to your doctor to find out how much water you should be drinking. My doctor recommends I drink 128oz (1 gallon) of water per day to support me and our growing baby!
2 ) Take your vitamins
I take a prenatal vitamin before bed every evening. I normally take my vitamins in the morning, but it's easier on my stomach when I take my prenatal vitamins at night (first trimester nausea stinks!)
I attribute my seasonal depression healing to taking Vitamin D3 through the the dark months (September-February). I start taking 2000IU of Vitamin D3/day in September because my doctor told me it takes 2-3 months for your body to really absorb the vitamin D. Talk to your doctor to to see if you can/should start taking Vitamin D and how many units (IU) you should take!
My Favorite Vitamins
My current Prenatal Vitamin
My & Michael's Vitamin D3
Max & Ana's Vitamin D3
3 ) Crack open that journal
Whether you do Julia Cameron's (The Artist's Way book) Morning Pages, mindfulness journaling, gratitude bullet points, or prayer journaling - just get that pen to paper and do it. Any way is the right way. Keep that journal open on your end table with a pen nearby. Scribble, draw, make lists, pray, talk to yourself - whatever is on your mind must make it onto that paper. Get it out of your head and put it into the universe. This is something I do year round. It actually helps keep me on track during the "dark" months
Bonus tip: Buy pens that make you happy. we all have a favorite pen that glides perfectly across the page. My favorite pens are Flair Pens by Paper Mate (https://amzn.to/2IRkPy9) *
4 ) Turn on the lights!
Shorter days and less sun disrupts our circadian rhythm. I tend to feel like it's 9pm at 5pm, so starting around 4:30, I turn on the lights! I know, I know, electric bills can run high. We took a few steps to reduce electricity costs while also keeping our spirits high in the house. We replaced all of our light bulbs with fluorescent and LED bulbs. This saves cash AND the environment!
I personally don't have a Verilux HappyLight, but a friend recommended it to me. It's a therapy lamp that is UV-free. You can adjust the brightness and you can use it first thing in the morning to kick-start your day - especially if you're an early riser!
5 ) Video chat/phone a friend: Have a Stimulating Conversation
Stimulate your brain. The more neurons that fire off, the more your brain is being exercised. Get the wheels turning, just like when you were a kid and you learned that the brain is 3lb. Maybe you learned that now! Either way, get some stimulating conversation in your day, everyday.
Being a stay-at-home mom means I don't get much adult conversation on weekdays. To stay *slightly* sane, I have to remind myself to FaceTime someone daily and get stimulating conversation in there. Talk about the future, aliens, a new hobby you're getting into, or anything that doesn't have to do with COVID-19
6 ) Move your butt
...by "move your butt," I mean GET UP AND DO SOMETHING. Get your heart pumping! Walk, get on the elliptical, spin in circles like Maximilian, turn on a workout video, go to the gym - the possibilities are endless.
Time for me to be honest: I struggle with this the most. I have a problem with just doing it. There's a little voice in my head that tells me that I just can't. BUT WHY. I have NO reason! There is nothing physically holding me back from getting up, putting my favorite at-home workout video on, and just. doing. it.
This is the point where I'm starting to take on Mel Robbins' "5 Second Rule." It goes like this: the moment you have a thought to do something, say "5-4-3-2-1" and DO IT. If you don't, it's not a priority to you. I can and I will. I'm working on it, so I'll keep you updated!
Can’t do 30 minutes? Do 15. Start with 5. Turn on a song and move where no one can see you. Jump, wave your arms really big. Go in circles. Stretch upside down on your bed.
Can't miss an episode of Grey's Anatomy? Keep it playing, stand up, and practice the cha cha slide til you can't Charlie Brown anymore.
7 ) Breathe.
Did you know that some women can give birth without pain or epidurals simply through breathing? In the past, pregnant women took classes to learn how to breathe through the stages of birth. I won't get into the nitty-gritty of it all, but know that with a proper breathing technique, you can conquer anything (including pushing a WHOLE HUMAN BEING out of a small orifice)
Why is the most simple thing that keeps us alive on this checklist? Breathing is so easy, you don't have to think about it - right? Unfortunately we forget how to breathe properly. The first time I saw my current chiropractor, he noticed my breathing. He looked at me and said, "wow, not many people know how to breathe properly. You're doing it." He was referring to my belly breathing. Many people breathe with their chest, when they should be breathing deep into their belly. If you're a singer, you know how to do this.
Close your eyes and imagine your breath going through your nose, into your airway, down through your lungs, and your belly expanding. Let it all out.
" B R E A T H E P R O P E R L Y "
There are many breathing exercises you can find online for different things. For the sake of your reading time, I'm going to tell you my favorite one for anxiety. It is the 4-7-8 breathing technique.
"Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight." integrisok.com
• Seek professional help.
2020 has been quite a year. Many people are seeking professional help and that is o.k. There is no shame in thinking you need an outside person to dump your insides out to. We all have our good and bad days. But if you're having more bad days then good, it may be time to research therapists around you.
How do you know it's time to make that phone call to a mental health professional?
...having a hard time finding joy in the things that used to bring you happiness
...experiencing mood swings and inability to cope with situations
...inability to work or go to school. Feeling like you would rather stay in bed all day.
...having thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
...noticing disruptions in your sleep or appetite.
...currently experiencing trauma or have experienced trauma in the past.
There are many signs that could render the help of a mental health professional. If you're even thinking about it, go ahead and Google a therapist near you and make that phone call. You can do it. Leave the voicemail giving them your info and take the small steps to get yourself to a healthier place in your brain.
I recently had my first session with my new therapist. Due to COVID-19, we had our session online through video chat. That session went well. I have my next session soon and I hope things work out. I will keep you updated on this journey on my Instagram stories (instagram.com/alyssamayg)
My goal is to provide you with the tools to help you take simple steps toward a healthier mind. Your brain is your most important organ. Take care of it.
Download your FREE
Mental Health Checklist:
Winter Blues Edition
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