Since I was a teenager, my energy levels and moods have been intrinsically tied to the seasons.
I joke sometimes that I am a Bear Woman – Bear is one of my spirit animals – she has come to me in dreams, and she is an animal I feel I can relate to well. I tend to hibernate in the winter, with busy periods in the Fall and Spring as the seasons change. The winter sees me sluggish, down, lazy. Spring and Fall I hardly sleep and just abound with energy, optimism, and ideas.
Some winters are better than others. The winter after the birth of my first child was rough, and I can see in hindsight there was more than just seasonal depression there – I am sure that I was dealing with postpartum depression as well. Last winter was a hard one for me, too, when we had more than ten feet of snow fall during January and February, and sub-freezing temperatures made it difficult to go outside.
There have been days when, as soon as I’ve sent my kids off to school, I’ve crawled into bed and stayed there until it was time for them to come home. When it’s bad I have no energy to deal with even simple day to day chores and responsibilities.
This winter was going pretty good. I got a sun therapy lamp in December and have been using it daily. It really seems to make a difference in my energy levels. However, there have recently been some external things going on in my life which sent me into an energetic tailspin, prompting me to take some extra measures against the blues and to really think about what things make me feel better when I am down. I made a list to hang in my studio of the things I can do when I feel the slow slide or the rapid tumble into darkness. I want to share it with you, with some explanation of each point, and I encourage you to come up with your own Energetic First Aid Kit.
(Note: If you feel your depression is serious, or you are having thoughts or feelings of self-harm, please see a doctor. There is no shame in seeking medical help for depression, no shame in taking medication to help you deal with it. Sometimes depression is a chemical imbalance that can best be helped with pharmaceuticals. I have been on anti-depressants twice, and while I feel they were not the best fit for my type of depression, I would never tell anyone that they are not the right way to go. Everyone is different, and so is depression – it’s not a one-size-fits-all disease. )
What I do When I’m Feeling Blue
- Get Outside. This is a big one for me. I try to get out for even a short walk in nature every day. I am lucky enough to live adjacent to wild land where I can walk my dog off leash through woods and swamp and shore. Being in the woods recharges my batteries like nothing else, soothes my psychic pains, and helps me realize what is important and what is not.
Sometimes a trip to the shore is in order. There is nothing more therapeutic than standing on a cliff in a good head wind shouting your frustration and pain to a churning, roiling sea below. The sea, the earth, and the wind are all very powerful at being able to carry away your pain and sadness.
If you’re like me, you may sometimes feel guilty about “dumping” your pain and sadness on a friend – like you don’t want them to take on any of your pain in trying to help you. Well, Mother Nature can take all the negativity you can get out – the earth absorbs it, the sea washes it clean, the wind carries it away – they all dissipate the darkness until it is dissolved away to nothing.
- Make a list. There is something so satisfying in ticking off a box on my to-do list. When I am feeling down, I will even add things like “Have a shower” and “Get dressed” to my list – because in the depths of a depression those can feel like big tasks, but also because they are more things to tick off the list, making me feel like I’ve accomplished something. For me, at least, part of being depressed is a feeling of being unproductive, ineffectual, of not being useful. Accomplishing something, anything, for me, is good medicine against depression.
- Snuggle a pet. Self explanatory. Everyone and their dog (see what I did there?) knows about the therapeutic benefits of having an animal companion around. Part of it goes along with my last point – having someone to care for outside of yourself, having someone who you feel needs you, is a way to feel useful. But also, holding a warm purring ball of fur against your heart or nuzzling that spot on the top of your dog’s head that just smells so good is one of the best anti-depressants going.
- Be good to yourself. Do nice things for yourself. Buy yourself little treats. Take good care of yourself by eating good-tasting food you know are good for you, and making sure you get enough sleep and exercise. Treat yourself like you are a little child in your care. You wouldn’t yell at or berate a little child for not feeling well, would you? No – you would take care of them, nurture and nurse them.
For me, getting a new book on my ereader, what I call a popcorn book – a good fun page turner without a lot of substance – always makes me feel a little better. I love the feeling of possibility in a new book, and I also love to be able to disappear out of my sad, depressing world and into a fun adventure.
- This kind of goes along with #4, but give yourself permission to say “Fuck It”. Dishes not done? Fuck it. Floor not swept/vacuumed? Fuck it. If it isn’t fun and doesn’t make you happy… Fuck it. Just try one day of doing only what is fun and easy and see how you feel.
- Don’t be afraid to be honest about what you are going through. This used to be a hard one for me, but something I’m getting better with. As hard as it may be for you to believe when your at the bottom of that dark hole, don’t forget that others have been there too – others are there now. Be open and honest about what you’re going through and you will find other people will respond with kindness and love and support. All too often we use social media to only show the nice, pretty, glossy magazine versions of our lives. We post photos of the perfectly plated gourmet meal but not the peanut butter sandwiches and top ramen. What if we were all honest and open on social media about both the light and the darkness in our lives? We would see that we are all struggling with things, both familiar and unfamiliar to us. Perhaps we would have more compassion for others if we were reminded more often that we are all dealing with stuff, and perhaps this would spread outside of our online lives to our “real” lives.
I used to not want to post on facebook anything I considered negative, because I was afraid that by mentioning anything dark, I was contributing to the darkness in the world. But the darkness is there whether we mention it or not. It’s all about intent. Using social media to blame, to project your pain on other people, to otherwise be a bully or an asshole, is divisive and not a positive or productive way to talk about your pain. Owning your darkness by saying “This is what I’m going through, this is my heart, this is my pain” is shining a light for others going through the same thing. It’s saying, “I’m here in this hole, too. Let’s help each other get out of here, or at least let’s keep each other company since we’re here together.”
These are a few of my strategies for dealing with my blues. Again, I encourage you to come up with your own list. We’re all in this together. I wish you wellness and happiness. ❤