by Kasandra Gregoire
In the winter months, the land rests. Leaves fall from the trees and then a snowy stillness falls and everything rests. Well, everything except humans. As the land and some animals head towards hibernation, we become busier than ever. There is holiday after holiday where we meet with family and friends and try to please everyone around us, all while becoming more and more frantic. Then all the holiday buzz is over and many make resolutions to lose extra weight or cut out unhealthy foods, but the buzz within continues. The weather here in North Dakota aggravates it all. We rush kids to hockey practice and gymnastics, we meet with various groups, rush off to classes, hastily make a family meal or rush to pick something up as we run about our daily lives. It is really no wonder why so many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). We rush about pleasing everyone and then rushing to lose those Christmas cookie pounds, but less frequently do we look within.
How can you fight anxiety and stress in the winter?
1. Take time for you. This is the biggest and sometimes the hardest thing to do when life is so busy. I fought for a long time to carve some time for myself and that came after a much longer fight to deny I needed that time. This can be done in a number of ways: make time daily to read a book, write in a journal, go for a walk, do yoga, float, dance, find a sport or activity that resonates with you, meditate, draw, create, or enjoy a meal alone. The key point here is there are no demands on you.
2. Don't rush unless you absolutely have to. Get up or leave earlier. Say no to unreasonable demands. Don't get set in the ways it has "always been done". Ask yourself if whatever you are rushing to is that important. Are you going to a meeting where you know there will be visiting for the first few minutes anyway? Take a breath and let yourself have that time. Notice how often rushing around causes you frustration or anxiety. Besides stressing you out, it is also unproductive.
3. Move your body. It has been said a million time, but it should be said again: movement makes you feel happy. Don't do it for weight loss or because you feel obligated, do it for the sheer fun of it. Pick something you WANT to do. A few years ago I decided to try running to lose weight, feel better, and have more energy. However, I hate running. It was something I forced myself to do and found as many ways to cut corners as possible. What I love is dancing and yoga, so that is what I do. Find what you love to do and do that.
4. Eat well. This one is again, not to look amazing on the beach, but because the body you have is the one that has to get you through life. Healthy foods that nourish your body, will make you feel better physically and mentally. I am not saying you should rush out and join the newest fad diet or never eat a cupcake again. You know that eating burgers all of the time will not make you feel great and that fresh produce will make you feel better.
5. Do nothing. Once you find a way to prioritize some time for you, get in the practice of doing nothing. Everything needs to be reset from time to time. Floating is an excellent way to do this. In the tank there is just you, water, and epsom salt. If you have never tried meditating, or couldn't relax while doing it, floating is the perfect way to get your mind to relax. You don't have the pain you may get while sitting or lying down for extended periods of time, since your body is completely supported in the salt water solution. One thing I learned soon after I started meditating was this: when I do nothing and shift my focus from problems, I will usually find a solution very soon. The brain just needs a reboot.
6. Do something with people who support you. Getting out of the house and doing something fun with friends who support you can greatly alleviate stress. It doesn't need to be an elaborate outing, but some time laughing with people who care about you. Laughter relieves stress and finding people who can both support you and can relate to you will show help you feel less alone.
7. Go outside. Maybe not when it is 40 degrees below zero, but if you have proper winter apparel, getting outside in the sun (vitamin D is crazy important) and fresh air is uplifting. It also gets you out of the house, which can lift your spirits by itself.
8. If nothing is working and you are feeling depressed and have lost interest in what you used to love, go talk to a doctor.
*This is not medical advice and you should consult a doctor if your sadness is affecting your life.