January has historically been a tough month for me. I think it is tough for a lot of people, especially those of us in Ohio. The days are shorter, the skies are gray, the weather is dreary, and if you’re like me you want to curl up and hibernate until spring. I spend a lot of time alone in the winter because of Chad’s sports schedule and that in itself affects my mood and energy. I was hoping the Deplin vitamin that I started last March would help fight off my winter depression, but when I came back to work after Christmas break I could feel it starting to creep in. Instead of succumbing to the blues, I pulled out my bag of tricks that I have collected over the years.
I had stopped smoking (again) and was working on a strict detox diet from my doctor. I realized that attempting both of those at the same time was not a good idea so I decided to just focus on eliminating smoking and gluten. I knew cutting out everything (sugar, gluten, dairy, coffee, alcohol, and cigarettes) would have an impact on my mood so I chose to ease into it. I also chose to cut back on alcohol after a few glasses of wine turned into a grumpy mood for two days. Alcohol is a depressant and although I have had lots of fun with it in the past, I just don’t think it is worth it anymore. I can have a couple of gluten free beers occasionally, but that is my limit.
I also started to get more active, by exercising in the gym at work in the afternoon on most days. The exercise boosts my mood, gives me extra energy for the rest of the day, and provides a break from my computer. It is not as great as exercising in the fresh air, but it definitely helps. Using an activity tracker helps me make goals and stick to them. Something about seeing those stars light up makes me happy. I think it produces endorphins just like making check marks on a list. I also eat lunch with friends at work on most days. I’m an introvert, but I have learned that being around people is important for my mental stability. People need people.
On particularly a dark day (after the wine incident), I gave myself permission to eat some comfort food and I also asked a friend to stop by for company. She brought her little ones and spending time with all of them really helped. It is important to have a support system you can rely on. Phone a friend when you are feeling down. Also getting out of the house helps. I didn’t want to go home and sit in an empty house last night so I went to the mall. Didn’t spend a lot of money, but just wandered around browsing and it got me some more steps.
My friend gave me a great birthday present that helps beat the winter blahs, a “Happy Light”. I have it on my desk at work and I use it for a few hours in the morning. Natural spectrum light helps reduce fatigue and increase alertness. I use it during the winter months. I’ve found that watching positive television shows and listening to my favorite music also helps my mood. These tricks help my depression along with medication and therapy. I can’t rely on these alone, but they definitely help pull me out of the hole.