It is January...and it is COLD! Its seems, at least for me, mid-January marks the season of bleak cold dark days while I wait in expectation for flowers to spring up and I get to experience more sunlight. I often wonder how many more days I have to wait until I no longer look like Randy from the Christmas Story, "I can't put my arms down!" The winter can be hard without even factoring in grief. Add grief to this recipe and it can be especially hard.
The "winter blues" are characterized by mild depression, lack of motivation, and low energy that many people experience during the winter season. Sounds like grief to me. I feel it, do you? Sometimes it can be hard to know if what your feeling is grief related or environment related. As I researched ways to help emotionally survive the winter, I noticed that the tips were very similar to focusing on self-care while we grieve. I -can tell you they all help ALOT. I know nothing will ever take away our grief fully, our loved one has left a space that nothing will every fill. However these-self care tips certainly help us function a little better and even may lessen the burden of grief in our daily life.
It is cold and dark- GET Outside anyways
Lack of Vitamin D anyone? Research shows the lack of sunlight can reduce serotonin and vitamin D which makes you more likely to experience SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). A 2005 study from Harvard University suggests that walking fast 35min 5x/week or 60min 3x/week improved symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Spending time outside (even when its cold) can improve focus, reduce symptoms of SAD, and lower stress levels. Find a way to get outside- do you have a lunch break? Find time to take a brisk walk while the sun is out. Or just get outside as much time as you can. I can tell you from personal experience, even though its cold- it is so worth it. Need motivation? Ask someone to exercise with you.
Trapped Inside- schedule something fun
Its cold outside, so we begin to get that cabin fever feeling. This can add to the feelings of being trapped, anxious, and complacent. Do you remember the last time you had fun or laughed? It may seemed forced, but doing something fun can seriously change your outlook on everything. Schedule it, force yourself to do it. What do you like to do? Fun can look different for each person. I made it a goal to do something fun 1x a week. I figured it is a good place to start.
Poor eating-Healthy eating/exercise
The holidays and grief can be a recipe for bad eating. Food high in bad fat and empty carbs never make us feel good. They can make us feel sluggish, tired, and weak. What we put in our bodies has a direct relationship to how we feel. The mind and body are connected. When we feel healthy physically, we are better able to cope emotionally. Combat stress and fatigue by eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep.
Social Isolation-stay connected
Holidays are over, celebrations have stopped and it seems the next holiday is in he spring. Even though the holidays can be a hard time for those of us who are grieving, it does force us to be with other people. Grief naturally isolates us. We feel alone in everything we are experiencing. Sometimes knowing we are not alone can be the best medicine. Do you have a friend or a relative that "gets it?" Schedule routine coffee time with friends or family so you can be reminded you are not alone. Join a support group with people who have experienced a similar loss. This not only gets you out of the house, but it reminds us that we are connected.
Know, you are not alone. The winter can be a hard, especially when grieving the loss of a loved one on top of the lack of sunlight. I have committed this winter to get outside more often, to do something fun intentionally, eat better, and stay connected. Are you with me? We can do this together.