Cold Weather Blues

You’ve heard about SAD, right? (Seasonal Affective Disorder) People who have it usually experience feelings of hopelessness, lethargy, and depression starting in the fall and it lasts through the winter months until spring comes along. The further north you live from the equator, the higher your chances are of having SAD. Up here in Canada, it’s estimated that about 15% of us suffer from it.

There’s a couple of theories as to why people develop this disorder, but it all boils down to one thing: the lack of light. It’s been said to throw off our natural circadian rhythms and affect the way our brain produces chemicals. Personally, I think if this is true then we should all suffer to some extent during the winter months– not necessarily because of a disorder, but from something that I like to call the “cold weather blues”. You don’t want to go outside. You don’t want to see friends. You feel more tired than usual. (I get it; me too.)

Fighting drowsiness is the first way to beat it- make sure you still try to get up every morning at the same time and leave the bedroom to avoid the temptation to go back to bed. (Sometimes a change in bedtime is necessary, too!)

Another way to beat it is to inject some fun into your social life. When the weather gets cold we all have to fight the inclination to stay inside– it’s isolating, and you run the risk of becoming even moodier and depressed. Make a pact with your friends (and yourself!) to plan something fun every week. Mark it on your calendar so it gives you something to look forward to. My friends and I like to make dinner for each other and we take turns hosting so there’s less pressure all around. If you’re not an outdoorsy person, make a point of finding fun indoor activities to do around your city– museums, art galleries, rock climbing, laser tag, rollerskating- or hey, why not try watching a movie in a theatre instead of the usual Netflix and chill?

Last (but not least), please give journaling a try. It may feel silly or unnatural at first, but sometimes getting your thoughts out of your head and down on a piece of paper is all that you need to lift yourself out of your temporary funk. On particularly bad days I try to practice my own form of gratitude in my journal: I try to write down all of the good things that happened during my day, no matter how small they were. Remembering all of those things gives me hope that good things happen every day, even if we have to remind ourselves of it once in a while.

If all else fails remind yourself that winter, just like everything, is only temporary. It may seem far off but come springtime you’ll feel the sunshine on your face, and you’ll try to remember what winter felt like, and you’ll laugh because by then it will have become a distant memory.

In this day and age we place so many demands ourselves that sometimes even going about our day-to-day lives is exhausting. As a person who likes to keep busy, I find myself struggling to stay balanced. You can follow my journey here, or click here or here to find more ways to streamline your life to keep it simple.

What are some of the ways that you stay balanced? Give us your advice below, or email your strategies to keepingbusyb@gmail.com.

How to Get Your Groove Back

Stella got hers back, so why can’t you get your back too?

Ok, maybe she had a little help from Taye Diggs (and who couldn’t use a little help from Taye Diggs?) but you can still find a way to get back on track even if you’re not the glamorous subject of a 90s movie.

Maybe you’re like Stella and you’re in transition- you’ve had a baby, just got married, changed jobs, moved houses, been through a divorce. Even though sometimes change can be for the better, we still face challenges when we mix up the status quo.

You’re not alone. Everyone has blips or hiccups that leave them feeling less confident about their lives, or their ability to make a change. On the other hand, giving yourself a kick in the pants may be just what you need to get your butt in gear.

What motivates you to take action? Some people respond to fear or stress, or even anger. If challenging yourself forces you to do something, do it, but leave out all of the negative self-talk. You won’t always have other people around to support you when you need it, so it’s important to learn how to be your own cheerleader.

See, it really all comes down to you. The key to challenging yourself lies in changing the behavior patterns or habits that are counter-productive to leading the life that you want to live. It’s one of the trickier emotional tasks you’ll face- it’s not easy to take a good, hard look at yourself let alone take responsibility for your own shortcomings. And, let’s face it, you’ll never be perfect. Transitions take time and you’re never going to change everything about yourself, especially not all at once.

You may not even want to change; unfortunately a lot of us are forced to once we’ve experienced an upheaval in our lives. That’s ok; we’re growing and changing all the time as we learn more, travel more, meet more people, have new experiences. It doesn’t mean you’re still not you- you’re just a newer version of yourself. If you can respect this process and respect who you once were, you’ll eventually grow to love the person you’ve become. And if you don’t, change! Humans are incredibly capable at adapting. Ironically it’s this ability that will always lead us back to ourselves- to finding our own groove, our own place in the world, wherever our lives take us.

Have you experienced a recent upheaval in your life? What was difficult about the change? How did you handle it? Let’s see if we can all get into the same groove and share each other’s stories by either commenting below or sending them to me at keepingbusyb[a]gmail.com. I may include them in an upcoming post!

I wrote about the benefits of changing up my own life here and here. Looking for more ways to makeover your life? I’ve got solutions on how to balance a busy schedule here, organizing your life here and maximizing your productivity here.

Operation Crisis Management: How to Work When You’re Depressed

kbb_dead_treeIf you’ve stumbled on this post because you’re feeling depressed and/or suicidal, please know that you’re not alone in feeling this way. It may be hard to wrap your head around this when you feel lonely and isolated, but every day there are millions of people who struggle with similar challenges as you, including myself. However, this story is only reflective of my own experience. If you are in crisis I urge you to stick with me until the bottom of the page, where I’ve included further resources and information on finding support. Overcoming these thoughts and getting through your day may seem impossible, but I’ve made it through 100% of my days so far. You can too. Help is only a click away.

Let’s get one thing straight: depression is not “the blues”. It’s not a contest about the number of sad things going on in your life, and it’s not about an individual’s capability of dealing with life’s ups and downs (although it certainly doesn’t help).

Take me for example- if you knew me in real life you’d know that I sing constantly, I love doing colorful crafts, and when I find something really, really funny I have this loud, braying laugh that the neighbors can hear in the apartment upstairs.

But when I get sad, I get really, really sad. I cry a lot, and often for no good reason. Most days I have to will myself to get out of bed, because even after a full night’s rest I’m sometimes still so tired I swear I can feel it in my bones.

It’s easy to see then why I’m fascinated with productivity and learning more about how other people get through their days. I’m amazed at all of the things that people can achieve when sometimes even taking a shower feels like a battle to me.

It’s not easy for me to talk about this because I’m a perfectionist and I like to get things done. In some ways I think the practice of keeping busy has saved myself from some of my darkest moments. On the other hand, the insane pressure I have put on myself has not always helped with my productivity, or my self-esteem either.

The key is finding a balance.

Slowly I’ve started to learn that part of finding that balance does involve talking about it, about recognizing what brings us down and buoys us back up again. I’m not suggesting a total psychoanalytic breakthrough to help your productivity. But the more you understand yourself and your moods, the better equipped you are at coping.

Because the sucky thing is this: life goes on. You’ve got a job, kids, chores, and other responsibilities that can’t be ignored. But how do you do this when you feel like there’s a giant weight dragging around behind you?

Building a support system that combines non-judgmental mentors, colleagues, friends, family, community members, spiritual leaders and healthcare professionals is very important because it’s so much harder to go it alone, and these people can provide you with an objective perspective when your darker thoughts start getting the better of you. They also may be able to offer you advice on how to spot emotional triggers and develop healthy coping mechanisms. You may choose to have some of these people act as advocates when you are incapable of making rational decisions for yourself. Please don’t shut these people out. They are among the people that love you the most and will hurt the most if they lose you.

Make your coping mechanisms your secret arsenal by keeping running a list, and maybe sharing it with a trusted friend. Some of mine include taking my dog for a walk, having a hot shower and blasting music on my headphones. And baking. Have I ever mentioned baking to you before?

Build coping mechanisms into your routine can be as simple as storing a stress ball in your desk at work, or choosing your outfit the night before to avoid morning freak-outs.

Even paying attention to your emotional triggers and energy levels can help you structure your routine to minimize panic attacks or major mood swings. This could look like opting for a later shift at work if you struggle with getting up in the morning, or putting aside some downtime for yourself after a stressful family event.

If my mood is good and my energy is high I try to make the most of it, and get as much done as I can to help my future self focus on getting through the rough times. Sometimes this involves a little strategic planning on my part- I often don’t schedule anything after events I consider stressful, for example, and I never, ever try to make my day too full.

If you’re equipped with a little more knowledge about what you’re dealing with, and you have support and resources at your fingertips, the better you’ll become at managing your symptoms, and coping through your darker days.

 

KBwB-Flower-50Thanks for sticking with me until the end of this post. I want you to know if you ever need anyone to lend you an ear, I’m here for (anonymously) at keepingbusyb@gmail.com. Please do email me if you have any solutions to share that have worked for you, or comment below for other readers who might be going through something similar. We’re in all this together.

Here’s that list of resources that I promised you. There is help out there if you make the decision you need it. If you have any resources to add to my list, please let me know and I’ll try to include them in an updated post.

If you’re a Canadian (like me), The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention is a great resource for those experiencing suicidal thoughts and loss related to suicide. It also features a crisis center search function if you live within Canada. Similarly, the Canadian Mental Health Association provides information on suicide prevention and where to get help.

If you’re in the United States, SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education) provides resources for those who are suicidal, suicide survivor and for the friends and families of the loved ones affected. They also offer a tip sheet for those concerned about a friend or family member in crisis. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers information and research on suicide, and where to get help.

For those who live outside North America, SAVE also provides a list of international resources and the International Association for Suicide Prevention (an NGO associated with the World Health Organization) has information on where to find help anywhere in the world. Suicide Hotlines also offers a comprehensive list of how to find help internationally.

For those of you who are looking for help online, here are some places to start:

  • Metanoia has a great message to read when you’re in a dark place, information on where to get help and advice on choosing what kind of help is right for you.
  • Canadian-based website Mindcheck offers quizzes designed to gauge your moods and offers helpful tips on developing healthy coping mechanisms and practicing self-care.
  • The Bright Side offers positive messages, personal stories and insights as well as resources and information on a variety of mental health issues including depression, anxiety and grief.
  • Although it’s designed with Canadians in mind, The Lifeline app is designed as a guide for those in crisis and connects those in need with a hotline in Canada at the touch of a button.
  • Claiming to be the world’s first-ever public screening measure with risk and response protocols, the Suicide Prevention App acts like a diagnostic tool and connects users with more information and resources.
  • If those weren’t enough resources for you, check out this article I found with 81 different online websites and apps to help people manage symptoms and access resources to help them on their road to recovery.