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Lifting Winter Spirits

I’ve struggled with varying degrees of winter blues since I was little. In elementary school, I remember feeling sad and crying in the winter for now reason, and after I moved out of my parents’ house to be a grown-up, winter meant crazy depression, anxiety, and emotional eating. Lots and lots of emotional eating.

I’ve learned that there’s a space in between completely dropping into that dark place and wasting my energy fighting through it. Winter is my time to slow way down and rearrange my priorities.

snow 5

Last winter I fought it and denied it. I also whined about it. The winter before that, I let it completely steamroll me. So far this year, I’ve settled into that in-between space pretty nicely and I’ve learned a few things that seem to be working well so far.

My new favorite winter survival tips, in no particular order:

  • Eat lots of colors and citrus fruits. Something about an orange or some spicy red onion in my salad really perks up my mood. Also, eating salad is good. I tend to crave heavy, carby, fatty foods that don’t make me feel good if I eat them too much, but eating wintery salads keeps me in touch with my body’s signals for hunger, fullness, and what I need to eat. Or get back in touch with those signals.
  • Happy music-keeps my energy and mood up. Christmas music is great, but I also have a happy playlist on my iPod that keeps me going. I also love calming, uplifting music like Krishna Das. It also gets me in the mood to do yoga, which is always a good thing. On the flip side, watch out for depressing music.  Sometimes we tend to “mood match” with music, but that doesn’t help a gloomy mood.
  • Keep busy, but relax too. I’ve noticed there are two sides to winter blues: gloomy moods and low energy. Staying busy helps the gloomy part, but getting enough rest is the best way to handle the fatigue. If I’m gloomy and tired, then a hot bath and early bedtime might be the best thing I can do. If I just need a mood boost but have a little steam left, I put on fun music and scrub the floor. Nothing gets me off the couch like Gangnam Style. That song is my secret happy mood weapon. Yes, it is on my happy playlist.
  •  I practice positive affirmations and gratitude every day, usually on my walk to work.
  •  Take vitamin D, drink my raw milk. Gotta get those nutrients.
  • Don’t guilt trip myself for not eating or exercising perfectly, or for being “lazy” (i.e. needing to rest).
  • Enjoy the contrast and perks of winter: Layering, hearty soups, herbal tea, cozy blankets and good books, hot baths,  snow days. I’ll miss them when it’s 95 degrees outside and all I can stand to eat is watermelon.
  •  Pamper myself by taking a hot bath as soon as I get home from work. That warms me up and calms me down, without fail. Until I get the gas bill.
  • Take a walk in the middle of the day when the sun is highest, if I can. If not, I don’t feel bad. Do what you can.

Thought this is the darkest time of the year, I’m happy to report that I’m actually doing ok. Sure, my energy is lagging and I have some gloomy days, but overall I’m enjoying myself. Above all, I found that the most important thing is to make peace with the fact that I’m not as productive this time of year. I don’t create as much, my homemaking duties tend to get neglected, but that’s ok.

It’s about enjoying life, not fighting.



Healthy Interest vs Obsession


It’s finally June! I can’t believe the year is almost half over! If you haven’t taken a look at your New Year’s Intentions, this is probably a good time to do that in case you’ve forgotten about them. I find that the beginning of anything (months, seasons, etc.) is a good time to go back over my goal and evaluate my position.

Moving along, I know that health-minded folks make up a significant portion of my readership, but this post is for anyone who’s ever battled a vice that is healthy in theory but can become addictive. For me, this thing is studying health and nutrition and collecting recipes. I’m sure I’m not the only one with a stack of unused cookbooks that serve the same purpose as picture books. For you the habit may be exercise, experimenting with your diet, cleansing, etc.  Most of  us have heard of orthorexia by now, and we all know that we can have too much of a good thing.

To give you a little insight into my (often obsessive) interest, I love to learn about health and nutrition and I have hundreds of recipes though I rarely use them. The problem is, I often do these things when I’m stressed or when I’m avoiding something, like when I have writers block or another form of creative fear. I can sit and organize my unused recipes for hours, I can read stacks of books promoting one nutritional theory, and this usually translates into obsessive and/or compulsive eating because I feel either restricted or afraid on some level of what internal organ will fail if I don’t eat that way.

When I feel more balanced, I rarely cook and I don’t think much about health. I do believe that studying food and health does have it’s merits though, so I want to balance it in my life.

Yesterday I felt compelled to look through my recipes again and to pick some out that I’d like to try. In the past I’d go through and catergorize them according to whatever diet philosophy I was studying at the time, and even though I’ve given up dieting, it was still a very diet-like behavior, like orthorexia without the will-power. I got out my cookbooks, thumbed through them but kept close tabs on my feelings so I’d know when I started feeling obsessive and needed to stop. That feeling never came, and I found myself getting bored after just a little while. No staying up into the wee hours organizing, no pouring over article after article on the merits of X supplement or Y diet restrictions. I just didn’t need it anymore.

Do you struggle with any vices like this? Working out? Cleaning you house? Your healthy diet? If you’ve been told that you’re “obsessive”, or if you feel like you must do these things, you might want to consider the line between a healthy interest and an unhealthy obsession.

Where is that line? 

  • Do you feel frantic, like you can’t stop doing something or that you have to get to a certain point before you can stop?
  • How often do you think about it?
  • Does this activity make you feel peaceful, inspired and happy, or do you feel like you must, or that something bad will happen if you don’t?
As a person with strong obsessive tendencies around food and health, I constantly ask myself these questions when I read food or lifestyle blogs, books, when I make grocery lists, etc.
I believe the key to managing healthy obsessions is balance. Here are some tips for managing an otherwise healthy obsession:
  • Keep tabs on the time you spend engaged in or thinking about this activity. If necessary, set a time limit or stop completely for a little while.
  • Pay close attention to your thoughts and emotions as you workout/cook/read/etc. If they start to speed up or feel negative at all, find something else to do.
  • Give yourself adequate time for relaxation and reflection to develop a calmer attitude. 
Note: If you find that obsessive thoughts persist despite your efforts, you may want to speak to a counselor or holistic doctor to check on possible imbalances or underlying emotional issues.
Many of us health-conscious people, especially in the blogosphere I’ve noticed, have a history of obsessive tendencies, so we would do well to keep tabs on our habits, especially if we’re still in transition from a restrictive to a healthy lifestyle.
Have you ever struggled with over-doing a healthy habit?