Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Dear Sugar: 5 Practical Tips to Get Out of Your Winter Funk

Dear Sugar,

I live in the Midwest where we have extremely hot summers and dreary winters.   These "dead" seasons can be really hard on a woman, whether she's a mom or a hopeful mom.   

Right now, it's post-holidays (no more cheery Christmas music, twinkling trees, or cookie trays) and pre-spring:  it's just winter, but without the glittery snow.   We're seeing a lot of gray skies, windy and chilly days, little sunshine, and too much indoor time.   Motivation = 0.   

If you are in this place, here are five practical ways to get out of the funk:

1:  Lessen screen time.
I know, I know.  But it REALLY does make a huge difference.  Post-election news has been nothing but grim.  The politically polarizing posts on social media are enough to make us all lose our minds. Additionally, I pretty much never feel better after a scroll through my newsfeed, do you?   I encourage you to set limits for yourself, whatever those may be.   For me, Instagram and Pinterest are always happy places, where Facebook tends to suck the patience right out of me (well, the little patience I had).    I'm also in a season where I've decided no social media after 5 p.m. or on weekends.  Whatever works for you, do it.   And if you're brave enough, take a hiatus from social media for a set period of days, weeks, or months like I did.  (Though I will certainly miss interacting with you on my Facebook page.)   I recommend reading Hands Free Mama to motivate you to take the social media break or set the limits you desperately need.  

2:  Read (and Journal).
I know, I just told you less screen time, and when I say read, I mean read an actual book made of paper.  I'm working to pour into my own soul rather than deplete my mental energy.   A few suggestions include Only Love Today, Wild and Free, and 52 Lists for Happiness.   If you're currently in an adoption rut, my friend Madeleine Melcher and I co-authored Encouragement for the Adoption and Parenting Journey: 52 Devotions and a Journal, a book to inspire and uplift.   And there is nothing wrong with picking up some Chick Lit book or a cheap romance novel.   

3:  Movement. 
Notice I said "movement" and not "exercise."  Do something active that brings you energy and inspiration.  For me, a walk, dancing, and lifting free weights does the trick.   For you it might be running, yoga, walking your dog, swimming, or something else.   I never make movement about calorie burning.   For me, movement's #1 benefit is to become more aware of and prioritize my body so I can be more "fit" physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.    Movement helps you sleep better, reduces anxiety, and boosts "feel good" hormones.  I suggest putting movement as a "to do" on your calendar (for me, it's currently Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings) as well as work it in when the opportunity presents itself (see #4).   

4: Get outside.
When the opportunity presents itself, get outside.  We've had a few sunny (and slightly warm) breakthrough days the past few weeks.  We get on our coats and head outside, letting the sunshine kiss our cheeks.  It is amazing how much better we feel after just ten minutes in the Great Outdoors. Linger outdoors whenever you can.  Better yet, combine your commitment to Movement with your outdoor time:  a walk, playing catch or basketball with your partner or child, etc.  

5:  Connect.
Connection is something we are desperately missing these days, and we try to fill that void with more screen time, more food, more work.   But truly, nothing can fill the connection void guessed it, connection.   I'm committing to getting coffee with a friend one morning a week, or two mornings if we don't have any medical appointments.   These moments with my friends have made such a difference in my days.   It's a chance to listen, love, and laugh.    Another connection goal we're establishing in our family is to have reading night every Wednesday evening.  So we do early dinner, early bath time, and then get in our pjs and lay on the living room rug and read, read, read.   My spouse and I plan to continue our reading commitment once the kids go to bed, pulling out our recent favorite books and relaxing together.   Wine included.   A great book to inspire intentional connectivity is Craving Connections, which I'm currently reading.  

Of course, none of these are substitutes for seeking professional intervention if you need it, whether that be seeking a counselor or seeing your doctor to be checked for anemia, depression, or a vitamin deficiency (such as vitamin D).  

What has helped you get out of a funk in the past?  What practical goals can you set for yourself during this season of life so that you can be happier, more motivated, and more energized?  

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