Winter Blues; kicking S.A.D. in the A.S.S.
The weather outside here in Kansas has been graduallyshifting to frightful. If youve never lived here we have a saying If you dont like the weather, stick around 15 minutes. Lately its been fallish with more and more days of bitter cold. I found myself driving home from the gym today thinking about how soon til we have snow and ice.
These are things I never look forward to. For practical reasons like driving conditions as well as more personal ones. I have always gotten kind of down in the winter time. For as long as I can remember the winter has always been a sort of dark period for me. Sometimes worse than others but my mood has always been noticeably different.
Before I got healthy winters were always met with a lot of sickness for me as well. And not just stuffy noses and kleenex sick, but go to the ER at least once a winter sick. Last year wasnt so bad. But this year Ive got something that I never had for it before (and was never really good at obtaining until the last year or so); GOALS!
Now that Ive changed my lifestyle and habits completely I can look at my pastwith much more clarity. The weather does have this effect on a lot of people. It has a name, Seasonal Affective Disorder. But there were also a lot of natural mental health aids that I wasnt utilizing.
I used to spend my winters mostly sedentary and indoors. The extra layer of clothing and the general comfort of food led to eating more and mostly processed food. I didnt wake up as early and I did nothing to offset the problem.
Turns out (shocker) that the energy suck I was feeling, as well as the heightened sensitivity to illness and sadness are all made better with good whole foods and exercise. There is a reason that you can be cured of almost all ailments with Mamas homemade chicken noodle soup. Because when people take the time to make them from scratch using whole natural ingredients the food is a powerful medicine!
Likewise, when you are fueling your body with clean, healthy foods it runs better. You have more energy. You feel lighter and BETTER. Exercise is also a great activity for the blues, just a bad day or general mental well beingas it is a powerful release of endorphins. Happy hormonesflood over your body when you get your heart rate pumping. Its a great way to relievestress and tension, and for me its almost meditative. Rather Im going for a long, methodical run or olympic style weight lifting- my mind focuses in only on how my body feels. I can spend forever in the gym because spend every moment completely void of all stressors and focused inward.
Together, eating clean food and exercising has turned me from a person who regularly struggled with depression to an energetic, well person.
*That is not to say that everyone who struggles with depression or any kind of mood disorder can be cured this way. Everyones issues are different. This is just my experience, however there is no person that cannot benefit from positive overall healthy habits.*
So this year Ive decided to tackle the winter blues with some goals. While last year was pretty good I want to kick S.A.D. in thetail!
- Ive decided to take on winter running. This is not something that I was into before. I only ran when it was cold if it coincided with my half marathon training long run days. Otherwise it was all indoor for me. But as I know that fresh air and running outside are both good for my wellness Im gonna give it a shot. (With the exception of icy conditions, as Im generally too clutzy to not call that asking for trouble).
- Im gonna eat my vegetables. I like to make big pots of vegetable based soups at the beginningof the week in the winter. It makes for quick warm lunches and it a great way to get a lot of nutrition in you when warm sounds better than salad. Im going to be conscious that through the winter I am loaded with veggies and whole foods to stave off crashes and low energy that comes with junk food.
- Im going to make plans and lots of little goals for the gym. When Im not in the middle of training for a race I like to concoct specific weight lifting plans that cycle between building muscle, toning and changing body fat percentage. Lately Ive been doing some basic upper body/lower body splits and Im getting bored and thinking my body needs more recovery between training. If you arent a huge gym nerd like me that was all really boring; I digress my next goal is to re-motivate myself with a whole winter training program to follow, as well as continuing with my new boxing training. It may be nerdy, but its one more thing for me to look forward to and keep me focused on my health.
- Im going to watch my daughter and change my perspective. All the things I seem to get grouchy about around winter are things children seem to love. Snow looks like car accidents to me. Snow looks like heaven to children. This winter I plan to enjoy watching my daughter experience winter for the first memorable time. I willput on snow boots and tromp around like she will. I will teach her to make snow angels. This is one of those situations where you cant change your circumstances but you can change your attitude, so I will do so with the wonder of my childs eyes.
- Finally I want to make plans to see friends. Weve gotten older, most of us are settled down into jobs, significant others, children/fur children and general adulthood. We dont have an unspoken plan to spend every Friday night out. We dont do that anymore. But I want to set coffee dates, or dancing dates or whatever with my nearest and dearest as no mood stands a chance against my awesome friends.
So thats it. I have a plan. And Im super excited about it.
Getting fit has taught me a lot about life. That last sentence seems a little hokey but its true. It was through learning to run I gained deeper commitment and humility. It was through training for a half marathon I learned how to reach higher than I could see. It was through educating myself about food and its effecton the body that I gained a kind of respect for myself I didnt have before.It gave me more confidence and a respect for my body I didnt honor before. Through the whole getting healthy process I learned how to set goals and see them through. How a series of tiny goals met can lead to an amazing outcome. Just one foot in front of the other.
The ironic thing is that I knew these things before. My job was to create treatment plans for people with goals and tiny steps toward meeting them. I just didnt know how to do that for myself. And honestly, didnt have myself on my list of priorities or held in high enough regard to do so.
The bottom line is I get it now. None of this is luck folks. We cant control the weather but we can control ourselves. We didnt choose our genetics but we choose our bodies. We are not just who we are unless we decide to be- we are capable of changing everything about our lives if only by changing our perspective.
Sometimes I feel like I got all that a little late. But better late than never. So the moral of the story is we get to pick our lives. If you arent satisfied with something, change it. Big changes dont happen overnight. But if its worth it toyou, youcan keep plugging away at anything until its better.
This year Im not accepting feeling crumby all winter. And I have a plan. Im taking a part of my life that I have always dreaded and Im going to look forward to it this year!
What do you need to tackle? Are you accepting something uncomfortable about yourself or your life as being just how it is?
Time for a change. And for goodness sake, dont wait til the silly tradition of New Years so you can proclaim your goal when its in style and joke about how it didnt work out with everyone else come March. Today is a great day for beginning.
Heres to your potential!