The days are starting to grow shorter here in the Northwest, and the cold snap in the air can be a fun way to reconnect with the cozier things in life, like sweatshirts and warm drinks, but if you have ever struggled with seasonal mood shifts in a downward direction, now is the time to be proactive about the days ahead.
You might find some ideas here, or come up with your own to take proactive measures for keeping the upcoming darkness in the sky outside, and keep it out of your brain and body as best you can. Think now how you can take some time each day to preserve your precious positive energy, and stay connected to the things in your life which make you feel most like you.
Sometimes, we need we to do the opposite of what we are actually craving, even though that is often so hard when depression is lurking around the edges of our awareness. The lowering of our energy lowers our defenses, and we might snuggle up with the easier, and unhealthier choices, only to find ourselves buried and unable to take any action by January.
Start now is the time to “do the opposite” of the collapse into unhealthy habits by finding a healthy alternative to each of the following comfort foods or behaviors:
Instead of Pumpkin Lattes: Pumpkin Spice RX bars; Green Tea or Herbal Chai lattes with stevia, sprinkled with ginger & cinnamon;
Rather than Halloween treats: dark chocolate – 82% or darker is always Ok. Try a small square of dark chocolate, which has many health benefits, omega 3 fats for one of them. Dark chocolate has been found to benefit the brain and mood.
Skip skipping the gym and add some cute cozy work-out duds and fill your drink bottle with warm green tea, sweetened with stevia. Tell yourself you can slack in your work-out a little (with lighter weights, etc.) if you must, but you need to go and stay the duration. You may surprise yourself and find your strength returning to you, as you warm up.
If you miss your usual exercise, or if you don’t have any regular exercise in your life right now, try any form of positive healthy movement you can do with as little effort as possible. Dance, march or move to some music. Hike up a hill in your neighborhood. Walk a few blocks to see the sunset or sunrise.
When you feel too stuck to move and staying home from your group of friends actually feels reasonable, or if you really can’t face the world outside in the evening, reach out to one friend and make a date for an in person lunch or walk during the day-light at the next possible time. In other words, never say “no” to an opportunity for connection without replacing it with a connection you can do.
When you are too hungry to not eat, and too exhausted to shop or cook, avoid stopping by the take-out window. Stock up right now at the grocery store or on-line at Thrive Market or amazon.com. Buy a few super easy quick meals that require little to no preparation but help you eat clean, so you can stay away from the burgers and fries. For example: Brown Rice Ramen & organic beef broth; Madras Lentils; cans of chili; soup etc.
Go off sugar – if you must eat something sweet, sometimes it’s best to have it later in the day, because you’ll likely eat fewer sweets overall if you start at the end of the day, rather than earlier. However, this is really a bad move metabolically and can exacerbate insulin resistance. We, humans, are really best off with much less sugar than we like. If quitting sugar is a problem, check into a program like Restart. https://therestartprogram.com
Schedule a weekly time to connect with a group or one friend, or with yourself doing something you love. Indulge in some music or rekindle an old hobby or craft. Limit your time on your devices and social media, which actually disconnects us from genuine relationships and leads to, or worsens depression.
Proactively schedule some time with your favorite therapist! Don’t wait for a crisis to hit, and then have to wait to get an appointment, or be unable to get in at all. Many therapists do distance counseling on-line, if you don’t live near someone you can work with.
Try a gentle yoga class to get out over week-ends, when you may be shut in-doors.
Don’t wait to do some of these things, because if or when depression hits, you will be less likely to think of them when you need them most. Schedule some massages or other activities in advance, so they are there on your calendar.
It is important to protect your immune system from virus’s as there is a link between virus’s, depression and suicidality. Use essential oils, nutritional supplements, and good old hand washing.
Some of the best nutrients for depression are Vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, B12 and fish oil.
Sleep is the best medicine, and is made easier with regular exercise.
Most people who struggle with depression or anxiety do best when they avoid movies or media with themes that are dark. Horror and creepster films can overstimulate the adrenals, causing unneeded and unnecessary surges of stress hormones. Often stress effects brain chemistry in negative ways. Better to select uplifting media.
If you want to grab a couple of key words or phrases to help you stay on track with your plan for self-care, here you go: “do the opposite,” “choose healthy” “connect” and “de-stress.” And most especially – “do it NOW,” because when you need it, you may not be able to think of it or have the energy to take action.