It’s almost winter here in the southern hemisphere. That’s SAD!
Winter brings changes in my mood. In the worst case life gets really hard, like I’m dragging myself through treacle. Or it may just feel like winter’s here for ever.
Staying in Touch with the Seasons
I love walking on the beach in bare feet – all year round. There’s nothing like the feeling of sand against my skin and the water washing through my toes – even when the water feels freezing.
I don’t mind the cold – the feeling of being alive and connected with the earth more than makes up for it.
But there’s more than one way to stay connected to nature – for example syncing with the seasons of the year.
This became especially important as I’ve got older because my ability to maintain my mental health in winter got more and more difficult.
That’s until I finally realised that what I was experiencing was the mid-winter SADs!
Now I know that SADS (Seasonal Affective Disorder Syndrome) really bothers me in winter!
I don’t think I was actually depressed. But I did get low and life got hard. Everything was an effort – I’d be easily irritated and I found it hard to concentrate.
Before my mental health crisis…
Getting up and going to work in the dark was normal. I was working 10 hours a day and then more on the weekends. I was driven by my need for my business to be successful. This meant I didn’t give myself much time to rest and relax.
And then I’d be so exhausted that by the time I did take a holiday, I was too tired to enjoy it. Sound familiar?
I did come up with a solution that helped make winter bearable. I would take regular mini-breaks and a mid-winter holiday somewhere warm and sunny! That helped a lot but I would still struggle to keep my health and spirits in good form.
I thought that feeling tired was normal. Working hard is what everyone did. Even being stressed was normal. I was surrounded by people who told me they thrived on stress and deadlines were something to be excited about.
Being busy is rewarded. There’s a common expectation to demonstrate how successful you were – by being constantly busy!
Now that I’m on the right side of a major mental health crisis, I know to do things differently!
Here in New Zealand we’re entering the darkest, coldest time of the year. As the mid-winter solstice approached it was very common to get a feeling of foreboding.
Today my mental health is the best it’s been in years. But that’s no reason to ignore the signs. Now I know better.
So this year, even though it would be easy to ignore these feelings because I feel so well, I’ve decided to put in place an ‘Avoid the Winter Blues’ plan.
This year I’m determined to allow my life to flow with the seasons. This means I’ve taken the time to think about what I need to maintain my mental well-being.
And because the feedback I’m getting tells me there’s lots of women over 50 who are finding things tough, I’ve decided to share this with you.
Here’s my ‘Avoid the Winter Blues’ plan:
- Be gentle with myself – don’t demand the impossible
- Manage my time and productivity – really carefully
- Don’t stop walking on the beach – in bare feet
- Follow the sun’s example – sleep more – go to bed earlier and wake up naturally – no alarm!
- Get outside, enjoy the weather: wind, rain, sun, all of it!
- Switch exercise to indoor activities – Pilates, swimming and stair walking
- Eat well and keep up my greens.
- Plan and take a holiday somewhere warm and sunny.
If you think you suffer from SAD then here’s a quick quiz you can take.
Now my friend, on the other hand, loves winter!
Yes, she revels in it! I just don’t get it!
As autumn comes along she becomes sort of fizzy. Strangely, she becomes more optimistic, happier.
And then – out come the most beautiful hats and scarves – and her big smile.
Don’t get me wrong – she still wears black (it drives me nuts!) but winter brings out her brightest scarves, lipstick, handbags and mood.
If I ask her about it, she tells me she loves winter fashion.
If I push her for more she says that she loves the crispness of winter, the challenge of cold weather, and doing what it takes to stay warm on the worst of days. If it’s snowing on the hills with a bitterly cold wind my friend can’t seem to stop grinning.
Tiresome you think? Absolutely!
My friend lived in Britain for quite a few years and misses it terribly. Now what she misses most is the clear, unmistakable four seasons.
Unlike me her moods soar in Autumn and she is energized by the deep still cold of winter.
But like me, Spring, with the first little green tips of crocuses showing through cheers us both greatly.
I think my friend is very lucky.
But she’s probably a great person for us SADdies to be around in winter.
So I’m going to make an addition to my ‘Avoid the Winter Blues Plan’ – Find a Happy Winter Buddy!
What about you?
Are you a winter Buddy or a winter Saddy? What’s your favourite season and what are your tricks for getting through your hardest season?
Please share – I love to hear from you!
PS. And if you’re feeling stressed at work then try this. Here’s a super, simple 20-second stress busting technique. ‘How 3 breaths can change your life’.