February is the worst, isn’t it? I always get to this point in the winter, feeling like I’m doing okay and I’m going to make it through, and then that second or third week of February hits and I lose the momentum that got me through December and January. Every February has moments that find me debating whether or not to call my doctor and ask him to put me back on antidepressants. This year I’m doing better than most other years – I feel pretty fired up about life lately, but also I know what my patterns are and I’m doing my best to be proactive and stave off the late-winter doldrums.
It kinda helps to know I’m not alone here – I know there are lots of other people slogging through, just putting one foot in front of the other. Feeling their failures more acutely. Forgetting things. Getting up in the morning thinking today will be okay, and then something small happens to burst the bubble and it’s all they can do to not call a mulligan on the whole damn day and go home to bed.
Unfortunately most of us are adults and there is adulting to do (and we don’t always have access to a dozen bunnies), so we can’t take that mulligan – we have to find a way to make it through the winter, ideally without losing our minds and maybe even enjoying life a little here and there. With that in mind, here’s a list of strategies that help me get through February.
- Find a project. This could be something that you already work on that you dig into a little deeper, or it could be something new – anything that demands that you do some extra planning, and keeps you looking forward to the next day. It could be an exercise challenge (some that I’ve done are: a 30-day hot yoga challenge, 100 Triathlon Workouts in 100 Days starting anytime in Jan and ending 100 days later, and various other time-specific coaching programs), you could learn a new skill, or make a game out of finding new things to do where you live. Whatever you do, it needs a deadline and it needs a specific outcome to shoot for. My project for this month is to get my nutrition dialed back in; it’s been a struggle since Christmas. I’ve enlisted the help of the coaches at RP Strength to help me first get back on track and then turn into a jedi knight – I’ll keep you posted.
- Remember your New Year’s Resolutions? How are those going? Time to celebrate what you’ve accomplished so far and indulge in something that will inspire you and help you keep going – a new pair of shoes, new workout clothes, some coaching to shake things up. If your resolution has fallen on its face so far, don’t despair – see #1 and make a game out of it. Hell, it’s only February, you can still make some awesome things happen!
- Stay healthy! Get some extra sleep. Wash your hands. Drink lots of water. Encourage all the people around you who are dragging their butts in to work sick to stay at home and not share their germs. If that’s you bringing viruses to work and out into public places, stop that shit. Go home and rest – it’s the one time taking that mulligan is acceptable so milk it.
- Go outside. Yeah, I know, it’s cold and awful out there…but seriously, some sunlight and some time in nature will help, I promise. Chances are if you live in the northern hemisphere, you are scraping the bottom of your vitamin D stores at this point and they need some replenishment. In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take a Vitamin D supplement if you aren’t already.
- Exercise. Yes yes, I know you hear that from me all the time. But seriously, if for no other reason, exercise is a really effective anti-depressant. In lots of cases if you go to your doctor to talk about treatments for depression, odds are good that they will recommend regular exercise before they’ll recommend a course of treatment involving pills. So, I don’t care what you do – walking, moving heavy things around, dancing, yoga, etc – but get moving every day. You will be better off physically and mentally, I promise.
- Eat right. You don’t have to be perfect, but avoid the temptation to drown your winter blahs in sugar and salt and starch. I know that sometimes it seems like the only possible thing to do, but trust me – it will not make you feel better over the long term. Throwing your diet off balance can have a host of undesirable side effects including (but not limited to) depression, weight gain (we knew that one already though, right?), a depressed immune system, and over the long term really nasty things like diabetes and heart disease. Besides, those are only french fries/cupcakes/whatever; they don’t have the power to change your situation.
- Learn! I’m a big geek so this is my go-to every damn day to keep things fresh. But also, since it’s early in the new year, I try to plan out where my continuing education is going to come from. Ideally this includes a trip somewhere which needs planning and involves some exploring, meeting some new people, and shaking up the status quo. Even if it’s six months down the road it’s something to look forward to. You don’t even have to go far: one of my favorite learning weekends in 2016 took me to Athabasca, AB which is only a 90-ish minute drive from where I live, but it was somewhere that I hadn’t really explored before. So, stretch your wings a little bit and find a course to take! It could be career related, something practical and useful like a cooking class, or something that fires up your creativity and brings you joy like music lessons, painting, or learning a new language.
- Communicate. People who know me well will read that word and laugh, saying that that’s pretty freaking rich coming from me; I can seriously make an olympic sport out of being reclusive and avoiding social contact. But, for all of you introverts who would prefer to hide away at the best of times and right now going out in the cold requires colossal effort, NOT communicating with other people will only lead to an overwhelming to-do list of calls, emails, and social engagements. Head off the guilt and actually schedule a couple of hours each week to answer emails, return calls, and catch up with friends.
- Keep a journal. Specifically, a daily win journal. Now, I know how self-help-y that sounds and everyone has heard it before…but hear me out one more time because this WORKS. Go buy a notebook. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive although if that’s how you roll, go right ahead and spend the money on that beautiful leather-bound journal, but a fifty-cent coil notebook will work just as well. It does have to be an actual notebook though – not a file in your computer, an app in your phone, or loose pages that will get lost. A NOTEBOOK. Before you go to sleep at night, make a quick list of the positive things that happened that day. Again, make it yours – if you don’t particularly like writing, it could be a quick list in bullet form, or if you enjoy the journaling process write as much as you like. No rules except this one: take a few minutes at the end of every day to jot down what made you happy. Commit to it for thirty days (again see #1) and see what happens!
- Lift up the people around you. Small gestures like random compliments, little acts of service, and paying genuine attention to people makes a huge difference. And spreading love will make you feel a million times better no matter how cold or dark or nasty the last half of February feels.
Okay y’all, go forth and make the best of it!