The MLRA Therapy Blog

Insights and ideas from the therapist team at Meghan L. Reitz and Associates.

The Winter Blahs

If you live anywhere in the north, you know what I am talking about. That weather-is-nasty-and-the-sun-is-gone-kind-of-blah feeling. During January, February, and March, you can certainly find yourself in a slump and this can greatly impact your general well-being.

Did you know that lack of sunlight can negatively affect our moods? Lack of Vitamin D can be a culprit for depression. Shorter days with less daylight and cold temperatures can really create the perfect storm for isolating, lacking motivation, and feelings of hopelessness. Winter weather can be another layer on top of what is already kind of a bummer time of year. Snow, ice, and wind can make not only for treacherous driving conditions but can these dangers can increase the likelihood for isolating.

Since we cannot control the weather and most of us are not able to travel south for the winter, how do we cope with this inevitable time of year? You may already know the benefits of taking a Vitamin D supplement on a daily basis. You may have also heard of light lamps that can help improve your mood when you sit with them for periods of time on a daily basis. but here are some additional ideas on how to beat the winter blahs:

  • Radical Acceptance - this concept can feel a little abstract but if you look at what is being handed you - a cold gloomy day in January - you have two options. You can either embrace the negativity this type of weather brings with it, kicking and screaming, making excuses, and allowing it to control your thoughts and feelings. Or, you can accept that which is outside of your control. You may not like that it may take a little longer to get to where you’re going or that you have to give yourself a little more time to make sure you warm the car up or bundle up before you head out the door. By accepting what we cannot control you stop allowing these external factors dictate how your day goes.
  • Mindfulness - You have probably hear this all over popular media. It actually does hold water in helping to reduce blood pressure, regulate breathing, and mitigate the anxiety response. Mindfulness practice can take many forms but essentially it is being present in the moment with a non-judgmental stance. Our brain are often flooded with random thoughts. That is normal. What we want to do is note the thought and let it drift away.
  • Identify the “Four Negative Emotions”- Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Shame are what we call our four negative emotions. According to the magazine Flow Mindfulness, English Edition, in order to deal with these very normal and human emotions we need to first identify what we are feeling, normalize how we are feeling, refute any irrational thinking or thoughts, and then let go.

Other, more brief ideas include:

  • Sit with your emotion. It is OK to be uncomfortable. Often times we want a quick fix for any discomfort we encounter. Stop running away.
  • Be proactive. Look for possible solutions to help boost your mood. Wishing for it to “just go away” will not work.
  • Look into apps and websites that help lead you in mindfulness or meditation.
  • Do yoga.
  • Build a support network. Get involved on meetup.com, attend alumni events, go to local chamber of commerce meetings.
  • Journal.
  • Color. Yes, adults can color too. There is a huge new movement where adult coloring books are taking the popular stage. Be a kid for a bit and grab those colored pencils and make a work of art!
  • Create a collage. This can be soothing on a few different levels. Pick a theme. Think of something you want to create. Cut out pictures from magazines or print images from the computer. Glue them onto a piece of cardboard or construction paper. The actions of cutting and gluing alone can initiate a state of mindfulness that you may not even realize is happening.

It is necessary is to know what you like to do and who you would like to connect with. If you enjoy film, then enroll in a group that meets at the library. In that same vein, the following are just a few local community resources that you and your family and friends could look into to pull yourselves’ out of the winter blahs:

  • Harper College: Local Community College in Schaumburg that offers a wide array of adult eductional courses, interest groups, and educational opportunities and events.
  • Faith Lutheran Church: Arlington Heights church that provides a program called Rainbows for children of divorced families.
  • Schaumburg Parent University: District 54 offers parental education events on typically a monthly basis. Get involved, get educated, connect with other parents.
  • Bible Study: There are quite a few Bible studies in the area and via the church of your preference you can find out when and where they are held. You could also start your own neighborhood group to keep it truly local and where you don’t have to even hop in the car to get to it.
  • Schaumburg Business Association: The SBA is truly a wonderful thing to be a part of if you are a business or entrepreneur. What better way to not only network and market your business but to also meet like-minded people and have an excuse to get out of the office.
  • Schaumburg Park District: Just as other park districts, Schaumburg has a large offering of intermural leagues, classes, and events for those of all ages. With multiple locations, and if you live in the area, taking advantage of this resource is highly recommended.
  • Amita Health/St. Alexius/Alexian Brothers: With locations in Hoffman Estates and Elk Grove Village, not only does the hospital provide educational seminars and groups for mental health, but also for medical issues and even support groups.

And never fear... Spring is coming!

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