Even if the weather outside is not frightful, the blues can take a parent down any time during the darker months of winter. If you are subject to a post-holiday crash or gloomy moods all winter long, this list of blues-busters can come to your emotional rescue.
There are lots of things you can try to lift winter doldrums, so never accept feeling down as a foregone conclusion. Improving your mood is possible and you and your family deserve to thrive no matter what the season of the year. Of course, you cannot control how you feel, but you can control what you do about how you feel. So get ready to experiment until you find some strategies that work for you.
1. Be honest with yourself. If you are feeling down, it’s okay. You’ll bounce back from the blues sooner if you can admit, at least to yourself, that something or some things are bothering you. You don’t have to do anything yet, simply try to identify any sources of disappointment or discouragement.
2. Tell someone you can trust. Never keep the blues to yourself - no matter the severity. Usually the sooner you share your feelings with someone you trust, the sooner you experience relief. If no one is available right this minute, write imaginary letters to someone safe in the interim.
3. Practice acceptance. There is no point getting angry at yourself. This will only make you feel worse. Instead, admit your powerlessness over whatever feelings are coming up. Everyone has feelings and accepting them no matter what is part of being human.
4. Get plenty of rest. When you feel down, getting enough sleep is crucial, although getting too much sleep can work against improving your mood. Determine what amount of sleep helps you feel energized for the next day and set the alarm for this amount each night.
5. Let the sky hold itself up for a while. Sometimes blues are brought on by stress. The first thing a parent can do to create some relief is let go of every responsibility that is not yours. Make a to-do list and then cross off everything you don’t have to do right now. Narrowing your responsibilities to just the must-dos can create some immediate relief.
6. Let other adults shoulder their own responsibilities. You cannot be responsible for the happiness of others beyond your dependents. If you have put yourself in any care-taking roles to grown adults, quit those jobs now. The only exception is a care-giving role for someone incapacitated whom you have willingly volunteered to attend.
7. Ask for help. Don’t be a martyr. People who feel comfortable asking for and receiving help are usually not sufferers. If you can’t speak up, it’s time to shake off any victim tendencies you may have and start standing up for yourself.
8. Address anger. If you don’t believe it is acceptable for you to express anger, unexpressed feelings are going to hurt you in the long-run. Ask yourself: What am I not allowed to feel angry about? And then start letting any disallowed feelings out in a constructive manner.
9. Move some energy. Energy needs to move. If you are feeling down and not exercising, then this is an easy fix. Don’t think about it too much, just move. You can think later, when you are assessing how much better you feel.
10. Express what you want. It’s true that you can’t always get what you want. But you should always be able to get what you need. After you have fulfilled your basic needs, it’s time to start asking for what you want.
11. Take responsibility. If you are thinking the attention of others should be riveted on what you need and want, that’s backwards. Let others off the hook and reclaim your happiness. You are the creator of a more joyful life. No one can accomplish this for you.
12. Avoid alcohol and other depressants. Depressants are only going to make you feel worse. This may be hard to recognize if you are in the habit of self-medicating. You may think your ‘medicine’ makes you feel better, not worse. But if you felt better, you would not need to self-medicate in the first place. So stop.
13. Eat smaller, healthier meals. If feeling down affects your appetite in either direction, see if you can reset your metabolism and blood sugar by having smaller, healthier meals throughout the day rather than just a few large meals.
14. Create a prayer practice. You do not have to be religious to pray. Even if you are an atheist, you can surrender to a greater good or a higher power. Try getting down on your knees and asking for whatever is troubling you to be removed. Turn over everything stressing you and ask for help to make room for good to flow in.
15. Steer clear of complainers. One thing you can’t afford when you are feeling shaky is the company of negative people. Without explanation, let the voicemail pick up, don’t respond promptly to texts or emails and slacken any volleys of communication with anyone who brings you down.
16. Stop guilt-tripping yourself. Don’t let anyone manipulate you into apologizing for increasing self-care. Steer clear of those who use guilt to try to control your choices. When you stop seeking approval from others, you can improve your behaviors and start feeling better. Your primary job in life is taking excellent care of yourself. There is no need to apologize.
17. Build inspiration into your daily life. You can overwrite negative voices with positive messages. Opportunities for daily inspiration abound in the Internet age. Set up daily uplifting messages to your inbox, listen to radio shows or podcasts or stream videos that make you feel good.
18. Focus on appreciation. No matter how badly you feel, surely there is something that makes you feel good. There is nothing wrong with feeling grateful for a cup of coffee, as long as you really mean it. Notice your appreciation, feel it, share it, write it down. Do whatever you can to make feelings of gratitude bigger and longer lasting.
19. Make a list of the happiest moments from your life. Own what made each moment powerful to you. Forget what others felt about those moments. Let the rest of the past go. No need to hang on to any unhappy memories.
20. Switch to glass half full. When you notice yourself focusing on or expressing the negative, pause. It’s just a habit and habits can be changed. Find something, anything positive to focus on in the moment. If nothing strikes you, engage in one of your new constructive habits, which will create a positive shift you can then appreciate.
21. Do something joyous every day. Everyone has activities they do that cause them to forget time and get into a flow state. What are yours? Try to work in at least a half hour a day of flow time, no matter what else is going on.
Author, journalist and writing coach Christina has known many who have suffered from the winter blues. She hopes this article will encourage them to reach out for help sooner rather than later, so they can experience relief and rediscover the joys of winter.
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