Bluffs Advocate

Living Well

Dealing with Winter Depression

You can beat winter blues

By Tom Steers

Live Well            After the joy and excitement of the holidays, arriving at mid-winter can feel like an emotional head-on collision with reality. The pace and adrenaline have kept us going, but now exhaustion and return to work—not to mention the bills we have had to pay—can leave us feeling depressed and drained. If the holidays were darkened by the loss or absence of loved ones or perhaps a job, the post-holiday dip can feel even worse.

Expect a little let-down

Anticipating this February freeze can help us adjust to what is for many people a difficult time. Understanding that this sentiment is common helps us to understand that feeling a little down this time of year is normal, and that it will pass with the return of routine and the anticipation of spring.

Beat the winter blues

There are things we can do to bring some light and joy into January and February, including making realistic New Year's resolutions and starting new traditions. Don't be too harsh on yourself when the setting of New Year's resolutions and expectations seems a distant memory. Most changes in life take time and effort. A change in direction towards positive goals can be the most important commitment. Then steady incremental progress with the occasional leap forward can be our aim. Remember the blessings you do have, especially when considering the challenges so many people around the world face. Consider starting a new tradition. Perhaps a monthly get-together with friends, or a weekly trip to the library to scout out new titles, or joining a neighbourhood social club that matches your interests.

Get out and stay active

Winter can leave us just wanting to hibernate, but lift your spirits by staying connected and active. Work in regular winter walks, even if they're at the mall. Take some time for ice skating or local cross-country skiing, which is low cost. Set up a home or office exercise routine that you fit into your day. Office workers can try isometric exercises that help reduce stress and tension. As part of getting out and staying active, consider volunteering with those less fortunate. The time and care you devote to those in need will reap benefits for you and others.

Give yourself something to look forward to

Think of what you most enjoy and think of new experiences you can look forward to on your own or with loved ones. The joy of gift-giving can be revived by treating yourself or others to a new movie to discuss, or a cooking class or amateur sporting event you've been waiting to attend. Consider interests that lie within your budget during what can be a lean time of year.

Eat healthily

After the indulgences of the holiday season that can leave us with some excess calorie baggage, focus on a healthy diet. It's time to consider cutting back on fats and especially sugars and caffeine that can build us up but then leave us crashing. Try fitting in more vegetables and fruits. Warm salads can brighten up our tables and light soups keep away the chill. Vitamins, especially vitamin D at this low-light time can be important. Your physician or pharmacist can guide choices.

Consider spiritual renewal

In this dark time of year, notice that the days are slowly getting longer and it may be time for you to consider drawing closer to the spiritual light of faith. Hope, help, and fellowship can be found in local congregations and places of worship. Within my church we conduct a Bible study at this time of year on dealing with loss and loneliness. If depression becomes a serious and debilitating condition there are many experienced psychologists and psychiatrists that can help. Employment and debt counsellors are also a source of guidance for those experiencing financial challenges.

Envision a plan for the year

Try to see past the problems of the moment by charting your way to a long-term goal for the year. It may be a new career or hobby, a vacation or re-location. Think about the practical steps you need to begin implementing to reach that goal, and stay optimistic. Most accomplishments in life start with a vision and belief that we can succeed.

Rev. Tom Steers is Pastor of Christ the Saviour Lutheran Church, 930 Bellamy Road North, Scarborough, 647-762-8067. Sunday worship is at 11:30 a.m.