Music Gro: Growing Creatives

Beating the Winter Blues…

Most people have felt Pandemic Fatigue. In addition, many face Seasonal Affective Disorder. Some people experience a mild winter depression or ‘blues,’ and many are also dealing with failed resolutions or goals. And if you are feeling it, your clients or students are feeling it to. So what to do? Here are a few suggestions:

*Important* Learn about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651. And if you feel hopeless, deeply depressed, or not able to cope, call a licensed therapist or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline.

1) Try to identify what you are dealing with. It may be helpful to talk with a close friend or family member and ask what they are noticing about your moods or behavior lately. If those around you are noticing changes in behavior, sleep habits, eating habits, seeing signs of addiction or depression, then it is time to check in with a doctor or therapist to find out what all your are dealing with and see what treatment plans might be best for you. Remember that feeling sad from time to time is normal – you do not have to be happy all the time. Sadness is a good human emotion to be able to express.

2) Vitamin D & Sunshine. If what you are experiencing is mild, a little extra time in sunshine (be sure to protect yourself from harmful UV rays) can make a big impact. Some doctors also recommend increasing our intake of Vitamin D through healthy foods and supplements. Your doctor can help you determine what your needs are for Vitamin D. Remember that Seasonal Affective Disorder is real. If you cannot be outside during the day, or there is simply not enough sunshine where you live many doctors recommend special lamps or a light book. Used daily, it can really make a difference in how your brain and body function to help you stay healthy. Again, consult with your doctor to see if you are dealing with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). The article linked above may help, but your doctor is also a great place to check-in for treatment options.

3) Get away from the screens each day. Start by spending 10 or 15 minutes a day outside, just breathing or taking a short walk. Even if you have to drive to a park or a friend’s house for a good place to walk, make the commitment to do that 2-3 times a week. Start small and build up from there. You may find you look forward to those walks or time spent outdoors and want to spend 30 minutes outside and build up to every day. Being outside and moving our bodies is like an instant boost for our moods. And it’s a great habit to start!

4) What is something healthy you enjoy doing but rarely take time to do anymore? Read a book? Soak in a tub? Journal? Hang out with a friend? Cooking? Photography? Playing an instrument? Biking? Knitting? Painting? Playing a game with the kids? Whatever it is, think about doing that one thing you enjoy once this week. Add the activity to your calendar and keep it top priority. Spend 15-30 minutes doing that one activity without distraction (phones/screens). For something like reading, writing, painting, or solo activities keep the time under 30 minutes for starters. Sometimes the reason we get away from the things we love is because we think they take too long. But even 15 minutes of reading, playing guitar, getting on the bike, even singing in the shower, can help you start making time for yourself again without feeling guilty.

5) Tap into people, groups, events, music, books, art, or things that build you up not tear you down. Take stock of your social surroundings in person and online. Are you associating with people who build you up and encourage you? Are you associating with people who complain, seem to have a negative viewpoint, and tear you down? When the people closest to us are negative, complain a lot, blame everyone else, criticize everyone else, and constantly gossip and judge, then we tend to have that same energy. The same can be true of what we consume in terms of books, media, music, art, movies and social media. If it is all dark, negative, intended to incite fear or anger, or accusatory without providing context and positive solutions, then it’s time to shift our focus to include much more variety. Simply being around people who have ‘good energy’ and encourage us can be inspiring. A simple change in playlist, exiting a social group, finding a new art gallery to explore, finding a new hiking or biking trail, joining a new book club, disc golf group, or dance class – anything that changes your social environment slightly without much effort on your part will help you gently broaden the scope of what you consume and how you feel about yourself.

6) Cut Yourself some Slack. We all have rough weeks, or even months. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to be tired, sad, frustrated, angry, apathetic, numb, or whatever else you are feeling. But it is important to identify and deal with those feelings appropriately as much as possible. We all make mistakes and tempers may flare, we may say the wrong thing out of exhaustion, or we may ignore someone’s needs because we are in our own pain or numbness. But those missteps cannot be the daily norm. We are responsible for taking care of ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. So it is our job to correct our mistakes and work on ourselves to minimize the frequency of those missteps. We all have ‘baggage’ to deal with. We all have past traumas or current pains to deal with. But deal with them you must. In healthy ways. When you are most tired, most stressed, and most at the end or your rope – pause. Don’t react. Just pause, breathe. Cut Yourself Some Slack. Then try going back to #4 or #1. Look at yourself from the perspective of a caring friend. What would your friend say to you right now? Listen to that voice and be gentle with yourself. Remember – it’s okay to not be okay – but that is a temporary state, not a permanent one. Take the break you need and then decide what you need in order to move forward.

7) While you’re at it, give those around you some slack too. If you are feeling a slump, or overwhelmed, or tired, or a myriad of other things, remember that your clients or co-workers, family members and friends my be feeling that too. But in different ways. We all need grace to deal with things in our own best ways. Don’t expect your friend to deal with sadness the same way you do, or a client to process overwhelm the same way you do. Be kind and respectful. If you are dealing with your own issues and emotions and working on yourself you will be setting healthier boundaries for dealing with other people. It is possible that the most gracious and kind thing to do is distance yourself from a co-worker, let go of a client, or simply give a friend space while they work out their own stuff. It is completely okay to say, “I’m here for you and I respect our differences in how we process and handle things. So I’m going to do my thing but give you space right now to do yours. Let me know when you want to work together again/hang out again.” Cutting other people slack and giving grace does not equate to being taken advantage of, or getting ‘sucked into their stuff.’ We can be kind, respectful, and understanding while still keeping our own healthy lives intact. This is hard. Good therapists are great at helping sort these situations and relationships out. So don’t be afraid to ask for help from people who are trained to help us with exactly these situations.

If these tips helped you, drop me a note. If you need encouragement or support, be sure to check out the Podcast page and find a Sounds of Encouragement episode to boost your spirits a bit.

Be well, friends.

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