How to overcome winter blues through self care and kindness

winter blues, self care

The days are getting colder and shorter where I live. Winter is approaching and with it come the dreaded winter blues.

Even if you live in a warm climate, your hours of sunlight decrease. That lack of sunlight is one of the key culprits causing low moods during winter.

If you’re wondering, some of the symptoms of winter blues include:

  1. Poor sleep patterns
  2. Feeling less social
  3. Feeling lethargic

Winter blues are different than seasonal affective disorder which is more serious and less common (and not covered here).

They affect women more than men and, perhaps obviously, are more common in colder climates.

Some say pressure and loneliness around Christmas increases the tendency toward winter blues. This year, that loneliness will only be exacerbated.

So, now we know why we suffer winter blues. What can we do about it?

How to Properly Beat the Winter Blues

Here are 8 ways to manage your winter blues this year:

1. Get more sunlight

Going outside for a walk or engaging in winter sports will expose you to more natural light.

The sun still shines in winter, only less so. Taking it in will increase your serotonin production and elevate your mood.

2. Light therapy

Some people use a lightbox which simulates natural light. You look at it for a certain amount of time each day and it gives you the benefits of a dose of sunlight.

3. Exercise

Like the sun, physical activity increases serotonin and also boosts endorphins, for a double dose of mood lifting.

Moderate exercise of 30 minutes per day is more than enough to reap benefits from these mood enhancers.

15 GIFs of Adorable Animals Enjoying the Snow to Help Chase Away Your Winter  Blues

4. Embrace routine

Keep a regular schedule to avoid winter blues. That means going to bed and waking at about the same time each day.

Prepare healthy foods and eat your meals at around the same time each day. Do your best not to overindulge in comfort foods like starchy and sugary choices.

5. Stay connected

Maintain your social connections, even when you don’t feel like it. Sometimes you need to do the opposite of what you feel like doing.

This past weekend I forced myself to call a friend to share my low feelings. It had a tremendous impact on my mood and made me feel less alone.

6. Think of others

Thinking of ourselves too much is a sure way to extend a low mood. Ruminating over negative thoughts makes it difficult to escape the winter blues.

Turn your attention outward instead. Help others, whether it’s through a donation, delivering food to someone in need, or listening to a friend.

7. Listen to uplifting music

To enhance your mood, tune in to radio stations that play positive music.

Or create playlists of encouraging songs that remind you you’re loved and not alone.

8. Stay cozy

Issue 01: It's not just the winter blues

Consider keeping a couple of soft blankets on the couch. Whoever sits there will enjoy the warmth and feel of a cozy covering.

If you’re lucky enough to have the warmth of a fireplace, light it up. Wear comfy clothes.

Be kind to yourself as you navigate the winter blues and remember: they’re totally natural, normal, and, most important, temporary.

Romance scammers more common than you think: How to protect yourself

romance scammers
Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Women make up 82% of victims of romance scammers. In spite of this fact, the media is saturated with stories about female grifters who dupe both men and women.

This is a curious bias and hugely misleading reporting. It gives women the false sense that men are no worse than women in this area.

This puts women at risk of being victimized. Another popular false belief is that only gullible women fall for these traps.

Instead, these women tend to be intelligent, highly educated, and successful in their fields of work.

Victims of romance scammers tend to be intelligent, educated, and successful in their fields of work. Click To Tweet

Women who fall for romance scammers are not stupid or naïve. They are trustworthy and community oriented. In other words, good people who expect the same in others.

How do romance scammers operate?

It starts with “love bombing”, a common tactic among narcissists. That intense attention and affection that moves things too fast and prompts you to let down your guard.

They also pretend to like and dislike the same things you do. To build a false sense in you of having found the perfect partner.

Anyone can Google your name or read your Facebook profile to find out all kinds of things about you. This is material they use to give you the false sense of feeling “known”.

Scammers will isolate you and seek out victims who are already lacking support. If you have suffered a recent trauma like divorce you are far more likely to fall for one.

How to avoid romance scammers

Here are 4 ways to protect yourself from falling for a romantic grifter:

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1. Don’t commit too fast.

Spend time with someone before becoming over involved with them or giving your heart away.

In the Dirty John podcast, his victim let him move in after only five weeks and married him shortly after.

2. Listen to what others say about him.

And not only the positive comments. Romance scammers are experts at conning people.

But listen to the one who points out his cracks. Or says she can’t put her finger on why she doesn’t trust him.

Women’s intuition is real and the woman who trusts hers is a gifted advisor. Pay attention to what she says.

Women's intuition is real and the woman who trusts hers is a gifted advisor. Click To Tweet

3. Trust your own intuition.

Most women have spent their lives downplaying their God-given intuition. This is because we live in a world that downgrades feminine attributes and elevates cold logic instead.

Listen to that voice inside you and heed those red flags. They will always be there to mark the way to safety.

Avoid online romance scams this Valentine's Day | Buzz

4. If he seems too good to be true, he is.

He claims to have a high-flying job but needs to borrow money. That’s a huge red flag and a common theme among romance scammers.

He has all the same interests as you and supports all the causes you do. Anyone could find those details on your Facebook profile.

Romance scammers use clichés women love to hear but most normal men never say! Click To Tweet

He uses clichés that women love to hear but most normal men never say! Like, “I can’t take my eyes off you,” or “you’re the most amazing woman I’ve ever met.”

Be suspicious when he says these things very early on, like a first date. Pretending to fall for you immediately is the biggest romance scam of all.

Acedia: How to overcome feelings of boredom and restlessness

acedia, self care, self improvement
Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Acedia refers to a combination of listlessness, generalized anxiety, and an inability to concentrate. It first described feelings brought on by the solitary lives of ancient monks.

Unsurprisingly, this feeling of acedia in the monks came about as a result of long stints in isolation. Sound familiar?

Some of us today are experiencing acedia for the first time. A consequence of imposed isolation and confinement to our own four walls.

A brain fog sets in, a feeling of restlessness that you can’t shake. You’re still functioning but feel like there must be more.

How do we deal with this restlessness that is neither depression or anxiety? Click To Tweet

How do we deal with this restlessness that is neither depression or anxiety, and is therefore neither treatable nor truly dysfunctional?

The feeling of acedia is uncomfortable rather than unbearable. And it grows worse in times when a lack of routine compels us to distract ourselves or procrastinate.

Here are four ways to overcome acedia when it strikes in our lives:

1. Endurance

In Hebrews Paul says, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Do your work with 100% effort even when it’s tedious and seemingly meaningless.

Avoid procrastination and unhelpful distractions like scrolling through social media. Practice gratitude rather than wishing you were somewhere else or with someone else.

2. Prayer

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says “pray without ceasing”. When you’re going through the ordinary tasks of your day, whisper prayers to God to keep in constant contact with Him.

3. Crying

Sometimes all we need is a good cry. If you live alone you may have gone weeks or even months without touch this year.

I’d say that’s worth a few tears! And you’re not alone. Celebrities have taken to YouTube with their own crying jags during isolation.

4. Physical activity

This can mean simply moving your body rather than an exercise regime. Go for a walk, clean the house, do laundry.

Completing physical tasks big and small can help you process your jumbled thoughts. At the very least it can help you get out of your head for a while and into your body instead.

Toxic people in the workplace: how to protect yourself

toxic people workplace
Photo by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash

Chances are you’ve had to deal with toxic people in the workplace at some point in your life. Maybe you’re dealing with them now.

Toxic people in the workplace come in a number of different forms.

In my career, I’ve experienced harassers, bullies, manipulators, and gossips. And I’m sure you can think of more examples among the people you’ve encountered at work.

The stress of dealing with toxic people in the workplace impacts your health and your ability to do your job. Click To Tweet

The stress of dealing with toxic people in the workplace impacts your health and your ability to do your job. The effects include but are not limited to:

  1. decreased job satisfaction
  2. lost sleep
  3. low productivity
  4. increased stress
  5. poor mental health

How to protect yourself

So, how do you protect yourself from these soul suckers? Here are 4 ways to deal with toxic people in the workplace:

1. Find supporters.

Form relationships with positive people in the office. You don’t need to talk to them about the difficult person.

Simply having good people on your side acts as an antidote to counter the effects of the toxic coworker.

2. Set boundaries.

Do your best not to respond emotionally to the toxic person. Rise above their madness and refuse to get pulled down to their level.

If it’s the office gossip, socializer, or negative Nancy, tell them you can’t talk right now, you’re busy working.

Use body language to indicate your unwillingness to engage with them. This could mean averting your eyes when they approach.

Or you could wear headphones as a barrier.

Bad Coworker GIFs | Tenor

I used to work at a place where my department would meet for lunch every day and gossip about everyone who wasn’t there.

I stayed silent until one day I decided to take my lunches outside rather than stew in that toxic environment.

3. Have good self care.

Meditation helps keep your mind off the offending person and on the present moment instead. It also calms your brain and gives you more mental clarity.

Get a good night’s sleep. You’re more susceptible to someone’s manipulation and other toxic tactics when you’re not well-rested. It’s also essential for your overall well-being.

You're more susceptible to someone's manipulation and other toxic tactics when you're not well-rested. Click To Tweet

Eating healthy and exercising regularly are two more ways to stay physically healthy and emotionally fit. They’ll increase your confidence to counteract the negative effects of your coworker.

Take time off for vacations and personal days when you are permitted to do so. It’s important to get away to reset and refresh and take care of interests you have outside of work.

4. Focus on solutions.

Rather than ruminate on things you can’t control, focus on actions you can take.

There’s no point trying to understand the mind and motives of an irrational person. These people are driven by nefarious methods of getting their way at any cost.

There's no point trying to understand the mind and motives of an irrational person. Click To Tweet

Instead of dwelling on the problem of the toxic person, think of ways you can manage them and maintain your sanity. This helps you feel more in control.

Tell yourself they must be insecure and unhappy and try to find compassion for them.

Don’t bother trying to reason with them or have a civil conversation. They don’t care about you and only know how to deflect blame.

If you do complain, they may manipulate the situation to make you look bad. So arm yourself with evidence and stick to the facts if you are forced to bring in HR.

Sometimes the best way to protect yourself means staying silent. Unlike a toxic friend or family member, you can’t detach yourself from a toxic person in the workplace.

ACEs: Adverse childhood experiences and how to overcome them

Have you heard of ACEs? These are adverse childhood experiences that impact the way you function in society.

The test to determine your ACE score covers three categories:

  1. abuse (physical, emotional, sexual);
  2. neglect (physical and emotional);
  3. household dysfunction (mental illness, incarcerated relative, substance abuse, violence and divorce).

Studies show most people have one ACE but the detrimental impact increases with each ACE the child experiences.

One of the biggest ways the effects of ACEs shows up is in difficulty regulating emotions and behavior. These are the kids who get in trouble in the classroom.

Or they might present as distracted or withdrawn. That was me as a young child: the model student who never bothered anyone or expressed her needs.

As I grew older, however, the emotional dysregulation came into play. In late high school, I began to drink to cope with my overwhelming emotions.

As it happens, addictive behaviors are common among people with high ACE scores.

I scored 6/10 on the test, which you can take here. Sadly, people with a score of 6 or more are at risk of their life span being shortened by 20 years.

Even ACE scores of 4 or more predispose people to all kinds of problems like increased likelihood of depression and suicidal ideation.

People with an ACE score of 4 are twice as likely to contract cancer than those with a score of zero. They are 460 per cent more likely to experience depression.

Adverse childhood experiences can effect you throughout your life if not addressed and dealt with. Click To Tweet

Above all, these adverse childhood experiences can effect you throughout your life if not addressed and dealt with.

ACEs have physical health consequences

These experiences have real physical connotations as well as mental and emotional ones.

For example, they change the child’s developing brain, how they respond to stress, and damage their immune systems.

Much of the chronic illness in our society today stems from adverse childhood experiences.

Much of the chronic illness in our society stems from adverse childhood experiences. Click To Tweet

And increased health risks come not only from substance abuse and other negative coping behaviors.

Instead, the health risk comes from the fight or flight responses in children with high ACEs having been triggered too often.

In other words, something that is supposed to protect them in dire circumstances like a bear attack, gets set off daily in a dysfunctional household.

The resulting toll on the body sets the child up for illness later in life regardless of their future lifestyle habits.

And women are more likely than men to experience adverse childhood experiences. As a result, women suffer autoimmune disease at rates three times higher than men.

How to heal from ACEs

ACEs, self care, personal growth, self improvement

It’s possible you’re discouraged by your score. But there are steps you can take to reverse the damaging effects of adverse childhood experiences.

Here are 5 things you can do to start your healing journey.

1. Know your resilience score

Now that you’ve got your ACE score, it’s time to get your resilience score (scroll down after you click).

The resilience quiz will help you understand what helped you withstand adversity in your childhood. After that, you can incorporate those factors into your adult life.

Having had one reliable adult in your life increases your resilience exponentially, for example.

If you had someone outside the home like a teacher or relative who cared about you, that would make all the difference in how you weathered your childhood adversity.

2. Mindfulness training

Meditation can help rewire your brain to feel more calm. Over time, it reduces your response levels to stress and helps you recover from stressful events faster.

Even when you’re not meditating, stop and pay attention to your surroundings. Mindfulness means inhabiting the present moment rather than rushing from task to task.

3. Honor your emotions

Feel your feelings rather than avoiding them. Remember you are not your emotions or your thoughts, you have them. Observe them without judgment.

Resist the urge to classify emotions as good or bad. They all carry information that will help you move forward in life.

Repressed emotions lead to physical illness. Validate your emotions instead.

Repressed emotions lead to physical illness. Validate your emotions instead. Click To Tweet

Journal your past experiences and all your feelings about them. Express your feelings honestly without shame. Write to yourself about what you really feel.

4. Self compassion

Speak to yourself nicely when you make a mistake. Encourage yourself and pat yourself on the back when you do well.

Nurture yourself in a way your parents never could. Let God be the father you never had. Unlike your earthly parents, his love is unconditional.

Eat a balanced diet. Take time to shop for and prepare healthy meals for yourself. Good eating habits have been credited with helping relieve brain fog, anxiety and even suicidal ideation.

Reach out to others and create fulfilling relationships in which you can share your heart. Good relationships help you produce oxytocin, also known as the feel-good hormone.

5. Forgiveness

This one may take some time. Forgiveness does not mean condoning what happened to you. It does not even mean you have to see the person.

It’s something you do for yourself, to be set free from the chains that bind you to the past.