Over the Christmas break (ah, fond memories...), I had lots of time for thinking, planning, ruminating, pondering - all that good stuff. And I had a little realisation. I tend to get down in the dumps, right in the middle of each winter. Something about grey skies, short days and the stress of school and the festive period just gets to me.
I was checking back over my blog and the pattern is clear (ah, so useful to have a record of my musings year on year!). Sometime in late November I get the blues. December, for all its joys, is a struggle. Sometimes this manifests as stress or worry - this year it was a lot of crying. Crying in the shower. Crying in the middle of the night. Crying (bizarrely and mortifyingly) at our school carol service. I wasn't sad, per se. There was no big thing that was weighing on my mind (I'm happy, safe, healthy, loved - I'm aware that I'm a very lucky duck!), just a horrid grey cloud that seemed to follow me around. I felt a little like Eeyore.
So I put my thinking cap on, and decided to take some action.
Now, (as I always tell my wee badgers) I am not against being sad, or being angry, or feeling a bit low. These feelings are normal and natural and part of life's great tapestry. But feeling low for weeks and weeks on end just isn't an option. Collapsing in front of a weepy, getting a bit stressed, taking a weekend to be a little quiet and introspective are all things I can and do do, but being this blue for months on end feels like a massive pain in the rear.
So I sprang into action, and decided to take some steps. In my research (online, in the library, talking to friends far cleverer than me!) I kept on coming across SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Now, I'd never be so presumptuous as to declare myself a sufferer of a disease without a doctor's say so, but getting a doctor's appointment on my schedule doesn't really happen (unless it's an emergency). So I thought a few subtle lifestyle changes might help and certainly couldn't harm, and if they didn't work then I'd cart myself to the docs.
And do you know what?
It has totally worked.
Five prong attack, and I feel SO much better for it. Helpfully, a lot of the prongs are actually part of the healthkick and weight watchers bonanza too! The prongs work thusly:
Drink: I'm drinking about one-and-a-half to 2 litres of water a day, plus lots of fruit tea and green tea. Caffeine's still allowed, but I have a 2 pm curfew for it now. Alcohol a maximum of twice a week.
Exercise: I get up and workout for a half hour each weekday morning. It's not been easy putting this in place, but it's starting to feel like a habit (thank heavens!). I swim once a week and take a good long walk each weekend. It feels good to be breaking a sweat and taking the time for myself.
Food: Fruit, veg, wholegrains and lean meat like they're going out of fashion (7 portions of fruit and veg a day). Fewer processed foods and sweets.
Light: I bought myself a rudimentary SAD light and spend half an hour to an hour using it each day. It has been such a revelation! Who would have thought that a few bulbs could make such a difference!
Sleep: 6-8 hours a night. Whether it's easy or not.
So that's me. A little less blue and a lot more in control. It's pretty nifty.