SUZY READING, LIFE + ME’S WELLBEING PSYCHOLOGIST, SHARES HER GUIDANCE ON HOW TO BEAT THE WINTER BLUES …
Why do we get that post-Christmas comedown? We’ve enjoyed the final throes of summer, the beauty of the autumnal hues and as the darkness and cold set in we have a run of exciting events to keep the spirits high – Halloween, Bonfire Night, the festival of light and the joys and indulgence of the festive season. Once the New Year arrives, the tree and decorations are packed away and the social engagements peter out, we are often left with the blues.
Just like post-holiday blues, it’s normal to feel a sense of sadness that ‘the fun stuff is done’ and we are literally faced with a cold, harsh reality. While New Years intentions call to us, energetically and seasonally we have a few months to weather before the rebirth of spring and the natural resurgence of energy that accompanies it.
RESPECT YOUR ‘ENERGY BANK BALANCE’
Pace yourself and respect your ‘Energy Bank Balance’. Run yourself ragged and you suppress your immune system and make yourself vulnerable to burn out. Tune in regularly and listen to what your bodymind is telling you. Take tender, loving action to deliver what you really need. There is nothing selfish or indulgent about this. Self-care is health care.
CONNECT WITH PURPOSE
Connect with purpose. If there is something you are dreading, ask yourself WHY you do it. Yes, I feel a sense of reticence about diving back into work mode but when I recall that I work to put a roof above our heads and live in safety, when plenty of people risk their lives for this privilege, I feel grounded in gratitude and purpose. It is true, I am not looking forward to the hum drum school run but thank goodness for the opportunities and education available to our kids in this country. Remembering our WHY is galvanising and anchors us in perspective.
OVERCOME LOW MOODS
To overcome fatigue and low moods, turn to the antidepressant effects of exercise, but observe your natural inclinations and be mindful of your energy levels. Be honest about how you feel and allow yourself to make different choices. At this time of year there is a strong impulse to bunker in and hibernate. If that planned run doesn’t fill you with a feeling of zest, try moving in a different way. Take a walk instead and use it as a mindfulness exercise, boosting your mood and mental health. If you just want to lie down, then honour that and consider trying some soothing floor based yoga. Here are two different yoga sequences to explore: A gentle moving meditation with the prayer salute and a seated sequence to calm the mind and body.
SLEEP FOR SANITY
My mantra is ‘sleep for sanity’ and after the busyness of the festive seasons it helps to pay attention to your sleep needs. Most adults need 7-9 hours, every night. Get to know how much sleep you need to function well and make it a genuine priority. Getting to the end of the film might feel like enjoyable leisure time but this is not as replenishing as getting the sleep you know you need. If you’ve had a string of late nights, make sure there are some early nights or quiet time to compensate. In the absence of good sleep and time to rest, pay attention to your breathing and allow your breath to be relaxed and spacious. This is very soothing for your nervous system. The other great tip to counter overwhelm is ‘earthing the brow’ – think along the lines of childs pose or picture Homer Simpson saying d’oh! Gentle pressure against the forehead is very calming. At your desk, fold your hands and rest your head on them to reboot for 30 seconds.
GET YOUR WELLBEING ON THE RADAR
Harness that New Year’s motivation and get your health and wellbeing on the radar. Resist the temptation to make elaborate, sweeping change – this is hard to achieve, even harder to keep going and when we falter it can knock our self-esteem. When it comes to making sustainable lifestyle changes, small, incremental changes work best. Think one small wave of change at a time, work on it until it is habit and then look at the next behaviour to modify.
ENJOY THE ANTICIPATION
Plan one thing you really look forward to and enjoy the anticipation of it. This can be as simple as looking forward to a solo walk on the weekend or something more grand like a planned holiday (Australia, you are on my radar!). Feel how just the thought of this buoys your spirits.
DO SOMETHING NEW
Try out a new hobby, accept a challenge or learn a new skill. Say ‘yes’ where you might habitually say ‘no’ for a change. Doing something new is a great way to grow and keep us energised.
What really helps is self-care in an instant. Here are just a few ideas: Beautify your environment – if taking down the Christmas decorations pained you, adorn the house with flowers or have some favourite snaps printed up. Use scent or music. Savour a cup of tea or a sunset. Sit and stroke the cat. Watch the moving cloudscape. Try adding a Bach Flower remedy to your usual glass of water – in this way I literally feel like I am drinking in ‘patience’. Read, watch or listen to something uplifting – try a podcast or TED talk on something that fascinates you. Cultivating the skill of curiosity is a great mood alchemist.
And if you do only one of these tips, please let it be a generous dose of self-compassion. Go gently on yourself. While the Christmas and New Year period can be joyful, it can also be full of pressures, some family tension thrown in there, and for many of us, grief bubbles up. Use the mantra ‘I soften into this moment’ and breathe your way through with kindness.
Suzy Reading is a Chartered Psychologist, Yoga Teacher, Health Coach and mum of 3. She specialises in self-care, helping people manage their stress, emotions and energetic bank balance. She is a contributing editor for Psychologies Magazine and author of ‘The Self-Care Revolution’. Suzy is Life + Me’s Wellbeing Psychologist. If you have a question for Suzy for our Q+As, or if you have a suggested topic you would like her to cover, email [email protected]
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