Winter blues, kicking S.A.D. in the A.S.S.

The weather outside here in Kansas has been gradually shifting to frightful.  If you've never lived here we have a saying "If you don't like the weather, stick around 15 minutes."  Lately it's been fallish with more and more days of bitter cold.  I found myself driving home from the gym today thinking about how soon til we have snow and ice. 

These are things I never look forward to.  For practical reasons like driving conditions as well as more personal ones.  I have always gotten kind of down in the winter time.  For as long as I can remember the winter has always been a sort of dark period for me.  Sometimes worse than others but my mood has always been noticeably different.

Before I got healthy winters were always met with a lot of sickness for me as well.  And not just stuffy noses and kleenex sick, but go to the ER at least once a winter sick.  Last year wasn't so bad.  But this year I've got something that I never had for it before (and was never really good at obtaining until the last year or so); GOALS! 

Now that I've changed my lifestyle and habits completely I can look at my past with much more clarity.  The weather does have this effect on a lot of people.  It has a name, Seasonal Affective Disorder.  But there were also a lot of natural mental health aids that I wasn't utilizing. 

I used to spend my winters mostly sedentary and indoors.  The extra layer of clothing and the general comfort of food led to eating more and mostly processed food.  I didn't wake up as early and I did nothing to offset the problem.

Turns out (shocker) that the energy suck I was feeling, as well as the heightened sensitivity to illness and sadness are all made better with good whole foods and exercise.  There is a reason that you can be "cured" of almost all ailments with Mama's homemade chicken noodle soup.  Because when people take the time to make them from scratch using whole natural ingredients the food is a powerful medicine!

Likewise, when you are fueling your body with clean, healthy foods it runs better.  You have more energy.  You feel lighter and BETTER.  Exercise is also a great activity for the blues, just a bad day or general mental well being as it is a powerful release of endorphins.  Happy hormones flood over your body when you get your heart rate pumping.  It's a great way to relieve stress and tension, and for me it's almost meditative.  Rather I'm going for a long, methodical run or olympic style weight lifting- my mind focuses in only on how my body feels.  I can spend forever in the gym because spend every moment completely void of all stressors and focused inward. 

Together, eating clean food and exercising has turned me from a person who regularly struggled with depression to an energetic, well person.  '

*That is not to say that everyone who struggles with depression or any kind of mood disorder can be cured this way.  Everyone's issues are different.  This is just my experience, however there is no person that cannot benefit from positive overall healthy habits.*

So this year I've decided to tackle the winter blues with some goals.  While last year was pretty good I want to kick S.A.D. in the tail! 

  • I've decided to take on winter running.  This is not something that I was into before.  I only ran when it was cold if it coincided with my half marathon training long run days.  Otherwise it was all indoor for me.  But as I know that fresh air and running outside are both good for my wellness I'm gonna give it a shot.  (With the exception of icy conditions, as I'm generally too clutzy to not call that asking for trouble).
  • I'm gonna eat my vegetables.  I like to make big pots of vegetable based soups at the beginning of the week in the winter.  It makes for quick warm lunches and it a great way to get a lot of nutrition in you when warm sounds better than salad.  I'm going to be conscious that through the winter I am loaded with veggies and whole foods to stave off crashes and low energy that comes with junk food.
  • I'm going to make plans and lots of little goals for the gym.  When I'm not in the middle of training for a race I like to concoct specific weight lifting plans that cycle between building muscle, toning and changing body fat percentage.  Lately I've been doing some basic upper body/lower body splits and I'm getting bored and thinking my body needs more recovery between training.  If you aren't a huge gym nerd like me that was all really boring; I digress... my next goal is to re-motivate myself with a whole winter training program to follow, as well as continuing with my new boxing training.  It may be nerdy, but it's one more thing for me to look forward to and keep me focused on my health.
  • I'm going to watch my daughter and change my perspective.  All the things I seem to get grouchy about around winter are things children seem to love.  Snow looks like car accidents to me.  Snow looks like heaven to children.  This winter I plan to enjoy watching my daughter experience winter for the first memorable time.  I will put on snow boots and tromp around like she will.  I will teach her to make snow angels.  This is one of those situations where you can't change your circumstances but you can change your attitude, so I will do so with the wonder of my child's eyes.
  • Finally I want to make plans to see friends.  We've gotten older, most of us are settled down into jobs, significant others, children/fur children and general adulthood.  We don't have an unspoken plan to spend every Friday night out.  We don't do that anymore.  But I want to set coffee dates, or dancing dates or whatever with my nearest and dearest as no mood stands a chance against my awesome friends.

So that's it.  I have a plan.  And I'm super excited about it. 

Getting fit has taught me a lot about life.  That last sentence seems a little hokey but it's true.  It was through learning to run I gained deeper commitment and humility.  It was through training for a half marathon I learned how to reach higher than I could see.  It was through educating myself about food and it's effect on the body that I gained a kind of respect for myself I didn't have before.  It gave me more confidence and a respect for my body I didn't honor before.  Through the whole "getting healthy" process I learned how to set goals and see them through.  How a series of tiny goals met can lead to an amazing outcome.  Just one foot in front of the other.

The ironic thing is that I knew these things before.  My job was to create treatment plans for people with goals and tiny steps toward meeting them.  I just didn't know how to do that for myself.  And honestly, didn't have myself on my list of priorities or held in high enough regard to do so.

The bottom line is I get it now.  None of this is luck folks.  We can't control the weather but we can control ourselves.  We didn't choose our genetics but we choose our bodies.  We are not "just who we are" unless we decide to be- we are capable of changing everything about our lives if only by changing our perspective.

Sometimes I feel like I got all that a little late.  But better late than never.  So the moral of the story is we get to pick our lives.  If you aren't satisfied with something, change it.  Big changes don't happen overnight.  But if it's worth it to you, you can keep plugging away at anything until it's better.

This year I'm not accepting feeling crumby all winter.  And I have a plan.   I'm taking a part of my life that I have always dreaded and I'm going to look forward to it this year! 

What do you need to tackle?  Are you accepting something uncomfortable about yourself or your life as being "just how it is"? 

Time for a change.  And for goodness sake, don't wait til the silly tradition of New Years so you can proclaim your goal when it's in style and joke about how it didn't work out with everyone else come March.  Today is a great day for beginning. 

Here's to your potential!