How to Keep S.A.D. From Bringing You Down This Winter

Guest post from Kimberly Hayes of PublicHealthAlert.info

As the winter months approach, you may be worried about your mood. Those down days can be more than just an inconvenience: your depressed feelings may actually be a form of seasonal affective disorder, which is also known as S.A.D. Thankfully, there are some simple ways you can alleviate your feelings and improve your mood during prime S.A.D. months. 

Don’t Let Winter Drain Your Energy 

When you suffer from S.A.D., the winter months can be a drag on your vitality. Shorter hours of daylight results in your body having a difficult time producing the energy you need. So, how can you combat this effect? You may need to find ways to boost your energy, even when it’s hard to get some sunlight. Spending time outside, sharing time with friends, and writing in a journal can all be wonderful ways to boost your energy during the winter.

Another approach to increasing winter zeal is to focus on the health of your gut. If the bacteria in your gut is out of balance, it could lead to an imbalanced mood. Consider supplementing your diet with probiotics to get your gut and mood stabilized. To further boost your mood, especially during those weeks when overcast skies never seem to end, you can also pick up some S.A.D. lamps for your home. These specialty lamps supply some much-needed light therapy that can be the natural pick-me-up for people who suffer from all forms of S.A.D., including depression. 

Take Special Care with How You Eat 

S.A.D. can impact much more than just your mood. As your energy levels and spirit begin to dip during the winter months, you may also notice a change in your food cravings. S.A.D. sufferers typically begin to crave comfort foods when they are feeling low, but those soothing foods can be loaded with simple carbohydrates that will make you feel worse.

Luckily, there are plenty of swaps you can make in order to enjoy all your favorite comfort foods without the added starches and sugars. Cauliflower is a brilliant substitution when you are craving mashed potatoes, and you will hardly know the difference once you make the switch. In fact, you can use cauliflower to make healthier wings, pizza, and rice, which will allow you to maintain your healthy eating habits throughout winter.

Of course, no winter is complete without some holiday sweets, but baking up healthier holiday cookies is also a possibility, to keep all that sugar from crashing your mood. Adding super healthy chia seeds — or even veggies — can make your holiday treats so much better for you. Finally, don’t overlook the role vitamin D can play in the way you feel, and take note of the signs you may be missing out on this important nutrient. 

Don’t Forget to Find Ways to Relieve Stress 

Winter can get you feeling down but the pressures of the holidays can also cause some additional stress. Stress relief is a vital pillar in protecting yourself from the effects of S.A.D., so establish some healthy practices that help take those tension levels down. If you have not tried it already, meditation can be an invaluable means for relieving stress. Practicing even the most basic meditations can decrease stress and help you manifest a more positive attitude.

To promote a regular practice, you should select a quiet space in your home to adapt into your own meditation area. Include a supportive cushion, to encourage better posture and alignment of your body during your meditation sessions. For that final relaxing touch, choose aromatherapy aids that will produce more feelings of calm in your sacred space. Jasmine can elevate your mood and peppermint can increase focus, so a combination of the two can really take your meditation practice to the next level. 

The doldrums of seasonal affective disorder can be very real in the winter, but you can easily take steps to relieve those gloomy feelings. Be kind to yourself and be willing to practice more self-care to reduce the impact S.A.D. has on your life. 

Holiday Sanity?


How’s your holiday season ramping up? A few years ago I ran into a yoga teacher I know and we talked about the stress of the holidays. I mentioned that next year I would be doing things differently by choosing fewer things to participate in. Her response? “But by next year you’ll forget.” 

Holiday wreath

Was she right? I made a pact with myself right then not to forget. I’ve always felt like at the time of year when we naturally want to hibernate, when the days are darker, when our natural rhythm invites us to be more internal, we plan even more gatherings. I decided to be really selective and choose only a couple events each December. 

This year I’m going to Regina, a local sound healer’s event on December 21. Then on Christmas morning my partner and I are volunteering at an event that brings breakfast and some essential items like socks, garbage bags, and flashlights to the local homeless population. That’s it. 

Want to know the other thing that created ease in my holidays? A few years back my sister lived in London and even though I sent my packages weeks ahead she didn’t receive them until after the holidays. In fact, she didn’t receive any of the gifts from my family in time. I felt terrible. The next year I mailed my gifts a month ahead. If I was going to get hers in the mail I might as well send the rest of my families gifts at the same time. 

That was the most restful December I’d had in years. It worked so well that, even though my sis now lives in Washington D.C. area, I’ve continued the tradition. My gifts were in the mail by November 26 this year. I’m not telling you this to pat myself on the back. I find plenty of ways to stress myself out. But I’ve gotten good at keeping the holidays restful and special. 

My challenge to you? Take one minute right now and list the one thing that’s most important to include in your holiday season.  Then take another minute to make a note of some obligation you can let go of. I bet there’s at least one. You really don’t have to attend that staff party you hate or make cookies for the exchange or do the secret Santa thing. Unless you really want to. Be mindful about what would feel good to you. 

By the way, I have two remaining spots in my February Purposeful Yoga Retreat in Mexico. It would make a great holiday gift, don’t you think? You can get the details here. 

Gratitude Practice: Cool Tool #42

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, 
but the parent of all the others.”
  Cicero, ancient Roman philosopher

thanks noteWhile the U.S. Thanksgiving celebration is a one-day affair, Facebookers have been spending the entire month sharing thanks in their posts. Nice to read the appreciations for things ranging from the mundane to the sacred.

Gratitude is a foundational spiritual principle. And nothing says “attitude of gratitude” better than a practice that reminds you to count your blessings on a regular basis.

 I am grateful for…

Research confirms what anyone with a gratitude practice will tell you. “Gratituders” (I just made up that word. Do you like it?) are happier, less stressed folk.   

 Some people use a journal to list the things that they value. Others express their appreciation verbally or send letters of thanks.

My practice consists of writing a list of gratitudes and then emailing them to the eight women in my gratitude circle. One-woman emails almost daily. Others only send an occasional email.

 For me, knowing that I’m going to write my list down means my brain goes looking for things to appreciate.  

 Recent gratitudes have included being grateful for:

  • Being inside where it’s warm and toasty
  • Water
  • That my partner is taking my car in for service
  • My appreciative clients
  • Access to delicious healthy foods

 While I send my list somewhere between 3-6 days a week I’m always on the lookout for things I could include on the list.  I also get ideas from the women in my group (some of who I’ve never met.)

I find the practice particularly helpful on days where I feel down, stressed, or crabby. I especially make a point of composing and sending my list to shift my energy on those days.

 Your gratitude practice? Do you have one? What is it?

If you want to start your own gratitude group simply ask your Facebook friends if they want to participate. Or ask here. It only takes two to get stated.

Thanks for reading and commenting. Just might make my gratitude list today.  😀

 

Vacation from Your Business: Cool Tool #38

I didn’t take a single day off for rest and renewal during my first year of full-time self-employment. Even though I loved my new profession, my clients, and being my own boss I ended up depleted.

At the end of that year I treated myself to a week at a yoga workshop in Mexico. The first three days while everyone else body surfed or walked the beach I sat in a hammock and stared at the ocean. You know, that kind of vacant, not very bright staring. It was all I could do.swings at beach

From that hammock I vowed to never again let myself get that depleted.  

Why no vacation for me?

Because I was afraid I wouldn’t make it without a paycheck. Now I know that being successful (in my business and my life) means I must take regular time away from work.

This year I rested, swam, and paddle boarded in Troncones, Mexico for a couple of weeks, added some vacation days to a conference trip to Vancouver, B.C. and Seattle, and spent a week with family in the midwest.

But those weren’t my only renewal periods. I highly recommend mini breaks in addition to longer times away. Yesterday I took advantage of a break between clients to walk to a local park and play on the swings. It was our last day of sunshine for months and kids were in school so I had my choice of swings.

Do you need a get away?

The best time to plan your get away is before you’re stressed and crabby, before you have to push yourself through your days, before you find yourself doing anything but work.

But, hey, if you’ve let yourself get depleted as I was and ocean staring is not in your near future, consider an emergency mini-retreat.

And if you need further enticement here are a few more benefits of time away from work.

  • Stress reduction
  • Enhanced job performance
  • Increased creativity
  • Improved physical and mental health

A day off to hike or read a novel, a day trip to a local day spa, a girls night out…  What renews you?

 

 

 

 

Powerful Pose to Relieve and Align Achy Forearms: Cool Tool #34

Here’s a test for you. Pick a couple of “typical” days over the next week. Then keep track of how much time you spend with your arms forward of your body, your fingers and hands curled.

It’s the position you assume when using a computer, driving, creating some types of art, cooking, using an elliptical machine with arms… If you’re like most people it will be quiet a few hours.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that position. It’s just that your body is more adapted to variety rather than repetition. When you use the same muscles again and again, especially in a static position they get tired, shortened, and sometimes misaligned (along with your bones.)

Unfortunately this kind of muscle use doesn’t give you muscle definition. Instead you can get muscle soreness and nerve pain in addition to numbness, weakness, and damage. In my work as a massage therapist many of my clients experience discomfort in their shoulders, forearms, and wrists. You might hear names like carpal tunnel, thoracic outlet syndrome, or tendinitis.

The repetition is stressful to your body and the resulting pain and discomfort brings a psychological stress. You can’t be as productive. You might even get crabby. You might have to restrict your activities. No one wants to have to give up his or her playtime.

 One of the best things you can do is stretch regularly. For every 30 minutes you spend in the shoulder forward, arms extended posture spend at least a couple minutes stretching in the other direction.

Prevention isn’t sexy. I get it. But feeling good and being able to work and play without pain and discomfort are very sexy.

Here’s one stretch for while you’re at your desk or sitting in traffic. Give it a try and let me know what you think. 

And then check out the next cool tool for a stretch for your off work time. 

 

Be Gentle with Your Mistakes: Stress Cool Tool # 29

I realized yesterday that I’d skipped over Cool Tool #29.1 + 1 = 3

Poor #29.

In the past I would have felt shame and embarrassment. Along the way I had ingrained the message that mistakes were bad. I can’t say that I’m never embarrassed about forgetting something these days. But at least I have more perspective.

The Human Element

Somehow I learned that we all make mistakes. It’s laughable to think I wasn’t aware of this simple truth. I’ve never read Richard Carlson’s Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, but I love the title.  What a great de-stressor to not worry over things you can’t change.

 Here’s what I do with my mistakes these days.

  1. Get perspective. Is this mistake life threatening? (So far I haven’t uttered a yes to this question.)
  2. Is there a way to rectify my mistake?  If I get a yes, then I take action. If my answer is no, I move onto question #3.
  3. Is there anything I can learn from this mistake? I teach a business class at Oregon School of Massage. I left home without my class notes, student homework, etc. one week. Whoops. So now I park my bag where I have to step over it to leave. No more forgotten bag.
  4. Forgive myself and move on.

What a great de-stressor this process has been for me. It frees up energy for doing things more in align with my purpose and goals like writing blog posts.

How do you handle making mistakes? Any tips to add? I’d love to add your suggestions to my tool bag.

PS. Coaching serves as a supportive way to learn from mistakes and create new helpful patterns. Your initial consultation to learn more and see if we’re a good match is free. 

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Get Focused: Business Stress Cool Tool # 32

I’ve expounded on the virtues of unfocused time. So what about focusing?focused eye

Busy, busy brain.

That busy brain of yours focuses on stuff all the time. You focus on:

  • the great conversation you had with a client
  • the deadline, once so far away, but now running at record speed towards you
  • the great laughs you had with a friend over dinner
  • the health concern that is probably nothing, but might be something scary
  • the creative idea for you business that just popped into your head
  • the fight you had with your partner
  • the vision you hold for you business and life…

The power of focus comes from getting clear about what you want and then spending more time thinking about that thing then the other stuff.

Easy?

Not always. That conversation that just didn’t feel right keeps playing over in your head. You second-guess a decision you made. You doubt your ability to pull off a project.

The downside about focusing on the stuff that doesn’t feel good is that, well, it doesn’t feel good. It creates stress in your life. And you enhance your chances of attracting the very thing you don’t want into your life.

 Focus Wheel

When my monkey mind is dancing with thoughts in the “I don’t want this” category I like to use a tool from the Abraham Hicks materials. You’ll find a focus wheel particularly useful when you’re struggling with the belief that what you desire is attainable.

Here’s an example:

You‘re ready to launch a new program or service. Every time you think about it you find doubt creeping in. Sometimes it doesn’t creep. It thrashes about and leaves a big mess.

Let’s shift that. First draw a circle. Put the object of your desire, in this case your new program or service, in the center. You can write words or find an image that represents your desire (or both.)

Then draw a series of circles around that central circle. In each of those circles write a statement that relates to your central desire. But make each of the additional statements a thought that you do believe.

If your original statement is “My new service is successful beyond my hopes and dreams” you might write, “My intuition guides me each step of the process.” Whatever you choose should feel good. You should feel soothed as you read it.

When you find yourself focusing on doubts, past failures, obstacles…pull out your focus wheel. Read each of the supportive, easy to believe statements you wrote. Then read the central statement. If you’re like me, your focus will have shifted from stress and doubt to “of course I can do this!”

Bottom Line

Focus when it serves you. Be looser with life and with your business when that serves you.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on focusing. How do you use it? What are your tips?

 

Focus: Less is More Stress Tool # 31:

Picture a 1950’s era home movie. Grainy footage shoot by a less than stable hand. You see a pair of smiling blurry image of childgrandparents open their front door and step on to their small concrete porch.

First a boy, maybe six years old, walks up the steps and gets embraced by grandmother and then grandfather. A girl, younger by a few years, follows suit.

And then you see something move in a blur in front of the camera. 

The second time you see the blur you realize it’s a third child, similar in age, but moving at 8.5 times the speed as her siblings. Eventually she makes her way back to her grandparents for her turn at hugs. 

That blur was I. 

Present Moment

Right now if you’d look over my shoulder at my computer you’d see I have five browser windows, four programs, and three word documents (and a partridge in a pear tree) open.

In other words focus has never been a strong suit of mine. 

The Joys of Being Unfocused

I’ll admit that, at times, more focus would serve me. But I also know that not being focused has its place too. Many creative people find that dinking around with non-essential tasks calms and prepares them for their essential task. 

Picture a writer organizing her desk or a coach chatting on the phone with a friend before getting down to the days tasks. It’s much like a warm up before hitting the gym. 

Unfocused time allows for creativity, spontaneity, and rejuvenation.

As a non-focuser I’m delighted to know tidbits of info like this cool tool.

Focus Creates Stress

Physiologically you can see (no pun intended) that when hunting for dinner our Neanderthal relatives (and I don’t mean the ones you celebrate holidays with) would have to focus their eyes to spot and shoot their prey.

 Now picture yourself sitting in front of your computer, texting, watching TV, reading… Lots of eye focus involved in your day too, right?

 Try an experiment. Focus on a point and notice what happens to your breathing, to your muscles, especially in your head and neck. Now let your gaze go soft. Don’t focus on anything for a few breaths and notice the change.

When focused you probably noticed some tension around your eyes, maybe in your jaw, forehead, neck, chest, or shoulders. You also probably noticed that your breath became shallower.

And when you shifted to your peripheral vision you noticed a relaxation of muscles, a deepening of your breath, didn’t you?

Use this soft eyes technique on a regular basis during your day for a quick de-stressor and tension releaser.

Share your experience here.

Read the next post if you want to know some reasons you should focus.

 

Business Stress Cool Tool # 19: Breath Awareness

Breath awareness is one of my favorite de-stressing tools. Three cool things about breath.52 Cool Tools

  1. Ever present. It’s true that if you stop breathing all your stress will go away. But as long as you’re still breathing, you’ll have this tool at the ready to help you de-stress.
  2. Free. No cost to install or maintain this tool.
  3. Reminds you that you’re connected to something larger. You can’t breathe in isolation. With every breath you’re recycling breath that’s been breathed by your loved ones, your irritating neighbor, a petunia, your dog, Buddha… No such thing as a virgin breath.

 By altering your breath you can feel more relaxed, more energized, more confident, more present, more intuitive… But before you start changing your breath, get acquainted first.

 I’ve included a 4-minute breath meditation.

It’s something you can listen to often. What did you learn from your breath?

Join my email list here.

 

Cool Tool #14: Protection in a Bottle

You want to be authentic with your clients. You know that when you bring your vulnerable self to your work you get better results.

But showing your tender underbelly to clients can feel scary.

 What’s a Conscious Entrepreneur to Do?

 One of my favorite tools for protection is frankincense (Boswellia carteri.)

 Why do you think the wise men brought this precious resin to baby Jesus as a birthday gift? I can just hear the wise men asking their wise wives to head out to the market and pick up a little something for the baby. I’m guessing it was the balm of protection along with the resin’s ability to connect one with their spiritual self that made it the must have gift for baby Jesus.

 To produce the oil the tree is scraped. Then the tree produces a resin to protect itself. Smart tree. Emulate the tree and you’ll have some protection of your own.

Frankincense and You

Some people burn the resin. I use the oil that’s distilled from the resin. So what do you do with the oil?

 You can sniff the oil from the bottle. You can dilute it in a blend with either water for a spray or oil to use on your skin. I have a blend that contains frankincense that I use in my office to create a sense of protection. In a blend you won’t need much of this oil to impart it’s signature smell.

 This comforting oil smells warm, sweet, and woodsy. Recovering Catholics be forewarned. One of my clients had an aversion to the oil because it reminded her of her less than pleasant Catholic upbringing.

 Other Uses

This protector of your spirit is a multitasking winner. The fragrance can help:

  • Connect you to your spiritual self.  
  • Move you into mediation.
  • Still busy emotions.
  • Release connections to your past that get in your way.
  • Soothe stress and anxiety.

Have you used frankincense? Share your experiences here.