For decades, I've struggled with winter depression. It usually sets in on or about December 1 and runs through the end of March-ish. I'm not sure of the cause. It may be that I'm separated from my other half, my twin. I could also be affected by seasonal affective disorder. Maybe the craziness that is year end giving at work also impacts me, and the fact that there is so much going on that I neglect self-care.
During the pandemic, my depression management was even worse.
I was not seeing people, my marriage had fallen apart, I was worried about my family, and the list continues. As the pandemic intensified and my home life got worse, I started running regularly to alleviate stress. I ended up training for and completing a marathon for charity and running a half marathon a month....something I'm continuing into 2022.
But the entire reason I wanted to write this blog post was because of my cheer chart. What I decided to do as the pandemic got worse and I saw winter coming, was to make a reminder of what to do to pull myself out of it.
I made a list of things that either make me happy or are good for me and put it on a chart on my refrigerator.
I had a bunch of random round magnets left from craft projects that I put on there. Each morning, I try to make sure I do at least three of the things on the list before I start work. At the end of the day, I aim to do two more. On weekends, I want to use all seven magnets at minimum. This sounds silly, but it has really made a difference in my day. When I'm feeling down, I look at the chart and try to do at least ONE. Some of these are super easy, like drinking a pint of plain water or taking a photo to post online. Soon, I'll update the chart with other things, but my cheer chart has helped me fight depression this year.
Here are some of the things that are on the chart or help me:
Running/Gym/Exercise - If I get 30 minutes of exercise, I usually feel better.
Stretching - some days I just can't motivate to exercise and stretching is good.
Brushing, Flossing, Vitamins, Drinking Water, Eating my Veggies - these are things that I am whiny about, but I know they make my life and body better when I do them. They are easy wins on days when I can't seem to even get out of bed.
Crafting - I love making sea glass art to send to friends or doing other crafty things with my hands.
Cooking/Baking - Making my own food, once I can get started, is good for me and makes me happy. I just have to get started. It also helps me sell pampered chef stuff for an added benefit. Another bonus is when I can make food to share with friends.
Friends - Seeing friends for a walk, game night, meal, or just to chat over tea always makes my mood better.
Writing - I love writing postcards or note cards to mail to friends. I imagine them seeing it in the mailbox and smiling. Getting real mail makes me smile as well.
Adventure - This one is hand-written on the bottom in case you can't read it. I love trying new food, activities, new hikes, going thrifting, or exploring.
Reading - Encouraging my brain to explore another world with a good book also is something that helps me escape negative thoughts.
Other than the chart, here are added anti-depression measures I've been utilizing.
I purchased wine glass markers and write quotes, scriptures, and sayings on my mirror in the bathroom to see each time I am there.
Sleep seems to be super important for me too. There are nights when I can't get out of my head. Two things have helped with that. First, I stumbled on magnesium cream at a farmers market. I don't use it all the time, but a little dollop on the bottom of each foot before bed knocks me out on most rough nights. If my crazy thoughts attack earlier in the night, I have been drinking a bit of cbd simple syrup with some seltzer or sprite. On occasion, I follow the recipes on the bottle and make a cocktail. However, it puts me to sleep within 20 minutes, so I don't do it often.
The other thing that I've learned to do is to find crazy things that I look forward to. In some cases, I focus on not letting people down by missing something. Other times, I find things that bring me so much joy that I think about them on rough days.
This is my winter plan most years:
Thanksgiving With Family
Christmas Gift Making (crafting and more from list above).
Birthday - connecting with my twin
New Year's Day Run
Polar Plunge for Special Olympics in February
These activities are supplemented with other races, game nights with friends, concert and show tickets, trips to sunny places or adventures on the calendar.
If I've got something on my calendar to look forward to, I can usually muddle through the ugly stay under the covers and feel like crying days.
Then as the flowers bloom and the days are longer, I seem to be better. I still have tough days where I don't to get out of bed or talk to people. However, it's easier to run, find adventures, see friends, get fresh air, and live my life. I go hiking more often with my friend Kristen, flea market shopping with my sister, camping, sea glass collecting, national park exploring, cocktail drinking, speedo racing, and so many of the other things that bring me joy. Seeing all the posts lately about depression makes me think I'm not alone. Hopefully you can make a chart that helps you too.