Well, the ever-cuddly Bowser Kitten did not want me to get any work done today! I sat down at my desk more than an hour ago with my coffee and a muffin, ready to start an online blogging course and catch up on the news. Instead, I got sucked into a Vine compilation because someone decided I didn’t need to get anything done. He planted himself in my lap, tried to steal my muffin in the cutest ways possible, and grabbed my wrists with his tiny little paws every time I tried to touch the keyboard. So instead of doing any actual work, I just sat there with him and watched some old Vines.
Not that it matters much today. This overwhelming feeling of blah isn’t breaking anytime soon, I think. I went back to work yesterday and reunited with my coworkers. After the long stretches I was doing last year, having two days off felt like an eternity away from them. Being back felt so useless though. With the holidays done and over with, my 6am-2:30pm shift is done. I no longer work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, guaranteed. Instead, the dreaded 4-hour shifts have returned. I’m back to closing almost every single night, barely seeing the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend thanks to our conflicting schedules. There isn’t as much work to be done at the store, meaning we have a lot more “standing around looking for things to clean” time, as opposed to the “throwing cases up on shelves and running around helping 7 customers at once” I’ve gotten used to over the last few months.
This switch in work schedules and responsibilities always leaves me feeling blah. I feel like I’m useless like there’s no point in me even being at work. That feeling bleeds into everything else too. Add that to the cold weather that keeps me indoors more often than not, the shortened days, and those holiday credit card bills arriving in the mail, and I wind up wanting to crawl under my flannel blanket with somewhat comforting Bowser Kitten and just hide from the world.
For a few years now, I thought there was something wrong with me. I mean, with all that joy and sugar from Christmas, how could I be so down right now? Well, it turns out this is a very common thing and there are varying degrees of it. Some people wind up with a case of the Winter Blues like I have. Everything is just kind of blah and pointless, but you can still mostly kinda function. Others have full-blown cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. The season, lack of sunlight, and lack of time outdoors can take a much greater toll on some people’s mental health than others. Thankfully, I’ve never seemed to be affected by full-blown SAD. I just get down and blue this time of year. Thankfully, there’s a lot of different things that can help mood and mental health. Here are some of the things I’m trying this year to get me out of this funk.
1. Try to eat healthier
I know, this is one of the first New Years Resolutions most people break. You stock your fridge with veggies and tofu, vow to do meal prep every weekend, and then wind up ordering pizza yet again. And you know what? That’s freakin fantastic!
You don’t have to switch from your holiday diet of red wine and cookies to a macrobiotic vegan diet overnight to get any benefits. I like to make little changes, like my muffin this morning. Usually, I would just guzzle coffee on an empty stomach and then wolf down a huge meal later. But yesterday I decided to use up the leftover pumpkin puree I had in the fridge, throw in the last of my flax seed, add some protein powder one of my last roommates left behind when he moved out, and make muffins topped with pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
Another thing to try is to just add veggies and fruits to your meals. You want to shove your face with pizza instead of cooking tonight? Then order a salad to go with it, or keep some bagged salad in the fridge. Then, instead of a meat feast pizza with extra cheese, just get regular cheese and one meat with a few veggies. Ideally, your meal should be 1/2 veggies, but no one is looking over your shoulder and counting. Just put forward an effort to throw some veggies into your meal. Pretty much every meal AAB cooks includes a big pan of sauteed or boiled veggies. When I throw meat into the oven to cook, I like to throw some baby carrots and potatoes in there with it, just in case I’m crunched for time later and can’t manage to make another veggie. We keep frozen veggies in the freezer (because keeping them in the cupboard is a dumb idea), canned veggies in the cupboard (far away from the frozen veggies), and we buy fresh produce bit by bit throughout the week.
2. Guzzle water like your very life depends on it.
I don’t mean start chugging gallon jugs of water, multiple times a day. While it’s damn near impossible to wind up with water intoxication when just drinking water throughout the day, there was a famous case about a decade ago of a young woman who chugged two gallons of water without going to the bathroom in an effort to win a radio contest. I wouldn’t ever recommend going that far with the water. But staying hydrated is important for your health and your mood.
New Year’s Eve, AAB and I had some drinks. On New Years Day, we went off to my parents’ place for their New Years Day party. I had a glass of juice before we left, and then dove straight into the mimosas once we were there. I played bartender for my cousins throughout the day and wound up drinking quite a few mixed drinks and a lot of red wine. The next day, I woke up and had my coffee as usual. I didn’t bother filling up my water bottle, and instead grabbed a half-finished bottle of Coke Zero. At some point int he day, I made some tea. But that was it for the day. I felt like absolute crap. I wasn’t hungover, but I was so slow and sluggish. I couldn’t focus, couldn’t manage to get anything done, and I just wanted to cry all damn day. Yesterday, after my coffee, I immediately chugged two glasses of water. I had energy enough to clean the kitchen, bake my muffins, make a batch of couscous, organize my grocery list a bit, to some stretches, and get some much-needed mopping and hand-scrubbing done on the entranceway floor here. Just drinking water can make a huge difference.
3. Get some sunlight and Vitamin D
A lot of times, I leave for work as it’s starting to get dark a bit, or it’s stormy out. On my holiday schedule, I would be out the door before sunrise, but have plenty of natural light through the big windows at work and running errands on breaks. Now, my breaks are long after the sun has gone down, and most of my daylight hours are spent in the house. Thankfully I have the ever curious Bowser Kitten here who loves to look out my bedroom window and watch people and animals walk by. So I have the blinds open for at least a few hours each day, letting in that natural sunlight.
Another thing I’ve found is that taking a Vitamin D supplement when I’m not outdoors much is a huge help. You get Vitamin D from the sun, so not being in the sun means you’re not getting your Vitamin D. Makes sense, right? Years ago when I was in university, one of the doctors in the school clinic told me to grab a cheap bottle of Vitamin D at the pharmacy in the winter, since I was spending so much time indoors reading and writing. It made a huge difference in my energy levels, my mood, my complexion, even my contact lenses felt better (as strange as that sounds).
4. Get up off your ass and move a bit.
This is a huge problem for me right now. Before New Years, I was on a stock shift. Every morning we would come in, sweep the store out, scan a store-wide divert, run the floor machine, pull stock in the warehouse, put stock away in the store, and then work on the load for the day. Basically, we were on our feet all day, lifting cases of wine and booze, putting away bottles, and just generally keeping busy physically. I got two 15-minute breaks and a half hour lunch on those shifts. The Work BFF and I would head to the coffee shop on our first break for bagels every day. Usually at least half of my lunch was spent running errands. And when we actually did take our last break (it would get so busy most days, we’d forget), half the time I’d run out and do a soda run for everyone or hit the Bulk Barn for a little bag of nuts and a Zevia soda (my new love). I was averaging around 13,000 steps just at work each day.
Last night, I had to job in place and dance around just to stay awake on my four-hour shift. There was no stock, there was no load to work on. We faced the store, scanned every price tag outside of the fridge to make sure the new year price change went through smoothly (it didn’t), and stood around talking a lot during the long stretches with no customers. I’m not lifting heavy things or running through the warehouse moving and reorganizing stockpiles. No, now I’m just standing at my register, bopping along to the radio and trying to resist the temptation to go buy a jumbo bag of M&M’s. A huge reason why I get so blah this time of year is because of that drastic and sudden change in my physical motivation.
One thing I keep up no matter how cold it gets is my walk to work. Right now I’m scheduled 6-7 days a week. Just the 20-ish minutes it takes to walk to work each day makes a huge difference in my mood. AAB went out and got me TWO coats for Christmas this year, and a new Oogie-Boogie hat to make sure I’m warm on my walks. Just walking to work and getting some steps in before my shift is a huge mood booster for me.
Unfortunately, when I’m around the house I am Lazy AF. Our bedroom is so packed with our stuff that there’s not much room to exercise in there. Our tiny little office is so small, there’s no room there either. And the last time I tried to exercise in the living room, I had a creepy-ass roommate constantly peeking around the corner and watching me. I hate working out in front of people, and that was just too damn creepy for me. So, I have to find little things to do around here. I make Spotify playlists and dance around the room to them, sometimes with Bowser Kitten and his four left feet. There’s enough room on the bed for some planks, and I can do stuff like standing donkey kicks and work with light hand weights in the bedroom. I just need to keep up the motivation to keep doing all of this, since it makes a huge difference in my mood for the day.
5. Find a new hobby.
I know, I’ve been saying I’m going to learn to knit for years now and I never seem to get around to it. This is the perfect time to try it, though. When the blah’s hit, stimulating the mind with something new can be exactly what you need to keep your mind from creeping further into crisis-mode. Last year I taught myself to arm-knit, which was a colossal waste of time. I mean, that really thick, chunky yarn is damn expensive! But, it gave me something to focus my mind on while I watched Walking With The Dinosaurs yet again and learned about the mating habits of the T-Rex.
It doesn’t have to be an entirely new hobby, either. Like I said, I learned to arm knit last year. Before that, I had been loom knitting for years. This year, I want to move onto traditional knitting, with sharp needles and all that dangerous stuff. I also plan on writing more, both here and on one or two projects I’ve been making notes on for way too long.
6. Find something new.
Something AAB like to do when we order Chinese food is to order things we’ve never tried before. That’s how we absolutely fell in love with the Moo Goo Gai Pan at the closest Chinese restaurant. Sometimes we Google something to see what it is first, but most of the time we order it anyway.
This is the time when we try new things. There’s a bunch of small restaurants in our neighbourhood, since we live near the local university, that cater to people on a very tight budget. Instead of our usual pizza or Chinese dinner, I’m hoping to try a new place every week or two. There is a vegetarian place just down the road that I have been dying to try for months that I think I will finally hit up!
And as any of my readers know, I watch the same damn thing over and over and over. I have a collection of Vine compilations that I watch over and over. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve rewatched Daria and the first two seasons of Twin Peaks. And if I watch Tank Girl any more, I’ll have it memorized. So to cut through the gloom of the season, I am making it a point of watching new things. Already today I found Cheapest Weddings on Netflix and love it. AAB and I have found a bunch of shows and documentaries online about criminal profiling, serial killers, serial criminals, and crime theories. Even when it comes to books, I’m branching out and going through my huge unread pile. I’m already on my second Twin Peaks book of the year, and I may actually finish reading the Ray Bradbury collection I started last summer instead of rereading Stephen King’s Insomnia yet again.
7. Get warm!
I love curling up with a giant mug of tea, maybe another mug of soup, and a third mug with some noodles or scrambled eggs. In other words, I’m a big fan of stuff in giant mugs. When you get cold, you get cranky. The cold saps your energy and makes you tired and miserable. While it’s unavoidable to get cold ever in this weather, there’s a lot you can do to stay warm, even without giant mugs.
I have a small collection of warm blankets and a Snuggie, all of which were either gifts or I got dirt cheap at a thrift store. I also have a small collection of flannel shirts (and Bowser’s favourite flannel blanket) to curl up with. Even just having a warm hat and mittens this time of year can go a long way as far as keeping you warm. Dollar stores and thrift shops are pretty much the greatest places to be this time of year, with all their cheap warm accessories and mugs (and they’re always freakin hot as hell this time of year, so free heat!). Keep nice and toasty this time of year, and it will help keep the gloom and blues away.
I know, this all won’t work for everyone. These are some of the things that help me the most, though, when the blues set in this time of year. My anxiety is pretty high right now, and I wake up not wanting to get out of bed in the morning. But following through with some of this stuff each day really seems to help me. Hopefully there’s something here that can help you, too.