Written by Andrea Stephens
My puffy brown parka is being moved to the back of the closet. My gloves—the red, the lime, and the black ones—await their turned to be tucked away in a drawer. My boots, which are all black except for the chocolate and ivory imitation snake-skin cowboy boots that I had to buy once I moved back to Oklahoma, are being returned to the big suitcase that stores them during the warmer months (my creative way of dealing with small closets).
Yes, it is time to shed the winter outerwear and prepare for the spring months. I look forward to leaving the winter days behind and enjoying longer days of sunlight, warm breezes, and the first sighting of purple crocus and yellow daffodils. (I love that God programmed these two flowers to be among the first to bloom. Purple and yellow are opposites on the color wheel. When placed together, they create a strong visual pop that is energizing to our senses. Our Father knew we would need a little pop at this point in our lives.)
Are you looking forward to this change of seasons? Perhaps you are so busy with the things of life that you aren’t especially tuned into the shifting of seasons. Or maybe you are one of the thousands of women who are emotionally moved by the grey skies and leafless trees. Women are especially sensitive to seasonal changes, meaning that the unpleasant weather happening around us can greatly affect what is happening inside of us. Shorter days, cloudy skies, freezing rain, cold winds—can contribute to felling down, sadness, lack of motivation, and even sensing distance from God.
The official name for this is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) but in layman’s terms it is having a bad case of the blues! An ongoing dose of blah. Of course, there are other things that can land us in the blues like never-ending laundry, figuring out dinner again, a newborn that refuses to nurse, an argument with a friend, being laid off, so many possibilities. Ugh. Life can just be hard, right?
The good news for us is the truth that this is one of the very reasons Jesus came to earth. On that pivotal day in the temple when Jesus stood and read from the scroll, the text announced His purpose which included setting free the oppressed, downtrodden, heavy-hearted, and well, just plain blue! (Luke 4:18 – 19). Jesus came Himself to rescue us from the everyday blues.
Stephen S. ILardi, PhD, researcher and author of The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs, has developed a clinically-proven program he calls Therapeutic Lifestyle Change or TLC. When applied, people successfully come out of the blues.
ILardi shares that TLC has lots of benefits. Not only do you boost your feel-good potential, you might also experience “weight loss, increased energy, lower blood pressure, improved cardiac health, better immune function, reduced inflammation, greater mental clarification, enhanced sense of well-being.” Those are awesome side effects!
So, let’s take a look. Here are his six suggestions, along with a few of my own (I’m quite experienced with battling the blues).
1. Eat to Beat the Blues. While increasing fruits and veggies combined with cutting back on all things sugar is highly important, so is eating foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, tuna, walnuts, chia and flaxseeds. This benefits your brain as well as your body. Dr. ILardi recommends taking an Omega-3 supplement with a 2:1 ration of EPA:DHA. (Check with your doctor before taking any new supplement).
2. Get moving. Physical exercise releases your body’s natural feel-good hormone called endorphins. If you are not used to exercising, start with simple heel lifts and marching in place, then a brisk walk outside or at the indoor mall. Work up to brisk walking, biking (outdoor or stationary), pilates, or whatever you will enjoy.
3. Get lost in a healthy activity. Doing something that keeps your mind occupied on down days will help lift your mood. Try working a puzzle or a word search game, playing solitaire, baking something to share with a neighbor or reading the latest Karen Kingsbury novel.
4. Soak up the rays. Sunlight exposure is a definite blues blaster. There are special sun lamps available that are helpful during the cold dark days. Try creating more light around your house—flip on some switches, open the curtains. Light some candles and enjoy their warm glow. While you sit near a window, think about the super sunny days of summer that will be here soon.
5. Be with people—especially other believers. Social interaction can lift your morale (being alone and isolated can lend itself to feeling blue). Do what works for you—invite friends over, visit family members, go to the movies, join a gym, volunteer at your church or a local non-profit. Even window shopping at the mall at least gets you out and about—just beware of using a spending spree to help yourself feel better.
6. Get the right amount of sleep. Deep sleep is needed for our minds and bodies to stay balanced. So, do your best to get the recommended 8 hours per night. However, if you are finding that your favorite activity on grey days is staying in bed all day, we need to talk!
7. Scripture says to take your thoughts captive—yes, cuff them, lock them in jail, and throw away the key! (2 Corinthians 10:5) Then we need to change or redirect our down ways of thinking. King David, a famous Old Testament personality, identified with feeling down and with choosing to refocus his attention. In Psalm 42:11 (NLT) he recognized that he felt down in the dumps, that he didn’t understand it, “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad?” But then he encouraged himself in the Lord when he said, “I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!” David not only had a case of the blues, he was trying hard to understand it. Ever been there? Redirecting your thoughts and using positive self-talk will help. Putting your hope in God is also key. Hope is confident expectation of what God is going to do.
8. Read, Pray and Praise. These are the three most important keys to overcoming the blues. God’s Word is spirit and life. It is alive and active. Reading the scriptures early in the morning can set the tone for the remainder of the day. Prayer does the same thing. Talking to God about how you feel, what you are going through, what you need will lighten your heart as you choose to trust Him. Listen quietly for His response which usually comes in a still, small, voice. Add praise—the best blues buster ever. Whether you love traditional hymns, modern worship music, or a combo of both, make praise part of your daily routine. Sing, dance, kneel, raise your hands, just do it.
9. Hahahahaha! Do or watch something that makes you laugh. There is scientific proof that laughter helps people heal physically and emotionally. Even scripture says that a joyful heart is like medicine to your overall well-being (Proverbs 17:22). So, what makes you laugh? Get more of it!
This is a practical approach to getting out of the winter blahs. It helps lift and helps prevent the blues. TLC has physical and psychological benefits for everyone! Simply put, getting out of the blues is about taking care of yourself. Often times women put themselves last on the care list with husband, kids, job, errands, etc. coming first. You need some TLC as well. A little Therapeutic Lifestyle Change will not only be good for you but for those you care for. You’ve heard the expression put your own oxygen mask on first. This is not only important in the case of cabin pressure change on an airplane but for you as well. It is necessary for your role as women to take time for yourself; to grab bits of time that come open during our week to workout, meet a friend for coffee, attend bible study or prayer group, take a nap, drink a protein smoothie, even a 20-minute chair massage at the mall—one of my favorite self-care treats. You are worth it and those you care for think so, too.
Note: If you or a loved one is experiencing a severe case of the blues, it might be clinical depression. Reach out to your family doctor and to a Christian therapist for help. Depression is treatable with various therapies, possible medication, and lots of TLC!
If you are in need of a therapist, we do recommend Christian Family Institute www.christianfamilyinsitute.com at 918.745.0095 or Counseling Services of Tulsa www.counselingservicesoftulsa.com at 918.574.2722. Let them know Community Spirit sent you!