Note: for this post, I’m exploring dealing with temporary emotional and mental states that we face. If you find yourself facing deeper, ongoing issues of depression or other mental issues, please don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Where to begin? Check out this article on finding a Black therapist on Essence.com.
Photo by Annie Spratt
Let’s talk about dealing with the winter blues, which I know affects many of us. But…how well-versed are we in how to deal with the blues?
This January hit me pretty hard and I was deep in the winter blues. Not only was I feeling bad because I was feeling depressed, and then I felt bad and guilty about that fact that I was feeling depressed! How crazy is that? However, I’m proud that I gave myself permission to be in it, work through it, and continue working through it. That’s a victory.
What Are the Winter Blues?
Winter blues - whether you define it as temporary depression or a slump or feeling stuck - is simply a state of being in contraction and out of balance. That’s not to minimize it, but also not to over aggrandize it. Don’t think it’s something that you can’t deal with, because you can! When you look at it as an issue of something that is out of alignment that’s causing you to be in contraction, that allows you to be empowered to start to do something about it.
Where Am I Out of Balance?
The first thing to do is simply feel what’s happening and what’s out of balance. Get curious about yourself and start asking questions: Is there something in my body that’s not feeling good? Is it my mind, my mental state? Is there too much going on at work or at home or in my life? Is there any problem that needs to be solved that I need to deal with, or is there something that I’m not dealing with? Is it my heart, my emotional or spiritual state? Is it a physical challenge that I’m dealing with (remember that in many parts of the country, it is cold, it is dark and you’re not getting a lot of sun. You could be dealing with seasonal affective disorder)? Am I just purely exhausted? Do I need to give myself a break? A lot of us are getting sick because our body is breaking down. It is saying, “Hey, if you’re not giving me a break, I’m going to force you to take a break.”
So, figure out what’s happening. What part of you is screaming that you're out of balance?
Let the Feelings Happen
When you allow yourself to come into clarity with what’s out of balance and what you’re feeling, don’t fight it or distract yourself; allow yourself to be where you are. Then you empower yourself to actually do something about it. A lot of times when we hit depression, stuckness or that winter blues state, we’re in low energy and a low vibration state. We don’t want to be there. Instead of actually feeling and being in whatever emotions are challenging us, we distract ourselves with TV or food or social media. But those distractions don’t nourish us. They may soothe, but they don’t solve.
Give yourself permission to actually, at a deeper level, feel what’s happening to you. Then, you can ask yourself - that deeper part of you that knows you that knows what you need to ask - what is it that I really need? What is that deeper part of me truly asking for? Is it asking to slow down? Is it asking for a break? Is it asking for some nourishment? Is it asking for clarity? Is it asking for separation or some action that you’re not taking? And don’t worry about the answer coming right away; ask the question because that will get the juices flowing and allow things to start moving. It is amazing how - in all sorts of different ways and different timing - the answer will come to you.
Give Yourself What You Really Need
The second piece is to honor what you need, even if it’s a tough decision. Don’t automatically dismiss what’s coming up for you, like, “I couldn’t possibly do that! I couldn’t possibly take 3 days off! I couldn’t possibly just sit in my bed and chill!”
Here are some quick tips to be able to deal better and move through what’s happening and move yourself to a place where you’re not just surviving, but thriving.
I know this may sound crazy if you’re in a place where it is a cold climate, but bundle up! Give yourself a chance to get some fresh air. I can’t even begin to say how important fresh air is. We could go into the whole science of the power of fresh air and what it does neurologically, psychologically and physiologically. So whether it’s going for a brisk 5-minute walk, a 20-minute stroll, or just sitting outside for a minute and letting the sun shine on you, fresh air and sun are so important. Studies have shown that Black women tend to be the most deficient in vitamin D, which is a problem in your daily nourishment and can lead to a host of diseases. So, give yourself some fresh air! Give yourself permission to just go outside and take a quick stroll, take a break, and get some fresh air. So powerful!
Ask yourself, where can I slow down? Where can I at least take a break to resuscitate myself? I know, I know…we have family, kids, work, stress, and so much going on. BUT. With all of that…where can I give myself permission to carve 15 minutes, 20 minutes, an hour, or even (am I crazy???) a day for myself? And what does that look like?
Now when I say carve out time for yourself, I don’t mean sit and scroll through TikTok for 20 minutes. That might be a great mind break, but it’s not resuscitative. Give yourself that time for something nourishing - whether it’s just sitting in silence and/or meditating, or listening to your favorite inspirational music, or connecting with a loved one who fills your heart and soul. Make nourishment the priority in the time you take for yourself.
Also, carve out a sacred space! Someplace that is just for you - someplace that brings you a sense of peace whenever you go there. You can start to infuse that space with the energy of nourishment, revival and inspiration every time you go and just do things for you there. Give yourself that time to get up from wherever you are and be at that sacred space for a few minutes.
Move Your Body
Moving your body is so important! Moving allows fluids to flow through your joints and oxygen to move through your body. Even if you’re just stretching in place or dancing by yourself in the kitchen, it will just really start to shift your physiology and emotions really quickly. Make some time for a short workout, some yoga, or going for a walk. Even if I’ve given myself permission to rest all day, I will try to take just 20 minutes to move my body so that I can put myself in a better mental and emotional state with that.
Lastly, think about where you need support. What do you need help with? Whether it’s calling a friend and admitting that you’re overwhelmed, or you’re really struggling in a deeper way and you need a hotline, a therapist or a coach, it’s so important to reach out for help.
As Black women, we often feel that we’ve got to do it all ourselves, and we’ve got to hold it together by ourselves. And you don’t! You are not alone. There are so many different ways and people out here wanting to support you. Look at who in your network you can reach out to. Even just being able to talk it through can help; we don’t need someone to solve our problems, we just need someone to be able to hear it. Sometimes just talking about it gives us insight and inspiration as to what we need to move through it. So, don’t be afraid to ask for support.
When it comes to the winter blues, you are NOT by yourself. We all deal with it. I’ve been in it, through it, and do the work I do in coaching to help those like you move through it. Even if it is some of the big, huge things you’re out there dealing with, there is support that you have! Figure out the biggest area that’s causing the blues. Then, give yourself permission to actually be able to work through it.
I would love to hear from you. Comment below and let me know which of those tips you are utilizing. What are the parts that you are struggling with most and how can we support one another and work through that together? In the meantime…know that this too shall pass!
Sending you big, winter love!