Seasonal depression season is over for me, and get this: I think I might officially like February now. I’m not even kidding. It was that good.
For the past few weeks I’ve been mulling over the post you’re reading, tossing it around in my very busy brain. There’s so much I want to communicate here. But the most important thing is that I won! And I feel like I have a lot to say when it comes to addressing seasonal depression.
As I analyzed what I consider a huge win, five specific factors jumped out at me. These are five things that a-ny-one can integrate into their life, which is why I’m so excited to share them with you.
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A strong mission for the month
In years past, my goal for February was to simply survive, preferably without tears. Since 2016 went so well (as I share in this post), it seemed that 2017 was the year to step up my game. So rather than focusing on survival, I created a mission statement for my month:
Add color, encourage, and inspire.
Every time I mulled over what to share on Instagram, this was my guide. Did it fit into one of those three categories?
Somewhere towards the end of the month I realized that I’d found my sweet spot. In the past I’d attempted applying the hunt-for-three-gifts-a-day inspired by Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts (which I highly recommend), but it ended up feeling tedious and contrived to me—like something I had to check off my list. And while I love lists, they don’t always benefit the soul.
Oddly enough, my Instagram challenge for February didn’t feel like a chore. It felt like a treasure hunt of sorts, with me always surprised by the good things I found to share. Due to the nature of the platform, I didn’t feel as pressured to produce perfect prose and it seemed to free my voice.
Consistent life-giving routines
If you know me at all—whether in person or online—you know I believe in routine to the bottom of my soul. Routine provides comfort and stability. Some might chalk it up to my being a control freak, and I am; there’s no denying it.
However, when it comes to mental and emotional health, good routines are vital and life-giving. I believe my (semi-consistent-ish) practice of the Miracle Morning (which you can read all about here) created a strong foundation. Through this practice I daily calm my thoughts, learn and grow, and speak truth to myself.
Exercise is one of the six components of the Miracle Morning, but here I’d like to address its specific benefits separately.
During the month of February I completed 23 Jillian Michaels workout routines using this program. Now yes, wedding season was a strong motivator when I began working out 5-6 times a week last fall. But as winter set in, my workouts became top priority because I saw what a difference breaking a serious sweat made in my mood. Sure, I knew that exercise released endorphins. The scientific documentation is within easy reach to anyone with internet access. But experiencing that constant benefit was the actual proof I needed.
A third routine I practiced was turning on some mood-setting music at 7am each morning. My selections were based on what would get me in the right place mentally, reminding me of God’s grace, focusing on joy, and just sounding happy and being singable. Or, if my kids asked nicely, we’d dance around the kitchen to “Best Day of My Life.”
Good (ish) nutrition
No laughing, please. While I eat healthier than most Americans, I grew up with a nutrition-minded mom. I’m constantly aware of all the areas where my diet falls short.
That said, because I’m on a weight loss journey I record most everything I put in my tummy. I know that I’m happier with at least one huge salad a day. As in, literally happier. Those cheap carbs promise to make me smile, but they lie, I tell you.
In addition to wise(ish) food choices, I focused on supplements to support my mood and energy. This meant taking vitamin B before bed (so counterintuitive, but it helps me wake up in the morning) and keeping L-theanine on hand for unexpected mood swings.
Scheduling in fun
Here’s a little confession for you: I am not always great at planning for fun. Thanks to friends, family, one sister who is getting married, and another sister who is having a baby, I spent eight days focused on fun. These celebrations included:
A lunch date with a friend and her kiddos…
Meeting a friend for tea…
Bachelorette fun for my baby sister…
Painting pottery with a friend…
A baby shower for another sister…
…just to name the highlights.
If your personality is similar to mine, fun must be planned into your schedule. It doesn’t just happen for us.
My life is filled with strong, important relationships. From my huge family of origin, to my husband and a handful of close friends, it would be almost impossible for me to go uncared for, emotionally or otherwise. My sisters, BFF and I have “The Sisterhood,” our ongoing text conversation. My husband is loving and supportive, as are my parents. And that handful of close friends seems to know just the time to reach out and check in.
In addition to this, I’ve been very open about my struggles with clinical depression and seasonal depression. People who aren’t even on my “close friends” list took the time to text or email me this winter. Some sent cards. Others tagged me in humorous or entertaining Facebook posts.
Let me tell you, it’s difficult to acknowledge when I’m the weak one in need of help. I’m wired to be a fixer, and I don’t like needing to be fixed or served or helped. It’s humbling to admit my lack.
Right now I’m reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown (which I just realized is splattered with spaghetti sauce–so apropos. But I digress). In the first chapter she talks about the importance of both giving and receiving help. Listen to this:
“Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.”
Other contributing factors:
In addition to these five contributing factors of my successful February, I want to note two factors that had nothing to do with me.
First of all, I’m on medication, as I shared in this post. Someday I hope to no longer need it, but after some experimentation last year, clearly I’ve not yet reached that day.
Secondly, we experienced an extremely mild winter in the north east. Girlfriend, I had to give myself a pedicure and dig out my shorts! The kiddos and I had picnics. We went on adventures and played baseball. And I’m sure all the sunshine and vitamin D played a part in my emotional health.
Putting it all together
While February is over, these five success strategies are still hugely beneficial. I plan to continue making them part of my life.
If, like me, you struggle with any form of depression or even just a case of the blahs, give this list a try. Let me know how it goes. I’m in your corner.
Note: I am not a medical professional. If you suffer from any form of depression, please seek professional help. Therapy and medication have been a huge part of my journey, and I strongly believe in their benefits.