Mental Wellness: The Winter Blues

Generally speaking, I always knew that the winter blues existed and that they were a thing, but I never knew anything more about them beyond just that basic knowledge. My sophomore year of my undergrad, I was in an Elements of Weather class and we had an opportunity for extra credit. I was one of those college kids that jumped for joy for extra credit. The assignment was to write a paper linking your major and the class. So I was sitting there thinking, “how in the world am I supposed to write a paper that links psychology with weather? Well, luckily my professor required his approval on the papers. So I went up there and told him that I wanted to do the extra credit, but I am a psychology major…he then introduced me to SAD. Or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Or, the winter blues.

The winter blues/SAD are just that. With the days being shorter and shorter (up until the winter equinox) and the “miserable” weather of cold, snow, ice, and general just annoyance with the winter season actually has a negative effect on your affect (fingers crossed I used those right…). This article by HuffPo details not only how winter can effect your mood, but also how different seasons can influence your mood.

So my question…is knowledge power? Have you ever noticed that after you find out about something, all of a sudden it is more prominent in your life? I know that I knew about the winter blues, but I never remember being super down during winter or experiencing any depression, but after I wrote that paper about SAD, I am more aware of how I feel down during the winter months. Does anyone else have this same experience?

Emotional Wellness: How To Improve?

Washington Post and HuffPo hands down have some of the BEST wellness news articles for me. I was reading about emotional wellness this morning in THIS article on how to improve your emotional wellness. I spoke…many times last week about how I was having a slew of bad things just come at me (my car is in the shop for the third time in two months today!). So this article immediately caught my attention. And do you want to know why? Because even though it is “5 habits” to use to improve your emotional wellness, it is essentially one thing.

When life knocks you down…Get. Back. Up.  When you fail, learn from it. When you lose, find meaning in the loss. Pick yourself back up from rejection (something I struggle a lot with). But everything basically boils down to when life knocks you down, figure out how to pick yourself back up again. Don’t let it knock you down for too long. Learn from the knocks, the hard-times, the failures, and all the negatives. Turn those negatives into positives. I used this example in my essay for grad school. When I started off in college, I knew exactly what I was going to do with my life. I had everything planned out (I’m planner, it’s what I do). And in one semester (my first semester), one class took my plan that I had carefully been cultivating for at least two years and threw it out the window. I failed Macroeconomics. Which, seeing as I was a business major (marketing actually) is kind of a big thing to fail. So I, always a strong student, sat down as I looked at my dismal report card. In my first semester of college, I lost my academic scholarship and was being warned that I was about to be put on academic probation. I looked at my report card, saw that my highest grade was in psychology, and I went full force and never looked back. I graduate in 3 1/2 years and took my GPA from a 1.69 to just below a 3.00 (2.98). My GPA was not what got me into grad school. Rather it was showing that I learned from that failure and I was able to persevere and go past it. And in case you were wondering, I graduated with a 3.74 (or something like that) with my master’s degree.

What I’m saying isn’t new or revolutionary. But it is a reminder that life was never meant to be easy. And the true test of one’s character isn’t necessarily how they handle things in the good times, but rather how they handle things when life knocks them down and how they pick themselves back up again.

Emotional Wellness: Stop Just Going through the Motions.

We have all had those days. Those days where you don’t really know what you even did all day but somehow it’s night time and time for bed. We just go through the motions of the day and forget to experience the day. Some people may say that this is a sign of the dreaded “stuck in a rut” phase. Erin Cox, a blogger for HuffPo among other duties, wrote an article Sunday on some of her tips to get out of being in a rut. Erin’s article concentrated more on stopping things that stop you (getting over those pesky little road blocks). But I wanted to share today my personal tips for getting out of ruts.

Switch it up. Whether it is how your office is set up, how you structure your day, the workouts you do, even the music you listen to, switch it up. Change is a great and healthy thing and can often be motivating. I recently rearranged my office and re-motivated my workself to be a bad ass worker and get stuff done again. Sometimes you need a big change. Sometimes just switching my Pandora station helps. Regardless, I know that change helps me.

Treat yo self. This is completely stolen from Tom and Donna from Parks and Rec, but seriously, treat yo self. Sometimes you can’t always change what you are doing, but it helps to know that there is a prize at the end. Take a day off after finishing a huge project and just enjoy having the day off. Whatever it is that will keep you motivated and help you see the light at the end of the tunnel, do it (I mean, within reason…I don’t want any cops knocking on my door saying I said do ANYTHING…). Sometimes there is just nothing you can do about the rut and you just have to trek through it, but if there is something on the other end of that rut that can keep you motivated…make sure you keep your eyes on that.

Image

 

Take a break. Sometimes walking away from the rut and doing something else, even for only a couple of minutes, can really help you re-focus.

Nothing I am writing here is groundbreaking. This isn’t brand new research. But that may be because I sometimes feel that getting stuck in rut may not always be in your control (even though I feel like you should have complete control over your life…) but sometimes things are outside of your realms of control. The important thing is to make sure that you continue to be in the driver’s seat of your life and you can dictate how you deal with being in a rut.

Or maybe I just need to redefine my definition of rut. Operationalize that. Because Erin and I both used different definitions and I’m sure you have a different one too.

In other news, I’m working on a blog post about growing up-pros, cons, is it all it is cracked out to be, etc. and I’m looking for some input. If you want to share information-stories, wisdom, thoughts, etc., please email me at wellnessblogging@outlook.com so I can start compiling information.

Have a great day!

Mental Wellness: “Life Is too Short”

I was reading through some top wellness news hits (and this is admittedly kind of late seeing as this article was written 6/11/13) and came across this HuffPo article, Life Is too Short:  10 Things to Stop Tolerating. And as I was reading, like I do w/ most lists like this, I started thinking about what my 10 things were. (One thing to keep in mind when you are reading lists like this is that they are based on a general consensus. There will be something things that apply to you and others that don’t. I like to think of these lists as a jumping ground of what my own list is).

So I present to you, Vanessa’s 10 Things to Stop Tolerating List (I’ll note the ones that are the same from the HuffPo article). And really, mine are in no particular order.

10.)  Keeping up with the Joneses (from HP):  this is one that has taken probably the worst financial toll on my life. Throughout college I was obsessed with keeping up with my friends and roommates who were always buying new things, designer things, had big closets, ate out for every meal, etc. Since then, I have been able to see more of the value in my spending and making sure that I am being more conscious about it. I participated in a financial wellness presentation at my grad school and learned a lot from the speaker about financial wellness. I also started dating das boy who happens to be an ace at being cautious with this spending. Life is too short to try and keep up with a lifestyle of excessive spending. It adds too much stress and doesn’t fulfill me at all.

9.) The “Shoulds”:  I have admittedly chosen a “different” life path than most. I say “different” because I have no desire to get married or reproduce. I don’t want to. And I can’t tell you how many times over the years of me saying this people have told me I will change my mind and when I meet the right guy everything will change. Because getting married and having offspring is what I should be wanting to do with my life. No one even took the time to listen to my argument or my side that maybe the right guy for me wouldn’t want any of those things either. Maybe it is ok to not want those things. Maybe it is ok to want those things (the majority of my friends have at least married, some have reproduced). But maybe we need to stop putting shoulds on people’s shoulders and let people decide what they want to do with their life. You can read more about my thoughts of should HERE.

8.) Stressing Out and Being Disorganized  (combined two from HP):  I combined these two because for me being disorganized leads to stress. When my office is a mess, I get stressed out more easy. When my apartment is a mess, when my day isn’t organized…I am someone that needs and values organization in my life. I like schedules. I like routine. And there is nothing wrong with that. I get stressed out when things don’t go as planned. Since I know this about myself, I try to schedule things out. Even with my vacation, I have scheduled relaxation times, scheduled times to work on this blog, scheduled times to go have fun, etc.

7.) Holding Grudges:  life is too short to continue to be mad at someone and to be hateful. Those of you that know me personally may start to point a finger and say, “But Vanessa, what about…” and to that I respond with that I don’t hold a grudge against this person. I have come to terms with what has happened and I’m letting myself let go. I’m not forgiving but what happened was unforgivable in my eyes, but I’m letting go of the anger and hurt that I feel from that. Because life is too short to be angry all the time.

6.) Being Miserable:  (combined a bunch from HP) life is WAAAY to short to spend too much time being sad, depressed, and/or miserable. Way too short. Sometimes it’s hard to get out of a situation that makes you miserable. But you can do things that make you happy until you can get it. For me, the apartment I live in right now is terrible (every time I say “terrible” I think of Frank Calliendo impersonating Charles Barkley…”that was turrble”) but I can’t just get out of that situation right away without having to pay an insane amount of money. Which doing that would make me even more miserable. So I found a new place to live to get excited about and every time I kill a massive cricket in my apartment, I think about my new place that I will be moving too soon. Some situations that you are miserable in can be fixed much faster. The point is, life is too short to spend the majority of your time feeling like crap.

5.) Love:  life is too short to not love someone. Whether it is family, friends, significant other, a pet…life is just too short to not get to experience what love is (both giving love and receiving love). Life is too short to not have people in your life that you love and that love you.

4.) Do Something You Love (adapted from HP):  whether it is your actual job or it is a hobby. Plain and simple. Life is waaaaay too short to not get do follow your passions and do something that makes you happy. (This is actually why I started this blog. I love wellness and wanted the chance to get to do something every single day that excites me. And that truly is blogging about wellness).

3.) Alone Time:  learning to be ok by yourself and being alone is something that I really think is very valuable. Not to be pessimistic, but there won’t always be someone with you all the time. And getting that alone time and placing value on it (instead of dreading it) can be a really valuable thing. Whether it is letting yourself just think during a solo run or even going to a restaurant alone to eat. Having alone time is something that is really great and sometimes overlooked.

2.) Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone:  Get out there. Seriously. Do something that scares the life out of you. I picked up my life and moved to Kentucky for grad school where I didn’t know a single soul. Not one person in the entire state. And to this day it is still one of the greatest things I have ever done. I learned more about myself in the two years that I lived in Kentucky than I did in all of high school and college. I did something scary. I wasn’t always the best at it but I did it. And honestly, I am a stronger and better person because of it.

1.) Be Healthy (from HP):  I have spent a lot of my life not being healthy, which comes as a shock to some people. But I have battled my demons and I can tell you, at 25, life is too short to not value your health. Find a physical exercise that excites you. Experiment with cooking healthy foods. Surround yourself with people that value health. Don’t beat yourself up. Value your health.

What are some of the items on your list? Anything major that I missed? Let me know in the comments below! Or you can tweet me, like my facebook page, or send me an email (wellnessblogging@outlook.com)

Have a great weekend!