Defeating the Winter Blues!
Life in rural areas can be tough during winter. Isolation is a very real thing and for those of us who need frequent interaction with others that can get quite challenging. Perhaps you live an hour from the nearest city and you don’t know quite what to do when there are what seem to be unending snow storms and you can barely get your animals checked much less a make a trip into the city. I also believe that even though you may be okay with long periods of alone time or may be the worlds best introvert women just naturally have a need for community. Women have been relying on one another for ages for everything from friendship to advice on how to raise babies. It seems to be natural for us to relate with other women in order to figure out how to “do life.” There is also the danger of depression during winter. We all need Vitamin D and exercise to keep healthy and winter is a prime time to be lacking in both. The days are shorter and the snowdrifts are frequent so it keeps us without much sunshine and home bound more often.
Whether it is a mild case of the blues or clinical depression, neither are to be taken lightly. A mild case of the blues can quickly escalate into more severe depression under the right circumstances. Women also have different physiological makeup and our hormones and energy levels are often in flux and depression is a very real possibility for many of us. Or individuals are unaware that they have a heredity likelihood of having depression. Regardless of what the case may be for you individually it is especially important to be aware and be mindful of your response to long, dark winters as well as your loved ones.
With all of this in mind, what are signs of winter blues or depression?
1. Lack of energy or motivation 2. Sleeping too much 3. Weight gain 4. Trouble concentrating 5. Increased desire to be alone 6. Crying, mood swings or irritability 7. Depressive or suicidal thoughts
**Notice that I did not distinguish between a mild case of winter blues or clinical depression.**
What is listed above are symptoms of both and I strongly believe that whether you perceive it to be a mild case of the blues or more severe it should be reported to a medical professional at the very least. If your family members or yourself are exhibiting these signs please at least bring it to your doctor attention. Let them make the final decision if it truly is depression or not.
If you are confident that you and your family are healthy and not depressed, that’s wonderful!
Lets review some things that can be done to ensure that everyone stays healthy during these long, dark months!
1. Get some exercise! Pop in a dance video and have a dance party in your living room! Or drag out that dusty exercise equipment and put it to use! Walk briskly between the house and the barn or other outbuildings when working – anything you can do to get your heart rate up a little counts! Ideally you will be exercising for 30 minutes a day and elevating your heart rate for 30 minutes as well. But if you cannot get a full 30 minutes in just making minor adjustments to your routine that will add in a little extra exercise helps. And be sure to get the husband and children involved too. Whether it is a crazy dance party in the living room, or a family scavenger hunt in the barn, just try to make it fun so everyone will want to join in and stay healthy!
2. Eat a well-balanced diet! Make sure to get your fruits and veggies each day and go easy on the heavy, fattening foods that are so tempting to eat throughout the winter. Make sure your family members are eating three meals a day with healthy snacks in between. And hydration is very important as well. Feeling sluggish can also come from lack of water in your system so be sure to keep everyone’s water bottles full and drinking their allotted amount each day. A little sweet treats or candies here and there are okay, just be sure to do it in moderation. Everyone will feel better and have more energy if they are eating healthy.
3. Social interaction. This is a tough one for those in rural areas. But it is so important. Do what you can to stay in touch with others. Here are some suggestions: contribute and socialize via social media (Thank you Rural Sisterhood! Connect with the Rural Sister's Community here!), Skype or Facetime with friends and relatives if you cannot see them in person, send emails, write letters or come up with some fun activities to do at home to get more social interaction happening in your household. Something as minor as a simple phone call can change your entire mood for the day. So don’t be shy about picking up the phone and calling a friend if you are feeling the winter blues. I’m sure she would appreciate the social interaction as well!
4. Consider investing in a light box. Sometimes just getting a little additional light in your day can work wonders. Or if you cannot afford a light box getting as much light as you can early in the day will help. You can go for a short, brisk walk early in the day to soak up some sun. Or opening drapes on windows to let in sunshine early in the day will help as well.
5. Last but not least...give back. This is always a mood lifter for me. Acts 20:35 says “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” So truly, it brings you more joy to give to others. It can be something simple such as sending an uplifting card to a friend or bigger such as organizing a large volunteer effort, but each will bring you greater happiness and lift your mood. Plus, usually the receiver is so overjoyed that you will get great pleasure in their happiness.
Overall, it can be challenging defeating the winter blues or combating clinical depression. But...
Don’t give up and please know that you are not alone!
There are many people who encounter the same challenges. Women are even more prone to having these issues but it can happen to men, children or the elderly. So if you are concerned it is clinical depression please reach out to your family doctor. If you are confident it is not, then continue your battle of the winter blues by shaking things up a bit with additional social interaction, increased movement and exercise in your day and eating healthy and getting a little sunshine!
This post was written by a rural sister who wishes to remain anonymous at this time. Thank you sister, for writing so thoroughly and eloquently about this area of self-care.
One of the passions of The Rural Sisterhood, is to help women in Ag find time and ways to care for themselves so that they can carry on their livelihood, care for their families and continue their passion for Ag to the best of their abilities. Being mindful of the winter blues and depression, in ourselves or those around us, is self care!
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