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Managing The Late-Winter Blues

Dr. Chelsea Twiss is an individual therapist, life coach, couples counselor and creativity coach. She specializes in helping couples restore emotional and sexual intimacy, individuals heal and grow, and creatives find their voice.

Taking Care of You

 

As a therapist and life coach (and person with my own life going on) I’m well aware that we live in a fast-paced culture with copious demands that cause us to become used to high levels of stress. Human beings are adaptable creatures and we are particularly adept at meeting the demands of our environment, even in today’s world where multi-tasking and juggling multiple responsibilities is the norm.

This time of year can be hard: For many people, the holiday season can be particularly stressful. Fulfilling roles and family obligations arise which often lead many of us to a place of anxious distress. But what happens after all the chaos and events of the season end yet the winter months keep dragging on?

Dealing With The Late-Winter Blues

After the burst of holiday energy subsides, it can be easy to fall into a state of feeling low or a general lack of energy and motivation in the coming months of winter. Depending on where you live, the weather is usually gray and the temperature drops, family and friends depart and it can feel lonely.

This experience of feeling low and resistance to the slowness associated with the winter months can also often put strains on our relationships with others as well as our relationships with ourselves. Often times the inclination is to isolate or pretend to be feeling okay when we aren’t. These responses to feeling low, while they make perfect sense, only serve to further distance us from our connections with ourselves and with one another.

As winter drags on you might begin to wonder if you will ever see the sun again. You can help yourself through this experience by returning to some simple practices that allow grounding and slow-moving energy to flow.

Acceptance & Self-Compassion

Exercising self acceptance and self-compassion is imperative during this time and will ultimately help resolve feelings low sooner than fighting the way you’re feeling. I’m sure you’ve heard these buzz words before and maybe you will roll your eyes at them but these are the first things we often forget to do when feeling low.

Usually our inner monologue becomes something like, “What’s wrong with me?” or “Why am I feeling this way?” These statements discourage us from accepting where we are in the present and prevent us from embracing what we are truly needing in the moment. [More about mindfulness strategies here]. Below are some basic ways to practice acceptance and self-compassion when experiencing you’re not feeling great.

1) Check-in With Yourself

The first step to achieving acceptance and self-compassion is to check-in and notice when these thoughts or feelings arise. This first step is very powerful and is a skill that can be used not only to help manage difficult emotional experiences, but also to improve relationships with others.

Usually when we feel something uncomfortable, our first reaction may be to suppress it, deny it or fight it. Learning to roll with the punches and increase self and other acceptance is built on a foundation of emotional awareness. You feel the way you feel for a reason. Sometimes that reason is difficult to ascertain, but for the time being, simply noticing is your number one task.

2) Remind Yourself That It’s Okay To Say No

My mother used to say that nothing is worth doing if you aren’t doing it with a glad heart. This is ironic as my mother is also someone I endearingly refer to as the Queen of Doing Everything – a trait I am afraid I have also inherited. I’m sure many readers can relate that it’s easy to take on numerous tasks, especially when our self-worth is in doubt. Our impulse may be to rev up the engine and force ourselves into overdrive in order to escape feeling worthless or discontent with ourselves, piling on more tasks and responsibilities. But, if we have accomplished step one and have checked in with our feelings, when your friend invites you to their game night and your check-in tells you that your energy just isn’t there right now, it’s not only okay to say no, it’s actually healthy.

While you may worry about missing out, it will ultimately feel so good to give yourself what you’re needing in the moment versus denying yourself time that will, in fact, be restorative and prepare you for the exciting things to come tomorrow. If you’re already a natural no-sayer then keep on with the healthy self-care and boundaries, but this is something many people – especially in today’s busy world – generally struggle with.

3) Be Intentional With Your Quiet Time

 

It can be easy to turn on the TV and binge Netflix when you’re feeling low energy and depressed. While doing this is totally okay and feels good, it’s also very restorative to take some intentional downtime, especially when feeling low.

With the distractions of technology available at our fingertips, it can be easy to miss out on the important time of self-reflection that happens when our minds are quietly not focused on anything in particular. Some people spend lots of time avoiding intentional downtime. I often hear things from my clients like, “I don’t want to be alone with my thoughts.” With a few exceptions, it’s often healthy to be alone with your thoughts.

Our brains generally ramp up on anxiety when we haven’t given ourselves time during the day to be alone with our thoughts and so they keep us from sleeping at night or come up unexpectedly at unwanted times.

Intentional downtime can look different depending on the person; it can be as simple as laying on your bed or sitting on the couch quietly for ten minutes, taking a bath, meditating, taking a walk outside or sitting on a park bench and observing your surroundings. Whatever this might look like for you, it is important to give yourself this time to slow down and be present with you. Doing less and taking things off your plate may sound counterintuitive, but it actually often helps resolve feeling down sooner than trying to stay busy does.

4) Say How You’re Feeling

This last point is one of the key factors in maintaining connections with others while feeling down. A giant contributing factor to feeling down can be believing that we have to pretend we are feeling differently than we actually are to make others comfortable. It is important for your own mental health to say how you’re truly feeling when someone asks.

We may worry about disappointing others or making them uncomfortable, but the price of smiling through pain can be much greater than being honest when others ask how you’re doing. This is also an important part of exercising honesty and vulnerability in relationships that matter to us.

The false belief is that we are protecting those we love from a perceived burden when in fact we are distancing ourselves from them by not communicating how we are truly feeling or what we are truly needing in the moment. There is a significant amount of energy that goes into faking a smile for the imagined expectations we think others have of us.

Give yourself permission to say as much or as little as you feel comfortable about what you’re experiencing when others ask. Assert your needs in that moment around whether you need support from someone else or not. It’s okay to say you need some alone time to work through things. Again, the people who truly care about you will understand.

I hope you’ve found some of these strategies for managing feeling down and restoring energy helpful.

Warmly, 

Dr. Chelsea Twiss

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