This time of year is always tough for me. The holidays are over, the schedules have gotten crazy again, and the winter blues have taken hold. It’s about this time every year that I struggle to get everything done. I get behind on work. I feel unmotivated and tired. My house is one giant health code violation and I no longer care that I only unload the dishwasher so that I can fill it right back up with the two-day supply of dishes that are piled in my sink.
It’s also been cold for months now. Except when it isn’t. I’m probably not alone when I say that while 70 degree days in February is nice, it just gives me false hope for spring, only to leave me sad and disappointed when it’s freezing the next day.
Then there’s the plague that has been infecting my house. Between the 3am vomiting sessions with the 10-year old and the 17-year old’s mysterious cold, which leaves her too weak to do anything but lay on the couch watching “30 Rock” reruns, I may never see the outside of my house again.
Also taxes. I always approach tax time with false bravado thinking that I can do them myself. I start plugging numbers into whichever DIY tax program sent me the most persuasive advertising the same way a toddler might try to cram pieces of a puzzle together. Then I cry. Then I find someone to do my taxes for me. Every year the cycle repeats.
By the end of February, my mojo has not only slipped away, it’s done a full-on prison break.
My winter blues breakdown usually goes like this:
I start by trying to blame the winter blues on Daylight Savings Time until I remember DST started in November and four months should probably be the limit on seasonal adjustment.
Next, I almost always decide I have something seriously wrong with me, most likely fatal. I now start self-diagnosing, because who has time to go to a doctor anyway. Instead, I spend way too much time on WebMD and decide I need a new liver. Or maybe just a liver detox. Or perhaps I should be juicing. Or maybe my chakras are blocked?
Finally, I just wallow in a puddle of my own misery waiting for the cold hand of death, or the new season of Game of Thrones, whichever comes first. Either way, someone’s going to be miserable when it’s all said and done.
It pretty much goes the same way every year. So, this year, I decided it was time to try something a little different.
After all, the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results, right? And this winter, “insanity” was at least two stops earlier on whatever train I’m riding. I’m pretty sure I’m headed somewhere a whole lot worse.
So…this year, I actually went to the doctor. When I was making the appointment, the nurse asked the reason for the visit. I absolutely hate this question. I always feel the pressure to have a really good answer, like bleeding ulcers or a severed limb, otherwise, the doctor won’t have time to see me. But, “Ummmm…I think I might be going crazy?” was all I could come up with. There was an awkward pause, but eventually, she laughed and as far as I can tell didn’t put that in my permanent file.
At the appointment, the doctor and I talked a lot about how I was feeling and how this seems to happen every year. We talked about the stresses and challenges in my life. We discussed the possible and probable causes of the mid-winter blues. And we did some blood work.
Turns out, I’m not crazy (I hope that is in my permanent file), but I do have low Vitamin D. She put me on a supplement and already things are starting to look up. She also mentioned that it’s very likely that my Vitamin D drops every winter, hence the mojo-less winter blues and teen-like angst.
In case you didn’t know, Vitamin D is the reason for that wonderfully euphoric feeling that we get when the sun is out. In fact, as little as 10 minutes of daily sun exposure can boost your Vitamin D. And in turn, Vitamin D can help your mood, increase your energy, reduce aches and pains, and help to keep your bones strong.
The moral of my story, however, is not to give you a lecture on vitamins or and provide any sort of medical advice.
The moral of this story is simple: self-care matters.
I’ve talked to a lot of people who struggle this time of year. For some, it’s due to very real depression or anxiety. For others, it’s something as simple as a Vitamin D deficiency.
For others still, it’s just that THIS STUFF IS HARD, Y’ALL.
We put so much pressure on ourselves to do it all, be it all, and have it all, that sometimes, we just break down. And it’s no coincidence that it often happens after we’ve done back-to-school, fall sports, winter sports, and two major holidays, one right after the other.
We live in a Superwoman society that floods us with images of women who do high-powered work or run viral blogs or have successful home businesses. They are in shape and on time and never ever miss a school party. With all of that, they still manage to keep their homes clean, their husbands happy, and their kids on track.
These women seem to defy the laws of nature. And while it’s easy to say that this “ideal” is just a Hollywood, airbrushed fantasy, I’ve actually met some women who come pretty darn close. Once I get past my burning jealousy, I always ask, “HOW, for the love of all that is holy, do you do it?” And you know what I usually find out?
Women who seem to do it all get help. Plain and simple.
And help comes in all forms – whether it’s help with the kids, help with the housework, or help in the form of positive mood stimulants (i.e, something prescribed by a doctor, natural supplements, or exercise and diet).
But one thing remains consistent. They take care of themselves, and more importantly, they make time for themselves.
These women get together with girlfriends. They have date nights with their husbands. They build in time to do things that make them feel good. They read books. They make their kids have quiet time. They simply care for themselves just as they care for everyone around them.
I know, I know. It seems easier to say than do. But the old adage, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” holds true. Neither mothers nor fathers can do it all. That’s just a simple truth. Nor should we expect it from ourselves.
We have got to learn how to ask for help every now and then.
Maybe it’s crying in your doctor’s office, because you’re pretty sure the fish died after you forgot to feed it for two weeks (now that I say it, I am 100% certain that is why the fish died), only to find out that you are being irrational and there are vitamins that will help you with that.
Or maybe it’s telling everyone that, sorry, but cereal is “what’s for dinner,” because you’re going to grab a drink with your girlfriend. I’ll tell you now, your family will not die of starvation before you return and, who knows, after a couple of hours away you might even feel relaxed enough to want to see them.
Whatever it is, just do it, already. When you feel better, you also feel more motivated, more engaged and more capable of providing the care that your family needs.
Life is too short to be running around with the winter blues, feeling stressed and not-quite-good-enough. Remind yourself that you are doing an amazing job. Your kids are loved and provided for, even when they’ve worn the same shirt three days in a row without your noticing. Your partner is lucky to have you, after all, who else would put up with him or her?
As for the household stuff, the taxes still need to get done…and you’ll need to address the laundry at some point…but before you tackle those tasks, sit outside for 10 minutes. Soak in some Vitamin D and enjoy the fact that it’s 70 degrees in February. It will be freezing tomorrow, after all. But spring will be arriving soon and, hopefully, it will bring your mojo with it.
In the meantime, beat the winter blues by taking care of yourself now. Your family will benefit from it and thank you for it. But more importantly, you’ll be glad you did.