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Beating the winter blues for a more peaceful mind

How are you looking after yourself this winter?

Winter has it’s positives – lighting the fire, hot drinks beside that fire, all wrapped up in a soft, nurturing blanket, cozy nights indoors, hot relaxing baths, comfort food through casseroles, soups and delicious roasted vegetables. It also definitely has it’s challenges. The season where coughs, colds and flu can pay regular visits, when your child seems to have a constant runny nose, when that itchy cough that takes forever to go away hits you! The electricity bill goes up and it is the time of year when the days are short and the nights are longer. If you live in a climate where there is winter, you will definitely be able to relate. When it’s cold I just don’t want to move! It can be so hard to get out of bed and get moving, let alone step outside, feel the bite of that cold wind, drive in Auckland traffic and head to work! If you run a business, winter can be a slow time in sales and because of these challenges I’ve mentioned above, it can impact on our motivation and mood.

I came across a discussion on social media about the winter blues and that’s when I realized why I’d been feeling like I was in a bit of a slump the last few weeks. It's possible to thrive during winter and not just survive. I hope you enjoy this read. I’d love to hear your thoughts on some of the points I’ve discussed and maybe share which ones really stuck out to you. If you are stressed, tired, lost enthusiasm and feel burnt out, then something isn’t working. I encourage you to be open to try something new.

My schedule is full and busy, being a Mum of 4, running a business full time and also running a busy household! Boy it’s a juggle, but no complaints here. I’m far from being a perfect parent or perfect anything and that doesn’t bother me because I’ve done the acceptance work about that 😊 (we are always a work in progress!) I love the life I live and how full it is!

What I do would not be sustainable if I don’t implement some breaks and self-care. So what have I got in place that has really helped and kept me sane, inspired, happy, and fills my tank?

1. Unload the mental load

Your brain needs a break from thinking so much and being full of your to do list.

I have a book and in that book I write down everything I need to do and remember to help the mental load come out of my head and onto the paper. That way I am not worried about forgetting things. (I am not perfect with this but it doesn’t matter, let’s focus on the good stuff!)

If I do not have the book with me I put it into the notes in my phone then later translate it onto my book. As I go down my list of things to do, I tick them off. The list can be long let’s be honest, it never seems to stop so that’s why I prioritize the most important things in the day and incorporate some flexibility for the things that are not high on the priority list of to do’s. This book…’Make Time – How to focus on what matters every day” by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky greatly helped me implement this habit.

2. Routine is where it’s at

I need a set routine to follow and it’s how I break up parts of my day so I can stay organized and manage time well. This also helps me transition in and out of work mode, because of the different roles I play within my whole self! I block in work time. I can then build my day around this and the other key activities in my day. Having a set time of when I work on the business means I don’t feel like I’m working 24/7 and therefore spilling into every area of my life. This is hard for me to do especially as my business is a passion. Just remember to be kind to yourself at all times and don’t beat yourself up, we’re really good at that but let’s not glorify that! 😊. My coach helped me to look at the bigger picture and sort out my routine. So invaluable and it’s empowered me a lot in knowing I have control of my schedule and my week and it doesn’t need to control me. Here is Danielle’s website if you want to get to know more about her and her work.

3. Have a break, but not a Kit Kat hehe

In your busy day, incorporate breaks. They don’t have to be long, they can be as short as 5 minutes. But what will make these breaks effective for you is that you make them intentional, that you really TRULY give yourself those 5 minutes, uninterrupted, mental break where you allow your mind to slow down and tell it, it’s ok you can go back to thinking of all the things you need to do but for these few minutes, slow down and relax and allow the relaxing distraction. Putting on my earphones and listening to some ethereal meditational music, nature sounds or an affirmations recording, has helped me make the most of the short time I have. I’ll also incorporate some deep breathing into these minutes. Soothing music can help to promote relaxation and quieten the mind. It also helps your nervous system to recognize what relaxed feels like. This can only benefit your mental health positively. These 5 minute nuggets in my day can be done in the car (with eyes open obviously haha), while I’m waiting during after school activities with Mia, while I’m at my desk working and need a break, while I’m working in my lab making products. This is part of my survival and self-care kit.

4. Setting boundaries and limits is self-care

Boundaries on when I answer my mobile, or emails, or messages. Unless it’s an emergency. I’m unable to turn my mobile off because I’m an emergency contact for school so disciplining myself on when I check my mobile, go on social media helps a lot in having a more productive day. When I set these boundaries I feel more in control of my day and what I do with it. Being intentional on why I’m on social media helps. If you’re used to looking at your phone every two minutes, be patient with yourself as it can take time to wean yourself off it. Replace the mobile time with another activity that can help distract you from the anxiety that can come from weaning off a habit. Decide what times suits you according to priority when is best to reply to messages, return any phone calls or emails, or answer messages on social media. People will understand and will probably admire you for it too. I always remind myself, that setting these boundaries is good for me, my family, and my life as a whole.

5. Incorporate movement into your day

Let’s be active and get some exercise and movement so it gets those good endorphins going in your body. I have set reminders to stretch when I’ve been sitting or standing for a while. You can go for a brisk 10-15 minute walk around the block at lunchtime. It just gives you a change of scenery and environment. I use the Headspace app and I love it. There are little videos they call the afternoon lift and often it’s exercise or stretching which is great, as I can incorporate this into my afternoon break.

Keeping active can definitely be a challenge during winter for me. I’d be quite happy to sit on the couch and Netflix the day away (this is ironic actually because I hardly watch any TV! LOL). I’m not suggesting you go to the gym and work out hard, you can if you want to and if you can incorporate that into your time, priority and budget, then go for it. Winter blues can creep up on us and we end up feeling sluggish and unmotivated. I need to do a lot of mental work with this, cultivate positive thoughts and affirmations and remind myself of my values and intentions and just get out of my head and just do 😊 … which brings me to my next tip.

6. Get out of your head

Procrastination eats into our time. Time is so valuable it’s the only thing we really do have according to Oprah Winfrey.

The more we think, our thoughts can end up going around in circles. I’ve tried hard to practice quicker decision making to boot out that procrastination. It happens to me even when it comes to simple tasks like deciding on what to have for meals. When this happens it clearly states to me I am in overwhelm mode, so tackle things one task at a time. I saw this quote online recently. How do you eat an elephant? Little by little. (No elephants were harmed when writing this by the way).

Same thing applies to big tasks and long to do lists that can be overwhelming. Take it one task at a time. I remind myself nothing will get done and no actions or decisions will be made if I’m going to sit there and keep my thinking cap on. Keep your thinking strategic and productive (make notes in your book if needed). You will feel so confident and great about yourself as you take action in your day and tick off that to do list 😊

This is all part of looking after you and also self-care.

7. Have a set wind up and wind down time in your day

Set a boundary that at a particular time of day you won’t look at your phone but will do something that promotes winding down, relaxation and a little bit of me time. Read a chapter or two of a book, do some journaling, write a gratitude list for the day. This can help set a calm and positive tone before you sleep. Perhaps you just want to set time aside so that you can really be present with your family, husband or partner? Often we can be a bit divided and a little distracted and being fully present and in the moment with our family can do wonders for our relationships. This is also self-care.

8. Create a space you love to be in

Are you space challenged in your house? We have a full house that we also work from, and this means that it can be a challenge to get some privacy and space from each other.I need a clutter free zone to be able to relax mentally and with having a big family this is a challenge and often isn’t always possible. It’s always a work in progress. I’m creating different nooks and corners in my home that I love being in, that is warm and inviting and calming, so when I sit in those places, I relax. If you don’t have space, it doesn’t need to be a whole room, it can be a special corner or a special chair beside a window sill where you put special things like plants, crystals, candles or pictures you love. It’s a space you can call your own where you can sit and journal, enjoy a cuppa, read a book, chill, listen to music, meditate, pray, whatever you like. It’s your time. I remember as a child loving creating spaces like this where I could make it all cozy and homely. I loved it.

9. Plan ahead

Each season definitely has it’s challenges. For example in summer it may be the busiest season in your year both for your personal and business or work life. When you are busy all these great habits can go out the window. So for each season set some good intentions and take note of the factors that can impact your health and wellbeing and decide on how you will stay on course with your self-care. Preparation is key and being proactive will save stress and overwhelm. It’s a bit like gathering for a drought because you know winter is coming so you prepare all this good food and tools for yourself so it can tide you over the drought season.

I hope you found this content helpful and valuable. Please feel free to share it if it will help someone you know.

Catherine xoxoxo

If you are feeling low, just remember it’s ok not to be okay. Talk to someone you trust. Seek professional medical help. Here are some resources below that can help.

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