Especially during the winter time, the blues come. This can come in the form of stress, depression, or anxiety. Some symptoms are crying, exhaustion, and irritability. I tend toward the anxiety side. With pregnancy, more tears too. These are some ways to help with the winter woes.
Read. Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings are both a great go to for me. Pick a book that you know you love, or grab a book that you’ve really been wanting to read and take 20 minutes to enter a different world.
Music. Classical is actually really beautiful for times like these. Also, when I am sad I like to put on my sad music, but this is actually a bad decision. It makes things worse.
Sodoku. Something that takes thinking but not too much thinking can help you with your focus, to calm you down, and to show you that you can accomplish things.
Art. Draw a picture. Take some photos. Make a bracelet. Write. Play some music. Dance. Do a simple art project. (Pinterest is a great resource.) There is something about creating that helps with stress. You can even color in a coloring book. It doesn’t have to be complicated at all. The coloring helps you, and then you can give it to a friend to put on their fridge (or even mail it to your mom).
Get out. Go on a walk. Visit the coffee shop. Change up where you hang out. Sit in a public space and people watch. In the winter especially, when you are stuck inside, home can start to feel more like a prison. Go see the light of day. Even if it is stinking cold, you can find a spot with windows and hopefully a view with trees or nature of some kind. Fresh air can clear your head. Interaction with creation can be refreshing. You might be needing a quiet place. Noise and distractions can cause more stress.
Exercise. I hate exercise, but I do love volleyball. My husband loves to go on runs or go to the weight room. You might be this kind of person. I like to walk. I throw in my ear buds and go to the gym to walk around the track or walk on the treadmill. I prefer the track but sometime it’s being used for athletes to practice. Regular exercise has proven to improve mood, help with sleep patterns, provide stress relief, and improve self-esteem. Start with once a week, then twice a week, etc. etc.
Shower. Enjoy the hot steam. Breath deeply and enjoy the quiet time. Feel clean. Maybe even take a bath. Add bubbles, or that bath stuff that smells good, or both!
Smells. Candles or those wax melty smelly things are awesome. I personally like lavender, vanilla, pine, citrus, or rose.
Comfy clothes. Sweatpants. Sweatshirts. Socks. Anything loose, warm, and cozy puts me in a much better mood. Ladies, take off the bra (but maybe in the comfort of your home).
Sleep. The blues hits much harder when you’re not well-rested. Keep in mind that oversleep can also make one crabby.
Listen to you body. It knows what it needs. If you are tired, sleep. If you are hungry eat (healthy!).
Know yourself. Try and notice any changes when you become stressed, anxious, or depressed. Good things to keep in mind are your senses, heart rate, breathing, and temperature. Also try to figure out what things can cause you to be anxious. This can be school, money, future, or whatever. Be aware of those thoughts in your head and remember to not try to control anything you actually can’t control.
Don’t push yourself. The world has this crazy idea that we’re supposed to have it all figured out physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually at all times. This is impossible. That is the truth. End rant.
Water. Dehydration does so much to you. It can make your body hurt in many different ways, such as headaches, stomach aches, or constipation. Sometimes I drink water with lemon. I like to use those crystal lite or kool aid squirt things. Note: I use the less than suggested amount. It’s just to add flavor, because I don’t like the taste of water. If pomegranates are on sale I might add some to my water bottle. It makes the water really nummy and then when you’re done with the water, you have a snack! The suggestion is 8 glasses of water. If you have one of those camelback water bottles that I feel like everyone on campus owns (guilty, they are great), one bottle is three glasses. So have a bottle before lunch, a bottle before supper, and basically another bottle before bed. This is a good goal for me to have. Also, right off the bat, when I wake up I try to drink at least half a glass of water. I’m usually pretty thirsty and will drink a whole glass when I wake up. This replenishing can help your body so much. It’s also good to try and do before bed too.
Avoid sugar. It can make you so sluggish and grumpy, and you don't even know it. This can be really hard because it seems like sugar is in everything. This is not true! I will give some practicals to avoid sugar.
Avoid caffeine. If you need your cup of coffee in the morning, I understand. Try to limit to just that and not drink it throughout the day. Coffee does not hydrate you. I’m really sorry. If you add cream and sugar, try to lessen the amount you use too. Caffeine and sugar can make one anxious or depressed rather than relieve stress.
Food. The foods you probably want to eat will actually make you feel worse. I’d love to eat pizza or ice cream, but here are some better alternatives.
A little chocolate goes a long way. Lupin in Harry Potter was right, “Eat. You’ll feel better.” Particularly dark chocolate can lower stress hormones.
Spinach. Throw it in a smoothie. Pour some ranch on it and call it salad. Add it to pasta or while cooking eggs (with cheese too!). Spinach has iron and helps with blood flow in your brain.
Apples and Peanut Butter. I swear by this. It’s fruit AND protein, and it’s delicious. This helps your sweet tooth, but doesn’t give you a sugar crash. I just slice them um and with a butter knife add some pb.
Green Tea. This helps you stay calm, but doesn’t make you sleepy. This does have a little caffeine in it, but it's a "healthy" amount. Although I am pregnant, it is actually not too much caffeine for me to drink. This has been a big replacement of coffee for me actually. Green tea also helps with concentration and focus. It’s a very gentle yummy drink. The kind I get is Bigelow’s Green Tea with Pomegranate. You can add honey or lemon (or a spoonful of sugar). Sometimes I’ll let the mug cool to room temperature, then throw it in my water bottle with ice or cold water and I can drink it throughout the day and stay hydrated. I have a hard time drinking water, so this adds flavor for me.
Cereal. I’m so serious. We eat this every morning and I feel great afterwards. I have either Rice Crispies, Cheerios, or Honey Bunches of Oats when it's on sale. What’s nice about cereal is you can eat it any time of day. It’s a great go to for me. The milk is also a great source of calcium and Vitamin D. Sugary cereal does not count. I can actually tell the difference now that I’ve been having healthier cereal. The other kind makes you feel sluggish and gross.
Fruit. It’s like candy, but it’s healthy! Bananas, grapes, clementine, peaches, pears, etc. etc.
Give someone a heads up on how you are doing. This can be a friend, roommate, mom, sister, husband, mentor, professor. Help them understand what to be on the lookout for so that they can steer you away from an emergency.
Ask for help. Laundry, dishes, dinner, school, or other cleaning or projects are super stressful for me. It is okay to ask someone for help. God doesn’t expect you to go alone at this, and doesn’t want you to. He wants to help and walk alongside you.
Limit your social media. This has been proven to raise anxiety. It makes people more depressed comparing their lives to others'. Just remember that someone’s Facebook does not represent that person as a whole.
Hugs. Sometimes just snuggling, hugging, and crying into my husband’s shoulder will help. We also have three boxes of tissues open in our apartment. Pregnancy has been fun for us.
Pray. Don’t try to make this complicated. I know so many people that accidentally complicate things, including myself. You don’t have to do a whole rosary or go to Mass or make a holy hour. You can do the Morning Offering, a Hail Mary, the Memorare, or the prayer to St. Michael. If you want to do more, that’s okay, but many people can become more stressed by trying to pray and be super pious. This is not a post on piety. This is a post on stress. I like to be real with myself and know that I will get impatient in prayer and when I’m trying to destress this is not the time to do an Ignatian examination, etc.
Read Scripture. This isn’t about quality OR quantity. You can either sit with a verse, or just keep reading. I actually prefer the latter, and when I hit something, then I’ll sit with it. This is the word of God, and He uses it to speak to us. Here are some specific passages that help me when I am stressed.
Philippians 4:6 “Have no anxiety about anything, but pray about everything.”
Psalm 62:8 “Trust in Him at all times. Pour out your heart before Him. God is a refuge for us.”
Matthew 6:26-27 “Look at the birds of the air. They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxieties on Him, for He cares about you.”
Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
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