(Credit: Google Images)
“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape. Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn’t show” Andrew Wyeth.
I don’t know about you, but this one-hour time change thing that happens twice a year can mess me up for weeks. I’m not a great sleeper to begin with, with frequent insomnia and a tendency to think about everything that could possibly go horribly wrong with everything and everyone, forever, as I’m waiting for sleep to revisit me.
Add that one hour time change, which makes nighttime come that much quicker, to the shortening days, reduced exposure to sunlight, and dropping temperatures (I realize I live in New England by choice, but I’m going to be a big whiner here and say I DON’T ENJOY COLD WEATHER), and uggghhhhhhh…
It was one thing to be able to manage my autumn and winter grumpiness before having kids. I could say to adult friends and loved ones that I f**cking hate everything, leave me alone. I could lash out angrily and then apologize for my irrational outbursts. I could scream and swear at every other driver on the roads, safely within my cone of silence. I could seethe quietly and work through my angst by myself until I felt prepared to deal with the rest of the world.
But now I live with these two young children of mine, who observe everything I do, and who are even more irrational than I can be at my most irrational moments. I did realize pretty quickly that I needed to be more aware of and modify my behavior, since I really am trying to be a good role model for my children. And I realized that I could not isolate myself from them, because they need me to help them meet their basic needs, and they need me to be fully present and aware. The biggest realization was that merely stuffing my negative feelings down and swallowing my anger and fatigue can lead to pretty disastrous interactions with the rest of the world.
So what’s a tired, grumpy Mama to do? Here’s what I am doing:
- Recognize the issue. While I have not clinically been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), I am aware that the autumn and winter months can be challenging for me with respect to mood regulation. I am aware that I can become sad, sullen and angry during this time of the year and that my insomnia can compound those moods.
- Develop a plan. I’m still on a pretty significant learning curve with this one. I increased my intake of Vitamin D, I try to get outside when the sun is shining, and I am aware when I might need to take a 5- or 10-minute time out to gather my thoughts and let go of negative feelings. I fully intended to get a light box earlier in the year, but I’m still in the research and comparison shopping phase.
- I try to work out at least 4 days a week normally. I need to increase that to almost every day, because I can completely negate a days’ worth of anger in 30-45 minutes, if I shut my brain off and just focus on sweating.
- Avoid sh*tty food. The days are short, cold, and I’m tired and pissed off. What better comfort than to dive into a bowl of warm pasta and cheese? Who the hell wants to prepare and eat a salad at this time of the year? Except that I know that behavior leads to an unhappy gut for me. Which begets more angry and depressed feelings. Which leads to more bad eating. But this year, I am armed with a pretty awesome protein shake which is super easy and filling (more on that at a later date), as well as some fantastic, healthy winter kind of recipes. Crockpot whole chicken? Sweet potato soup? Roasted vegetables? Yeah, I have done my homework and have meals that will last days and/or that are easily freezable, so no grilled cheese for me.
- While life with kids can be unpredictable, at best, having at least relatively planned weekends definitely helps. And keeping up with home cleanliness and organization, while challenging in a household with two kids and two full-time working adults, also goes a long way towards reducing stress and anger.
- Understanding that the best laid plans can suddenly go completely awry, and not freaking out when they do, has undoubtedly saved numerous lives and definitely my sanity. Illness happens, as does traffic, sleepless nights and other unexpected events. And sometimes, you just have to put your plans for housecleaning aside and go to the park, go hiking, visit the science museum or the butterfly sanctuary and just take the time to be fully in the moment with those you love.
I’m sure I could add more to the list, but I’m more interested in hearing what YOU do when the late fall/winter months kick in. Do you experience changes in your mood? Do you struggle with the colder, darker parts of the year? I am working my way toward happy; for myself and for my kids and for the greater good of the world. Being one less harried, grumpy person from now through the holidays is my goal, and I think it would be good for the rest of my world, and even beyond.