In my younger days, I always got depressed in winter and dreaded this time of year. When spring came, I felt that I’d been freed from purgatory. As I got older, I found that having the warmest winter gear made it completely tolerable and I actually came to appreciate the cold and the quiet of this somber time of year. However, living in the city, it never really got all that quiet. And having had such mild winters for the past few years, it really hasn’t been all that cold.
So I was taken by surprise when the bone-chilling cold of a New England winter, coupled with the monochrome landscape of white on white for weeks and weeks on end totally upended my psyche. I hadn’t anticipated how uprooted I would feel after leaving the city, how isolated I would be, nor how worried I would feel for my son starting out in a new place. And then, in what felt like the blink of an eye, I found myself lost within the old winter blues, like I hadn’t known them for so long.
Uggh, like being on a bad drug that stays in your bloodstream indefinitely. This is how I felt for days on end. I knew that I was sinking fast, and I knew that I needed SUPPORT! So I started to reach out – like crazy! This was the first and most important step in moving out of my funk.
And then, simply by grace, I remembered… I remembered that there must be some wisdom, some message buried within this painful place. And that’s when it dawned on me to invite the depression in. Yes, invite it in. Rather than trying to push it away or anesthetize myself to it, I decided to set a place for it at my table, and ask what it wanted, what it had to say and what it needed.
It was scarry to be sure. I felt that it would overtake me and leave me lost in a tangled web of darkness. But it didn’t. It taught me a few things. And through creating this internal invitation, and processing the feelings that arose, I was able to move past it all relatively quickly.
What I learned was that these “winter blues” that felt to be weighing down my mind, actually had distinct voices or emotions. And as I listened and observed each feeling, I heard what they were longing to express and release. The voice of despair, shame, grief, and the hurt of rejection – all of these feelings were there within that dense fog. And all of these voices had something specific to say that I needed to hear, needed to pay attention to. As I acknowledged the feelings one by one, as I shed tears of loss, as I pushed myself to share my feelings with my trusted partner and journal about them, as I honored the messages that they were bringing to me, I felt my inner landscape start to shift. And then, as I took the time to pamper myself with a hot cup of tea, a flower essence, an herbal preparation and a trip to the steam room, the depression began to lift. I felt my former sense of inner peace returning. And then one morning, I woke up to find a crystalline blue sky with brilliant sunshine melting the mounds of snow on my back porch.
Winter is the time of year that we are pulled deep within ourselves, deep within our psyche. It’s a place that can feel overwhelming for many of us. But know that there are messages for you in there, precious messages that hold wisdom. Don’t be afraid to listen.
Here are some practical tips to help shift the energy:
- Frequent trips to the gym – aerobic exercise is great for shifting the winter blues and helping you to get in touch with the inner messages. If your gym has a steam bath or sauna, take advantage. Getting some warmth into the bones is great therapy as well.
- Flower essences – try Gorse by Bach and Borage by Delta Gardens. Both of these help clear the thick sludge of a depressed psyche and help you get more deeply in touch with yourself. You’ll be surprised by how quickly things can move.
- Reaching out to a friend, trusted practitioner or significant other – this of course is a “duh” sort of recommendation, but when in the throws of depression, it can totally elude you. Force yourself to do it! You need to be able to express the emotions that are attempting to surface.
Peel a thumb-size piece of fresh ginger (approximately 2 inches) and cut into thin slices. Put into a pot with 6 cups of water.
Squeeze in the juice of 2 fresh lemons (meyer lemons are my favorite) into the pot. Bring to a boil and then turn to a low flame and simmer for 20 minutes.
Add your favorite raw honey to taste. This tasty cup of tea warms the body, brings circulation to the pelvic area, is anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory. Enjoy!