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Fighting off Winter Blues (because calling it seasonal affective disorder or winter depression is too harsh imo)

Winter isn’t always easy, especially when you see spring on the calendar but snow falling outside your window. The weather drains your energy, and you can’t do much outside without feeling like your nose is about to fall off. Sometimes there is the case of winter depression or seasonal affective disorder.  I don’t like to use the word depression, it’s such a strong one. So I will call it winter blues.

You feel drained, hopeless and sad, nothing really excites you. An overload of emotions and distress. I don’t think there is anything to romanticise about the winter blues. The most suitable metaphor I read was: “You eat because you have to – but it doesn’t taste like anything, even if it is your favorite dish with all the spices you can imagine – it just tastes like nothing”. These days, you just want to get them over with. You might or might not go to lectures, you drag yourself to work without energy, avoid social contact, you get home and it just feels empty.

So what to do to prevent or fight off winter blues? The first step is leaving the apartment once a day, maybe just for a short walk. If you just feel down, you can do some of the following things I did to feel more energized. If you have severe negative thoughts and feel very sad, talk to a person you trust and maybe visit your doctor – everyone will understand and there is nothing wrong with getting help. We all need a little help every now and then 🙂

So what did I do the past weeks? I started to focus a lot on myself and organized my life :

My frenemy: Working out

I dislike sports. So for me to get myself up and work out was a big step. I started immediately when I came back from Taiwan- still jetlagged I was already on the treadmill and ran, even if it wasn’t for long cause I had no stamina. But I had to start because I will skip and find excuses if I don’t mentally overcome myself. Already now, after 6 weeks, I feel the change physically and mentally and I actually enjoy it. I go after work or a long day of lecture, although someday I want to go home, wrap myself up on the couch and watch movies, but I force myself to hit the gym and feel really energized after.
To force myself to go I made a rule – whenever I have to wash my hair, I have to go to the gym, work out at least an hour and shower there. It’s a ridiculous rule but it worked. I go to the gym 2 to 3 times a week. And since we are on it, working out shows faster results when you eat healthier and also don’t forget the vitamins 🙂 Especially Vitamin D supplements for the darker days.

My small goals

I write a to-do list every week with different kinds of big and small milestones. It varies from “make a doctor’s appointment” to “read the report for finance” to “learn 10 Chinese characters and use them in a sentence” to “buy an avocado”. Again, it seems strange but by crossing off the “easy” tasks of the list, you’ll feel you accomplish a goal and then you move on to the next ones. It also gives you structure without pressuring you to do it on a certain day or specific time. You have a whole week to fix these things 🙂 And after you accomplish the list or most of it, treat yourself and meet friends for a walk or brunch before tackling the next tasks. Give yourself a break to breathe.

 

My friend and I study together and for the past 2 years we kept saying that will visit his sister’s café – but we never did. We spent our semester abroad in Taipei and met up weekly to eat, to have real bro talk about life and now we’re back in Denmark, we not going to drop this tradition even if both of us have a full schedule. So we caught up last week over brunch before our lecture and we finally made it to his sister’s place (Djuus in Østerbro). We made it, after 2 years!

 

Clean up

I mean it in any sense possible. Clean out your room, sell or donate things you don’t need. Cleaning up is one of the first steps to get out of a winter blues spiral.
And while we at it, clean out everything else, such as toxic people and non-friends in your life who let you down or drain your energy. You don’t need such negativity in your life – sometimes you have to draw a line because you can’t and won’t stay friends with everyone who once meant something to you. When you are feeling low, your focus should be on yourself and all the energy should be used on you, and not on something or someone that might not do the same for you.

Lastly, clean out your schedule – take some time for yourself. Work and studies are overwhelming, believe me I know, but take some time for yourself. Which makes me come to the next point.

Clean up, focus on you and take care of yourself. You owe it to yourself to be the best version – in every way possible

My Self-care and self-love

Take care. If you have a packed schedule and think “well you got it easy Tuni, you are a student, you can skip lectures if you feel like it. I have a real job, kids, a house to pay off, a relationship to maintain, etc etc etc.” – Stop right there. You can take time for yourself and concentrate on yourself. It’s a simple as putting on a face mask, enjoying that glass of wine or a cup of tea with some sweets, far away from your laptop with work tasks or emptying a bucket of ice cream after a long day. Take 10 or 20 minutes – it won’t ruin your career or relationship but it will surely reenergize you a bit. The main focus is doing something good for yourself once a day – it doesn’t need to take hours. For me, I found it nice to cook every evening, no matter how much I still have to work or study, and I prepare all the meals for the next day. And sometimes I take time for myself and put on a face mask – because a face mask fixes everything 😀

Learning something new

It’s hard to motivate yourself to do things when you simply don’t have the energy to even leave the apartment, I know. But learning something new always helps, start with baby steps. You don’t suddenly have to read up and learn how to build a house. I started with learning new recipes and reading up things I was always curious about (what is bitcoin really?). What did you always wanted to learn or know? It can be anything – basic to knitting, how to edit pictures, how to draw, what are easy beauty tricks or how come everyone hates Nickleback? Besides the last question, they are all things you can read up or watch a video and go do it yourself. I learned to make hummus, tried out new oatmeal recipes and Asian dishes and also know that it was a bad time to invest in bitcoins 😉

I downloaded a program and taught myself a bit to edit pictures and get the colours to pop a bit more. I was always curious how it worked on a more professional level (and not only on Instagram and VSCO) so I took an hour here and there before bedtime and tried editing pictures

 

No pressure studying/learning a new language

As mentioned before, I study Chinese and some days it’s going so slow. I surround myself with the language as much as possible since I don’t hear a lot of Chinese in Denmark. I listen to Chinese music, put Chinese videos on when I cook or clean up and watch a lighthearted series before bedtime. Believe me, I don’t even understand anything half of the time but when I hear a sentence or word and understand it, I feel a tiny little bit proud that I caught that one.

If you are learning Danish (or any language) and it’s going slow, give yourself a break, especially when the winter blues hit you and you can’t be bothered. I stopped going to the Danish classes a while ago and just jumped into Danish in my daily life. I am not close to fluent, by far not, but I understand a lot more. How come? Because I cut myself some slack. Learning a new language is a huge thing and it takes time and effort, and it doesn’t always show results immediately. Somedays it’s so discouraging but don’t pressure yourself too much. Set tiny goals, such as learning a new word every day on your way to work. And then feel proud and happy when you see or hear that word somewhere and understand it 🙂

I love photography, so I set myself the goal to meet up at least once every 10 days with insta- and blogger friends, go for a walk, catch up, take pictures and round up the day with a cup of coffee and tea. No matter how full my agenda is, how much I have to do, I have to take a few hours for myself to meet with friends and do something I genuinely enjoy – this is a great way to recharge. The picture was taken by: https://galynabaz.com/

So these are my little advice to fight off the winter blues. This year it was hard for me to adjust to the winter since I came back from Taiwan in January. So the change was drastic, not only the climate. I sadly have to leave my local friends back in Taipei, return to my “normal” life, catch up with university, cause I worked a lot last year to save up for my trip and postponed 2 courses – so right now, I am studying 1,5 semesters while writing my thesis, and still working on the side. Most of my friends also just came back from an exciting trip themselves and went into a low-phase with sadness and nostalgia. To prevent myself from falling into that hole of sadness once I get back from Asia, I (literally) forced myself to do these things and honestly, I didn’t feel any kind of winter blues. I have to get all my things done, so I’m busy all the time and by organizing my tasks, focusing on self-care and taking gym breaks here and there, I actually feel more energized and on top of things.

The importance is to give yourself time – who cares if others do well or have better grades or overcome sadness or a break up faster than you are – if you feel down and sad, take your time. Love yourself and focus your energy on fixing yourself and slowly start taking small steps and build yourself up, ticking off the tasks, one by one. Life can be overwhelming sometimes, no doubt, so I hope you will be feeling better soon 🙂

 

Thank you for reading 🙂 Check my last articles Danes dont really date (neither do most people now) and How I could afford traveling so much  🙂

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