As fall progresses toward winter and long, chilly nights encroach upon daylight, I start to struggle.
I’m not sure why it happens.
But sure enough, every October, my normally happy, laid-back personality begins to unravel, giving way to frequent bouts of stress, fatigue, and inexplicable sadness.
Even simple surviving requires so much more effort than normal. So much more than I seem to have on some days. My mantras become “Make it to March” and “Survive ’til spring.”
I used to feel ashamed of this struggle. I felt like it was a sign of weakness — emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
I still do.
I used to think that was a bad thing.
But now I know better.
You see when days are warm and sunshine is bright and light extends long into the evening, it’s easy to be happy. Quite honestly, I start to get the ridiculous idea that I don’t need God. Oh no, I never consciously form that thought in my mind. But my habits confirm that it’s what I believe, whether I want to admit it or not.
The harshly cold and ominously dark winter season has a way of casting me back to my Savior. Back to a life that is consumed with Him. A life that is longing so much for light and warmth that I finally remember that there’s only One true source of Light, and quite honestly, I’ve been neglecting the warmth of His presence lately.
It’s days like this that remind me to relish my weaknesses. Because that’s when His strength is made perfect. Because you see, the Bible says that His strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
My weakness. And yours.
So for a Christ-follower who wants to know Him and to make Him known…well, that means even my struggles can show off the magnitude of His glory and might. I take comfort in knowing these cold and dark days serve a vital purpose: they remind me and all those close to me who watch me struggle and then survive and even thrive that my strength is not my own.
By God’s grace, I’m learning to manage this season of life by drawing close to the Light. But there are also a lot of practical things God is showing me – more things that remind me that my body is but dust, and life is fragile, and the health of my body and mind and spirit are gifts I’m supposed to be stewarding. If I don’t steward them well, they start to disintegrate.
Do you struggle with seasonal depression? If so, perhaps these suggestions will help you, as well.
Tips for Beating the Winter Blues
(This information is based on my personal experience, and is not intended to be professional or medical advice. Please consult a professional if you have symptoms of depression.)
1. Go to bed early. I don’t think I need to explain why getting proper rest is important. And for me, going to bed early is a vital prerequisite to #2.
2. Wake up early. There are days when I feel like I could literally stay in bed all day. But staying in bed all day is not a viable option for me…and I’m guessing it likely isn’t for you, either. Life is full and people are needy and responsibilities are beckoning and life just doesn’t want to slow down so I can hide away in my bed. But really, more importantly, that’s not the life I want. And I know it’s not the life God wants for me. It’s not the abundant life He died to secure for me (John 10:10). The truth is that my day goes much better when I wake up well before my children do. This allows me to get some vital prep work done that serves me and my family well the rest of the day.
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3. Spend time in God’s Word and prayer first thing in the morning. Because really, this is the one needful thing. And doing it first ensures that it gets done. Doing it first also helps set the tone for my day; it reinforces in my mind that I’m here for a divine purpose on this day...that the way I spend my time matters to God and has the potential to impact eternity for me and for those God brings across my path. I need this reminder in the mornings; otherwise I jump right into my day with my agenda and my to-do list.
4. Know the truth. The only way to know the truth is to know Jesus, for He is “the truth” (John 14:6). And by spending time in His Word, I learn important truths to cling to: “I am a child of the light and of the day” (I Thessalonians 5:5). “I am the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). “I am chosen by God and dearly loved” (Colossians 3:12). “The LORD is my light and my salvation” (Psalm 27:1). “His grace is enough for me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
5. Be aware of the lies. Once we know the truth, the lies become more obvious. Here are some that plague me: “This bowl of cookie dough will make me happy.” “No one likes me.” “I’m a failure.” “My bad mood is my husband’s (or my kids’) fault.” “My life would be better if I had more time to myself.” None of these statements is based in the truth of God’s Word; they should be rejected.
6. Remind yourself of truth often. We all need some truth in our back pockets. Truth like the statements in number 4, straight from the Word of God. When the lie calls, answer it with truth. Intentionally call it back to your memory; it’s been my experience that answering lies with truth weakens the lie’s allure in the moment, and decreases its power in the future.
7. Take a shower and get dressed. I know this seems basic. So basic I overlook its importance sometimes. As tempting as the idea of having homeschool in our pajamas might seem, the way we dress can play a large part in our attitude for the day. My day goes better when I dress for the day before my kids are even awake. I accomplish more in less time, because rather than being dressed for a lazy day, I’m dressed for a productive one.
8. Exercise. I don’t know all the science behind it, but I know that exercising boosts my spirits. Somehow, though I don’t like doing it, I’m always happier when I exert the self-discipline needed to exercise. I also sleep much more soundly when I’ve exercised. Not to mention all the other benefits to my health.
9. Drink plenty of water. This is another basic necessity that I neglect sometimes. But dehydration has a lot of pretty immediate effects. For me, it causes headaches, fatigue, joint pain, and digestive issues. When I’m experiencing the typical “midday slump,” drinking a glass of water almost always restores my energy.
10. Eat healthfully. My mood is much more stable when I say “no” to the lie that says I’ll be happy if I eat this treat or indulge in this fatty meal. Eating junk does seem to make me happy for a short period, but it’s not worth the crash that eventually comes after the initial high. Not to mention the shame over my gluttony. Eating with nourishment in mind bears physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits that far surpasses the fleeting pleasure of indulging my sweet tooth.
Believe it or not, I’m only halfway done! Click here for the rest of my 21 tips (plus FREE printable) for beating the winter blues.