Late winter in Chicago.
Is there a more desolation-inducing sentence than that? I don’t want to be overdramatic, but we are experiencing a record breakingly cold February. The piles of snow and ice on the sidewalks and roads have cemented into solid rock. We haven’t had significant fresh snow in a while, so there’s nothing to cover the dirt and dog pee that are turning the white drifts into black and yellow arctic boulders… yeah it’s pretty grim.
It seems like everyone I talk to has been dealing with the winter funk. You know, the lack of motivation and energy, the “I don’t give a shit” attitude that sets in when your body is chronically deprived of sunshine and warmth. Unfortunately the only way out of the winter funk is to power through and wait for spring!
The “blahs” vs the “blues”
I like to call this lack of energy the winter “blahs,” and the blahs aren’t necessarily related to or affected by your overall mood. They’re more of a mojo and lack of groove thing, not a sadness or depression. The winter blues relate to seasonal affective disorder and actual depression, and if you are legitimately depressed to the point that it’s affecting your relationships, job performance, and confidence then I encourage you to find someone (ideally a professionally trained someone) to talk to!
This is actually the first winter that I can remember NOT dealing with winter blues! I hit a wall this time last year and decided to start making positive changes in my life, and over the past year those changes have given me a new level of confidence, self-assurance, and fulfillment and my anxiety and mood swings have mostly evened out. However, I’ve DEFINITELY been dealing with the blahs this month! I’m not necessarily sad, but I’ve been struggling with energy and motivation big time.
As of last week, I felt myself slowly emerging from the blahs and I am almost afraid to say this (knock on wood) but I think I’ve regained my mojo! Here are some of the ways I’ve helped myself beat the winter funk.
1. Embrace the funk!
You can’t resist it, or you’ll only feel worse. You know, that “hate yourself because you hate yourself” downward spiral? Acknowledge your emotions and energy levels, and don’t try to force yourself to tackle ambitious projects or new habits that you don’t HAVE to do. They can wait for spring! Maintain your life/family/work responsibilities, but this isn’t the time to be an overachiever. That new workout program or passion project will wait for you. Have faith that your energy will return, and that the world will get lighter and warmer soon. In the meantime enjoy hibernation mode! After all, we’re mammals and we’re biologically designed to go into a period of rest and downtime in the winter. Don’t fight nature! Surrender, accept your energy levels, take a nap or have a dance party depending on what time of day it is, and just do what you can, even if it means letting people down to unplug and embrace your inner hermit tendencies.
This podcast episode from Being Boss on staying motivated and happy really helped me shift my mentality and surrender to the funk.
This podcast on motivation and energy on demand from The Chalene Show will make you feel amazing and drag you out of your lethargy in a positive and comfortable way if you need to function at a higher level.
2. Treat yourself right with the trifecta of wellness: rest + healthy food + exercise!
If your body is craving rest, then respect yourself and prioritize sleep. This is SO important! Set an “unplug” time every evening and honor it. Disengage from screens, social media, work, and slow your body and mind down with a hot shower or bath and some reading in bed before an early bedtime. Sleep as much as you can. We can’t always control the time of day we have to wake up, but we can decide when to go to bed, so if you’re struggling to wake up in the mornings or have an unhealthy relationship with the snooze button, take back control and add more hours of sleep on the other side!
Just because it’s hibernation time doesn’t mean we get a free pass to eat all the unhealthy comfort food we might be craving. It’s so important to do everything you can to boost and maintain your energy levels naturally. For me, this means Vitamin D, lots of water and herbal tea, and lots and lots of veggies and whole foods.
Challenge yourself to eat a giant salad everyday for lunch instead of a sandwich and chips. Salads don’t have to be cold...here are some great warm salad recipes. Prep a big batch of veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins at the beginning of the week and portion them into tupperwares so you can grab and go in the morning.
I also love to roast a huge batch of veggies and eat them for dinner or an afternoon snack. Chop a variety of dense veggies, root veggies are my fave (carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, squash, onions), drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and bake at 400* for 45 minutes, stirring a couple times.
You can find lots of healthy comfort food in my recipe archives!
It’s also extremely important to make sure that you’re moving your body at least a little bit every single day. I KNOW it’s hard to motivate yourself to change into workout clothes and hit the gym when it’s freezing, dark, and all you wanna do is curl up under a banket with a glass of wine and Netflix when you get home, trust me it sucks and I get it, but working out is SO FREAKING IMPORTANT. This is the only thing that I recommend forcing. Just do it. You don’t have to be ambitious or go to the gym, even a 10 minute circuit will get your heart rate up and the endorphins flowing!
Here are some of my favorite free at-home workout YouTube channels.
You can find more of my best fitness tips over here.
3. Show gratitude.
When you start to feel sorry for yourself, the easiest and fastest way to snap out of it is to remind yourself of all the blessings you have! Make a list of three specific and detailed things you’re grateful for every day. Get out of your own head and drag yourself out of that pity party.
4. Reach out to your tribe. Call a friend, talk to your grandma.
Remind yourself that you aren’t alone, and there is a world full of people who love you outside of your own little bubble. Catch up with your best friend or call your grandma and tell her you love her. Your grandma is a great resource for snapping you back to reality. Mine lived through the Great Depression, WWII, lost her husband and daughter, and single handedly raised three kids while running a farm in Iowa. She is one of my biggest inspirations and when I am feeling sorry for myself she reminds me what’s up and can snap me out of it like woah ;) I love you Grammy!
5. Do something creative.
Even if it’s hard to muster the motivation, I’ve discovered that if you do something passively creative just to keep your hands busy, your mind will calm down too and you’ll be able to relax into the funk and just enjoy your downtime. Bonus points for engaging your mind while you engage your hands.
My personal suggestions:
- Listen to fun or calming music + bake or cook something delicious
- Listen to a podcast + clean the apartment
- Watch Netflix + knit (I taught myself how to knit via YouTube!)
If you’re suffering from the late winter funk, try one or two of these suggestions and see if you feel a difference! Don’t try to implement them all at once, just add one new habit at a time to build a sustainable routine. After a few weeks I predict you’ll feel magically re-energized and back in your groove, just in time for spring! We'll get through this together.
Are you feeling the blah’s? Do you have any tips to add? Share them in the comments!
p.s. If you live anywhere where the average temperature is above freezing, please refrain from rubbing it in. Thanks :)