For many years, Mama used to say that ‘gray days’ really brought her down. Como no? No sunshine, the house looked scary dark during the day, if there wasn’t anything good on TV or if no one called or visited, the days and the nights seemed to run into each other making things seem interminable — especially sad for Mama as she spent many of her days/nights at home instead of being out and about. I was always very impressed that Mama was able to work it on most days to combat negativity. There is no way that she could have survived so long with her physical challenges had she not found the motivation to get up and make things work for her life.
I used to think that this was just Mama’s imagination until, a few years ago, it started happening with me too. I always trip out on this especially as I’m usually very busy and, one would think that gray days wouldn’t affect me. It almost affects a busy person more because it is easy to say, ‘I’m just tired, burned-out, it’s been too many days without a day off’, but one can only disguise or stall the inevitable for so long…and when it hits, it is real and it has a name: Season affective order also known as SAD.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) starts every fall for some people and continues through the winter. The decreased light can disrupt the body’s natural clock. An upset circadian rhythm can leave one feeling depressed. Serotonin and melatonin levels may also decrease with the season. Both of these neurotransmitters affect mood. Their absence gives rise to or creates depression. SAD can cause irritability, tiredness or low energy as well as oversleeping. Sometimes people have trouble getting along with others or are more emotionally sensitive.
Mama, God love her, was an advocate for antidepressants and would try to ‘diagnose’ me to see if I was a candidate for antidepressants LOL. While none of us can diagnose ourselves (or each other) and it is always important to get checked out by a mental health professional; here are some tips to get you through a gray day. Please note: If the symptoms last longer than the gray day(s), you really should consider having a mental health check-up.
All I know is that yesterday was a heavy-duty gray day for me. Thankfully, I did not need to take any medication and, no it was not PMS. However, it actually physically hurt to get myself going and I was one step from tears the entire day. I took these pictures as I was sitting in the Jeep trying to will myself out of the car and out into the world. I consider it a personal triumph when I am able to fight off negativity and take steps, albeit small steps, toward positivity. The picture above was taken before I took action if you will…
Here are some tips to get you through a gray day by Dr. Christina Hibbert:
- Remind yourself that depressive emotions are a state, not a trait (just like the weather).The definition of emotion is “a state of feeling”. This is hopeful news, for it reminds us that: 1) our emotions are temporary, 2) they can be changed, and 3) that the emotions we feel do not equal who we are. In fact, since emotion is so easily influenced by temporary states like fatigue, stress, and hormone shifts, many of the depressive feelings don’t really mean what they appear to mean. Thoughts can cause feelings too. So start by changing your thoughts to remind yourself, “My emotions are not me.“
- Accept how you feel. Accepting “what is” is a simple yet powerful tool. If you’re feeling fearful, accept the fear. If you’re feeling hurt, accept the hurt. If you’re feeling depressed, accept the depression. Label it, call it what it is, and do whatever you can to stop pretending it isn’t there. This helps identify what’s really happening and externalizes it from who you are. Remember that “accepting “ how you feel does not mean you “agree” with or “like” it. Just let go of the fight for what isn’t by accepting what is.
- Feel the emotions that come. Sometimes fighting depressive feelings or trying to “not feel depressed” is what’s making things worse. Instead, let yourself take the time to feel what is really there. When you’re able to sit with a powerful emotion and really feel it, you’re then working on releasing its power over you. Sit still, focus on the emotion, and let it fill your body. Breathe deeply as you allow the emotion to rise and speak. Notice that you are not the emotion but rather, you’re behind the emotion, observing it. It can help to do this with a trusted friend or partner who can sit and feel it with you. You can also put a time limit on feeling the emotion if it’s very powerful. Even in small doses, the process of experiencing the emotion can help it begin to let go.
- Focus on the present moment—right here, right now. We are often caught up in the future or the past and this leads to greater suffering. In the present moment, you will usually find that you’re OK. Practice noticing the present and all the good it holds. Use all 5 senses to take in the sights, tastes, smells, sensations, and sounds around you. Focus on nature or your family to remind you of what matters most to you. If you find yourself drifting back to depressive emotions, take a deep breath and use your 5 senses again. After all, life is only lived and loved in the present–you don’t want to let the rain make you miss it!
- Get your body moving. Physical activity is one of the best ways to feelings of depression. Cardiovascular exercise, like walking or running, is particularly good for overcoming fatigue, low energy, and stress, while weight lifting is great for anxiety, tension and self-disparagement. Getting your body moving not only improves your body, it distracts you from the emotions and also generates positive chemicals called endorphins that can make you feel much sunnier. The next time the “rain” sets in, get out for a walk or bike ride, try kickboxing, go hit some golf balls, or hit the weights at the gym. Your body will benefit, and so will your mood! I took the picture above once I got my sad butt out of the car and into the gym. I laugh now as I remember the words I said to myself, “I’m going in and will do 30 minutes and that is IT” LOL I ended up doing 35 minutes on the treadmill (hey algo es algo), in front of the window and spent the time looking out at the rain and could see that it was cleansing all in its path, including my gray mood. I left the gym feeling much better about life and proceeded with my day. You’ll note that this second picture even looked a little brighter and less menacing.
I also like to think that Mama was working it to get her girl back in the business of getting her ish together and showing up for life! Thank you, Margaret, for your help!