Dealing with the Blues

I am grateful to be living in an area where I no longer experience winter. However, the post holiday season can be a difficult time for many of us. We spend so much time preparing for Christmas, Hanukkah or special days as well as the New Year and suddenly, it’s all over. If you live in the northern hemisphere, you suddenly notice that daylight is short and there are three to four more months of winter to deal with. The January Blues are very real for many people. Seasonal Affective Disorder may also play a part in our sense of depression.

I have dealt with depression for far too many years. Sometimes I have been able to manage on my own, or with the help of a friend. At other times I’ve taken natural medications such as St. John´s Wort. For about five years I took prescription antidepressants. Clinical depression is very real and most of us experience it at some point in our lives. Some of us are able to come out of it without taking anything and others need varying degrees of assistance to deal with the depression. Everyone is different and so it is important not to compare with others but to treat it properly.

Since I have been in recovery dealing with depression has become easier. After a few years in my program and, with my doctor’s advice, I was able to slowly wean myself off of the medications for depression. However, that doesn’t mean that I am ‘cured’. I still have to be conscious about how I am feeling.

So what do I do when I feel myself spiraling down? There are a number of things that help me. I get my butt to a meeting. When I am down, I don’t want to see anyone. And that’s probably the worst thing for me. I need to get out of my head. Going to a meeting helps me to get out of myself and engage with others. A meeting also reminds me that I am not alone in all of this. I do have a lot of support. After the meeting I can talk to my sponsor.

Exercise also works. It doesn’t have to be a three hour marathon at the gym. A walk to the store instead of driving, or taking the dogs for a extra walk. Getting the body moving releases endorphins which help to regulate our mood. There’s a very steep path near my home up to the top of a mountain that doesn’t take more than ten minutes to climb, but it leads to a great view, it’s good exercise and my dogs love the run.

As much as I griped about it when I was first in recovery, I now often write a Gratitude List. There are always at least three things that I can be grateful for. Again, writing this list takes my focus away from those things that I find depressing. How can I be depressed when I have been given so much?

Clinical depression is very serious. If none of these suggestions help to alleviate your depression, seek professional help as soon as possible. There may be a chemical imbalance in your body and like I did, you may need to take a medication to help correct the imbalance.  It may be that you need to talk to someone who is a professional and has more experience than your sponsor or your friends in the meeting rooms. In the same way that if you had a bad head ache lasting a week without seeing your doctor, don’t let depression go untreated when it lasts a week.

We all have down days. It’s normal. But remember that the better days are on the way. We don’t have to remain down. It’s not the end of the world. I’ve often shared that even in Recovery, I still have ups and downs in my moods and how I feel, but the extremes of feeling really good or really sad now seem to be gone and for that,  I am grateful.

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My Gift to Me

For many years in the past, when I have heard people saying that they bought somethings for themselves for Christmas that that was the height of Ego Arrogance.  I just didn’t see the point of giving yourself something. I buy what I need when I need it and it’s not necessary to have a special day to buy something for myself.

In truth though, I am learning that it is important to mark occasions such as one’s birthday and Christmas with a special gift. If I am giving gifts to others at those times, why not give myself something out of the ordinary? I am not talking about something that you would have bought anyway. Put at least as much thought into what you are getting yourself as you put into what you wish to buy for your best friend or spouse.

Why? Why should you gift yourself with something? Because you, better than anyone else know if you’ve been naughty or nice. You have put a great deal of effort into the past year and you deserve a treat that is out of the ordinary. We have been told it is better to give than receive, but I believe that we have to receive in order to give if there is to be a flow of positive energy. We live in a universe of abundance, so splurge a little and get yourself something that you deserve.

It’s a false sense of humility that says you don’t deserve a present. There’s no need to feel guilty about it. You know how hard you have worked the past year or so. You do deserve it. Nor should you thing that if you get yourself something, that it shouldn’t be anything too expensive. If it’s a gift for anyone, it has to mean something, cost is beside the point here; it should mean something for you whether it costs nothing or a thousand dollars.

Your gift to you doesn’t have to be a thing.  What about getting yourself a day at a spa, or a massage. Go for a day or two to a place that’s special to you. Have a meal out at a restaurant that you normally wouldn’t dine at. Buy yourself flowers or a plant that will give you months of pleasure every time you see it because it is a constant reminder that you are worthy. Yes, you do deserve it.

What does giving yourself a gift do for you? Gifting something to yourself is a tangible sign that you really do matter in this world that increasingly treats people like a robotic commodity. Self giving increases your self-esteem. It confirms that the universe is a place of plenty. And when you then give to others you give from a place of understanding and joy; your generosity and gratitude will bloom from this.

You need not shout it from the rooftops what you have given to yourself. If anyone asks you can say it’s from a Secret Santa or a close friend. Nothing more needs to be said if you don’t want to.

So enjoy your gift to yourself.  No, it’s not a guilty little pleasure, it’s a well deserved present from someone who appreciates how far you’ve come along in your journey.

Merry Christmas and Season Greetings to All.

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A Break in Routine

For many of us, the holiday season is a very trying and tempting time. It’s a time when we get together with a lot of others: family, friends, perhaps strangers. There are a lot of parties to go to and things that one simply ‘must’ do. It can all be very overwhelming.

A lot of the stress comes from the extra people around. We are creatures of habit and we like things to remain the same, but with others around, our flow is interrupted. It causes us to think and react differently than if we didn’t have all of those people around us. In situations out of our routine, it is easy to fall back on only patterns and habits. This is especially true of family. We have years of practice at pushing each others’ buttons.

We can survive the stress of this time of year by concentrating on the things that we can control. As much as is possible, stick to your regular routine. There is nothing wrong with scheduling your day to include time for yourself and your sanity. Keep going to as many meetings as you usually go to, or more if possible. This will keep you fresh and on point in your program of recovery. You need not justify your attendance. It’s what you need. If they don’t understand, it’s not up to you to explain.

Keep up your practice of meditation. Having others around the house may cramp your style. Perhaps someone is sleeping in the room where you usually meditate. Maybe there is more noise in the house than you are used to.  Take the dog for a walk, go to the corner store for something, and when you’re out of the house, take time to be quiet and get in contact with your Higher Power for a moment or two. Get up earlier if you don’t see that you have any other time. It matters not how or where you do it, but do it.

So many parties are concentrated around this time of year and it’s expected that we attend. I’ve discovered that a call ahead, asking the host if there’s something we can do to help them set up is very appreciated. Remember they could are also stressed. The ‘arrive early and leave early’ recommendation is very good advice: there are often a lot of temptations at seasonal parties. You don’t have anything to prove to anyone. You don’t need to put yourself to the test. No one has ever blamed me for leaving early and once I am gone, I know that no one will miss me either. And more often than not, I am told the next day that I was very wise to leave when I did.

Keep that routine in your life as much as possible. Keep your balance. If you have to, break the time down into increments. Give your sponsor or other program members a call. They are probably going through similar situations and could use the distraction as well. You will get through this stressful situation. Know that this situation is temporary. If this is your first time going through this in recovery, know that you will get through it and you are not alone. We all have to make our own unique plans for keeping it all together during a change in routine. Soon January will be here, the decorations will come down and your routine will get back to normal.

Happy Holidays!

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