Muddling Through

“Fork tree sky” by David DeHetre

Whew, this March was a hard month. It did indeed come in like a lion; I am still waiting for it to go out like a lamb. As I write, I’m sitting on my couch, notebook in hand, coffee at my side—and the view from every window is the same: dark heavy branches weighed down with snow.

 

In town, spring seems possible, maybe even imminent. At my house, everything is a grim, ugly muddy-gray white. It could easily still be January.

 

I know in a couple weeks, the sun will have touched even my ends-of-the-earth yard enough to reveal sodden yellow ground, but it can’t happen soon enough. I have to-do lists and lots of plans that I carefully and enthusiastically made in January—yet no energy to carry them out. I wake up tired, creep through my day feeling wiped out, and fall into bed exhausted.
 
I also know I’m not the only northerner who struggles with blues and/or low energy this time of year. The fact doesn’t make it any easier, however. What does? Well, thankfully a few things . . .
 
1) Spending time with my kids and little grandson. No matter how blah I’m feeling, seeing them (and him) makes me smile and energizes me almost immediately.
 
2) Spending time with friends, at my house, up town, at their houses . . .
 
(Yes, there is a theme here: getting out to see people, even when I don’t feel like it initially, or maybe especially if I don’t feel like it, is helpful and good.)
 
3) Forcing myself to go outside. Apparently even dull overcast days provide enough UV rays to elevate one’s mood. (I’m taking the experts’ word on this—and feeling a bit snarky and skeptical about it, I must confess.)
 
4) Doing things I find fun (sadly, there’s still an element of having to force myself—but once I do I don’t regret it)—and there’s an extra boost if those “fun” things are active. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the days I went bowling or played darts with my family, tramped around the snowy beaches and trails at Lakelse Lake, or climbed down the rocks to watch the birds feasting on oolichans towards Prince Rupert were higher energy, “better mood” days for me.
 
5) Not berating myself for being “lazy.” I can be really hard on myself (like most of us, I suspect), but battering myself with mean self-talk doesn’t help me or “shake me out of it.” It just makes me feel worse. Instead, I’ve sort of come to embrace my inner sloth and try to find humor in it. For example, the season some people call winter, I’ve relabeled Netflix—and I don’t apologize for reveling in TV for a couple months a year. I won’t watch very much in the spring and summer. Unless I do. So there.
 
I’ve found it helpful to try to treat myself the way I would treat a friend (so supportive, kind and encouraging, not belittling).
 
6) Journaling. I’ve talked about the benefits of this before. Sometimes it’s nice to figure out what’s going on in your head—or, on days when that seems like an awful idea, I don’t even bother to attempt it. Instead, I record the day’s events, make up a story, or jot down random thoughts. 
 
(If journaling sounds good to you, but you don’t know where to start, search “Journaling prompts” online. You’ll find a wealth of good sites. Print a list of prompts, cut them into separate ideas, and put them in a jar. Then once a week, every couple of days, or even, if you’re a super keener, daily, pick out a prompt and write. I find setting a time or page limit helpful; I resist the process less if I know when it will be over, hahahaahahahahaha.)
 
7) Reminding myself that this too shall pass. I’ve survived other long, bleak Netflixes before. Spring always comes eventually. In fact, I suspect by the time my next column rolls around, you and I will have forgotten we were ever feeling muddled by March—or let’s live in that hope anyway!
 
p.s. I’ve been sort of jokey about my S.A.D. tendencies, but “blues” are the furthest thing from funny when they hit hard. If life keeps seeming darker even when the days are naturally brighter and/or you can’t “force” yourself to do the things I’ve suggested above, please reach out to your doctor or someone else you trust.
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“Muddling Through” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, March 29, 2016 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”