T.S. Eliot says that April is the cruelest month and that winter ‘keeps us warm’ with its ability to numb us into forgetfulness. However, most people find that the combination of lingering cold, short days, icy roads, and lack of sunshine can make them feel alone and depressed. Here are some tips for living with those difficult feelings and reconnecting with yourself.
1. Allow yourself to feel it.
When we resist our emotions, we don’t actually avoid feeling them. Rather, we give those emotions huge amounts of power and we often engage in activities that are destructive to our well-being.
Allow yourself to lean into whatever you’re feeling and ask what the hurt or afraid parts of you might need. Sometimes you might need to connect with someone and share your story with him. Sometimes you might need an evening of journaling and reading. Sometimes you might need to binge-watch Arrested Development or Battlestar Galactica in order to relate to the characters and take a break from your thoughts.
Remember that every sad and afraid emotion is just a wounded part of you that’s asking for your attention. Give yourself that attention.
2. Do something physical
Nothing gets us out of our heads like being in our bodies, as they say. Go for a run or hike, take a yoga class, or take up climbing. Exercise releases endorphins and often gets you out into the world. Reconnect with nature, if you can. Remember that you are a part of the earth and are made up of the same stuff as the snow, trees and birds.
3. Recognize the transience of all things
Winter, just like sadness, will come and go. This moment will pass, so cherish it–even if it is painful–while it’s here. The loneliest times in life often lead to the most growth and to the most connection down the road.
4. Reach out to someone
Recognizing the vulnerability of others and doing something to help others can allow us to feel reconnected and less separate. You don’t have to do something huge in order to feel like you’ve made a difference. Write a letter to a friend or relative you haven’t spoken to lately. Text a coworker and ask about her day. Volunteer at a soup kitchen for an hour. Take the people lingering around the gas station out to a round of donuts.
5. Play and laugh
Do something that lets you being silly. Take an improv class. Play dress-up with a child (or adult child) in your life. We tend to underestimate the importance of laughing and playing.
6. Think about what you’re grateful for
Making a mental or physical list of the things that you have can be helpful when you’re stuck in a loop of thinking about what you lack. As Ernest Holmes said, “where the mind goes, energy flows.” Help your mind out by focusing on the things you love about the people in your life, about you, and about what’s important to you.
7. Be Gentle
Be kind and gentle with yourself, and recognize that feeling sadness and fear are parts of what makes you human and connects you to others. Even if you do nothing on this list, it’s ok. You are human, and that means that you’re learning and changing.
A wise friend once asked me, “How gentle can you be with yourself today?” Make everyday a practice in making room for your emotions and being as gentle with them as you would be with one of Eliot’s lilac’s breeding ‘out of the dead land.’
Emma Kobil is a licensed professional counselor practicing in Denver, Colorado. Her philosophically informed therapeutic approach is designed to foster a sense of strength, understanding, and joy. Her expertise focuses on adults, adolescents and teens suffering from depression, anxiety, self-esteem and identity issues, and post-traumatic stress symptoms. Learn more about Emma, or schedule an appointment, at mindfulcounselingdenver.com.