5 Tips for Surviving the Winter Blues:
I grew up in Montana, but after 10 years in the temperate rainforest of the PNW the winters here seem more harsh than ever. Here are my top 5 tips for surviving the Montana winter without going a little insane.
1. Get outside. I know, I know. If you're like me, a softie who doesn't love the frigid cold weather you might be wondering why I'm suggesting to get outside in the middle of it. Simple. Cabin fever has a negative impact on mental health. Bundle up in all the layers you can, get your hat, gloves, face warmer, hot packs, whatever you need to stay warm outside and get out there. Whether its getting out on the skis, taking your dogs to the park for a romp, taking the kids to Virginia City for sledding or ice skating, or just taking a walk around your neighborhood, being outside will get you some much needed vitamin D, fresh air, and a little bit of exercise. Both vitamin D and exercise have been proven to improve mood, so the more you can get in these gnarly winter months, the better.
2. Be with people. Humans are neurobiologically wired for connection. The more we can interact with other humans in positive ways the more fulfilling our lives become. In the middle of winter, when we're all hunkering down in our dens like a bunch of cave bears, we lose a great deal of human connection. Call your friends, talk to a professional, set up play dates for the kids, head to the Madison Valley Public Library and chat with the friendly librarians. Anything that you can do to engage in healthy (key word here) interpersonal relationships the better you'll feel. Healthy positive relationships improve the quality of our lives, so when you're in hibernation mode just remember to reach out to your old friends and make an effort to connect, especially in the winter. It takes more effort but it's totally worth it.
3. Stay warm. Build a fire, get a couple warm fleecy blankets for your couch, invest in a little space heater. Anything to stay warm in these frigid winter months can help you feel more relaxed and regulated. A hot epsom salt bath or heading to Norris Hot Springs are also great ways to stay warm and relax those tight muscles. Cuddle up on the couch with a hot cup of tea and watch a movie. Give yourself permission to embrace the natural rhythms of the seasons and slow down. Doing nothing is actually doing something when you see it in the context of self care and nurturing yourself and your cave bear tendencies during the winter. Just be careful not to overindulge in the hibernation factor and try to find a healthy balance between our tendency towards introversion with a little outdoor activity to ward off cabin fever.
4. Take your vitamins! Vitamin D and Vitamin B supplements are known to boost mood and energy. A full-spectrum lightbulb or a "happy light" can help a ton with warding of the SADs. Getting outside in the sunshine can also help, but we should all be taking some kind of Vitamin D supplement, especially in the winter. If you're curious about your levels, head over to the Madison Valley Medical Center and get your levels checked. They're happy to help you determine if your levels are low and troubleshoot your vitamin/supplement regimen.
5. Exercise. Getting into some kind of regular workout routine, even if its just a walk around the block or some YouTube yoga at home. The Madison Valley has some amazing new workout facilities this year! In addition to River Studio yoga and the Madison Square Athletic Club we also have the Stonefly Crossfit gym, Body Dynamics Pilates, and Ennis Pure Fitness! The Ask Ennis Montana Facebook group is a great way to get recommendations for the different workout options in town and to connect with other locals with similar interests. Maybe you'll even get a workout buddy out of the deal.
Definitely check in with yourself and your comfort levels (and possibly your doctor) before engaging in a high level of activity. Remember. We are human beings not human doers. Winter self-care is about honoring yourself and balancing the need for activity with the need for rest. That balance isn't always an easy one to strike so make sure that you're engaging in some self-reflection, honor where you are, and push yourself slightly outside of your comfort zone. Hopefully you'll find a balance for yourself that will help you to get through these long winter months with joy and ease.
Be well and stay warm.
Check out this guest Blog post that I wrote for ABC Doula on Babywearing!
I've been thinking a lot about goats lately. Maybe it's this Portland goat-obsessed hipster culture, maybe its my ranch girl upbringing, or maybe it's because I know how therapeutic animals can be in my own process. Regardless, I've decided to integrate Nigerian Dwarf Goats into my counseling practice. I've always wanted to start a "therapy farm" and I am realizing I don't need an actual farm to provide therapeutic services with goats.
Ever since I was a kid in Montana I've wanted a farm with all kinds of animals and a huge garden. After I became a school counselor I thought about how amazing it would be to provide a space for kids to come and learn about sustainability, self-reliance, and a connection to nature as part of their growth into caring, compassionate, eco-conscious adults. As a school counselor I was primarily interested in prevention and spent a lot of time discovering new ways to help kids learn how to be awesome citizens in an ever-changing world with an increasing amount of technology. Part of that, I believe, is helping kids to connect with nature, and with others. The more I think about it the clearer it becomes: everyone can benefit from an increased connection with nature and with others.
As a therapist who now works with adolescents AND adults I want to help my clients feel more connected in healthy ways. That's a goal for nearly everyone who walks through my door. By integrating goats into the process I hope to help people learn more about themselves, the ways in which they're interacting with others, and meaningful ways to increase and improve connections with family, friends, community, animals, and with the earth.
As I begin this journey into Goat Therapy I will continue to keep you posted on my progress. The plan is to bring home a brother/sister pair sometime in January or February of 2018. I will be offering Goat Therapy sessions at my home studio in the West Hills of Portland starting in the spring of 2018. Keep checking back and I'll keep you updated on the progress!