Fall and winter bring cooler, darker nights and mornings. Along with the temperature and light change, we are about to change the clocks again and cooler temps will arrive. Consider the physical, emotional, and relational ways you may be affected by this transition. This in addition to living during pandemic times.
The impact of light and temperature on the human body is profound. We all need some level of light and warmth for our bodies to survive and thrive. Autumn, for some parts of the world, marks a change in both light and warmth as we approach colder and darker days.
Many people struggle with seasonal affective mood issues, commonly referred to as seasonal affective disorder (SAD)—a depression related to the change in seasons. For most, this begins in fall and continues through the winter months. It’s marked by moodiness, low energy, difficulty sleeping, a lack of interest in activities and relationships, feeling hopeless, and an overall sense of depression. Known more casually as “the winter blues,” SAD can have a significant impact on your mood and relationships. If you are more irritable, withdrawn, or moody during the winter months, the time to plan and prepare is now.
Why do we get down in the winter? Less sunlight affects your circadian rhythm, the body’s internal clock that governs certain brain wave activity and hormone production. This shift can change mood-related chemicals in a way that can cause depression.
Here are a few tips to protect your mental health during the shorter days of fall and winter.
1. Get outdoors & absorb real sunlight
If you can manage to sneak away for even 10 or 15 minutes at lunchtime to get outside and soak in as many rays as possible, you’ll get a decent-enough sunshine fix. Or put on your coat and gloves and brave the cold during the weekend for a nice long walk at noon. I run all year round, even if I have to wear several layers! Getting outdoors in fresh air can feel good, even if only for short spurts.
2. Take a Vitamin D Supplement
Consider taking a vitamin D supplement during the winter months. Many diseases are correlated with low vitamin D levels, especially depression. Even if you’re not feeling low, I would have your levels checked, which your primary care physician can do. Your doctor can help you determine the best amount of vitamin D to take, if you need it.
3. Get some exercise
Although we've known for decades that exercise can decrease depression symptoms, exercise can increase the levels of the neurotransmitters glutamate and GABA, both of which are depleted in the brains of people with depression and anxiety. If there were a drug that could do for human health everything that exercise can, it would likely be the most valuable pharmaceutical ever developed.
4. Consider using a light box
Light boxes are the typical light system used for SAD in clinical studies. They're flat screens that produce full-spectrum fluorescent light, usually at an intensity of 10,000 lux(lux is the measure of visible light). It’s important to position a light box according to the manufacturer’s instructions and use it at the same time each day, typically for 30 to 60 minutes. Most people get the best results when they use a light box before 10 a.m.
5. Connect with friends and loved ones
Winter can be a time of hibernation for many, especially with the cold and darkness. While rest and slowing down is important, be aware if you are feeling lonely and isolated which can lead to depression. Snuggling under the blankets with a cup of cocoa/tea/coffee is wonderful, so can connecting with your favorite people and having some laughs. Virtual counts too!
6. Engage in a few of your favorite hobbies or discover new ones
Most of my hobbies are outdoor adventure types, and luckily I live in a climate that I can get outdoors all year round. However, I am indoors more of the time in the winter to warm up. I may do yoga, read books, spend time in warm coffee shops or write a little more. Sometimes I will take my dog to Lowe’s Home Improvement(it’s pet friendly) to walk around and do training when’s it’s freezing or raining!
7. Listen to music
In a 2016 study, researchers showed that listening to upbeat or cheery music significantly improved participant’s mood in both the short and long term. I must agree that music can be mood lifting, and so can dancing in the kitchen!
8. Essential Oils
I love the smell of good quality essential oils! Oils with citrus and orange can be uplifting when mood is feeling low and you need more energy. Our olfactory system is very powerful, I dab a few drops on my wrists and chest or use a diffuser.
9. Allow space for rest
Fatigue is something I commonly hear of frequently and it may be more than other winters due to navigating life in the pandemic. Allow yourself the extra rest you need during this time. Trees and nature are so good at demonstrating this for us- resting in the winter and blooming in the spring.
With all this said, if you are struggling, reach out for support from a qualified, licensed therapist or see your doctor. Being able to to catch it in the beginning can be helpful with getting back on track to feeling like yourself again.
There is a lot going on the world today and the volume has been turned way up on our internal experiences. Tensions are higher for many, however we can use this amplification to make actual change in our internal state and our neurological response to our environment and external stimuli.
Regulating your emotions means working with whatever emotions you might be feeling in order to get back into an unbothered state where you can do your best work. The more emotionally stable we are, the better equipped we are to remain cool, calm, and collected when challenges arise.
In practice, this usually means dialing back emotions like anger and fear and enhancing the experience of positive ones. But emotional regulation is not about putting on a fake happy face while you suppress any negative feelings. Instead, it’s about acknowledging what’s happening for you emotionally and working with those feelings, so that you are free to choose your response to a situation, without the emotions controlling you.
Here are a few signs that your nervous system may not be regulated:
*You wake up in the morning and your mind is running with thoughts. You feel overwhelmed by tasks that seem really simple.
*You experience panic attacks, anxiety, or depression.
*You feel defensive when people try to give you feedback.
*You struggle to fall asleep.
*You struggle to keep a consistent sleeping schedule.
*You are easily pulled into arguments on social media.
*You have a hard time remembering things.
*You struggle to follow through with what you say you want to do.
*You get righteous about things easily.
*You struggle with setting healthy boundaries.
*You are easily impacted by the way other people show up (both positively, and negatively).
The benefits of self-regulation are numerous. In general, people who are adept at self-regulating tend to possess the following abilities:
Here are a few things that you can do to regulate your nervous system:
1) Self-soothing, in any form, can reduce the toxic effects of anger, sadness, and agony that negative experiences bring and is supportive of managing thoughts and emotions.
We can practice several variations of self-soothing exercises, including:
2) Be aware of your triggers. We can’t run from everything that bothers us, but we can increase our awareness of situations that trigger unwanted emotions. Minimize exposure to things that bother you (although little discomfort is good for growth!).
3) Don’t suppress your emotions. Research shows that in the long run, suppressing negative emotions doesn’t work nearly as well as transforming them by acknowledging and expressing them.
4) Shift your focus. The little things we think about add up into our moods so be mindful of the little things that catch your attention. When you find yourself hung up small stuff that gets you down -shift your focus to a positive memory, or anything that gives you a more neutral or positive feeling.
5) Cognitive reframing. This strategy involves changing your thought patterns. Specifically, cognitive reappraisal involves reinterpreting a situation in order to change your emotional response to it. For example, imagine a friend did not return your calls or texts for several days. Rather than thinking that this reflected something about yourself, such as "my friend hates me," you might instead think, "my friend must be really busy." Research has shown that using cognitive reappraisal in everyday life is related to experiencing more positive emotions.
If you have any questions or if I can be of service, reach out!
“Laughter is true alignment” — Abraham Hicks.
The world is feeling much uncertainty at the current moment with the current pandemic as well as the upcoming election. There are many things we can do to ground ourselves such as meditation, mindfulness, exercise, writing, and spending time in nature. However laughter is another tool. Sometimes when we are feeling stressed or uncertain, we aren’t tapped into joy and emotions feel really heavy. Laughter is a powerful antidote in shifting energy.
There are times I can feel my energy or vibe being low. Maybe I am in my thoughts, feeling stressed and have a busy mind. Then for whatever reason I find something funny and laugh, next thing I know, my mood feels lifted. Laughter can be a powerful antidote. Around twenty minutes of belly laughter with friends or a funny movie can completely shift my state from feeling low vibe and stressed to feeling relaxed and feeling tapped into joy.
It turns out the saying, “laughter is the best medicine”, is backed up by a raft of scientific studies. I discovered in my research that heart disease, kidney failure, arthritis, Parkinson’s Disease, anxiety, depression and even insomnia have been shown to either be cured or reduced with the aid of laughter. I also uncovered further positive effects of laughter on social relationships, memory and learning.
Most compelling of all, laughter has been shown to increase life span. Korean researchers concluded in a 2005 study that optimists, and those who laughed more, were less likely to suffer from strokes and therefore outlived those who didn’t laugh as much. The results were echoed in two Norwegian studies: laughter and having a sense of humor proved to help people live longer by 31% and increased the chance of people with end-stage renal failure of living into retirement by 35%.
Laughter doesn’t just help us live healthier longer lives it can also be a spiritual practice. Laughter has been shown to produce the same gamma wave brain activity produced by experienced meditators, Himalayan monks.
One of the world’s most well-known meditators, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, knows just how powerful laughter is. Not only is he known for creating a sense of fun and joy during his official events, he even calls himself a professional laugher.
I consider laughter and humor, an essential part of healthy living. I laugh every single day as a spiritual practice. I laugh as my dog does something really cute, I laugh as I listen to funny podcasts and I watch mainly comedy shows, or content that is uplifting or neutral in emotion; such as shows about the natural environment, creativity, cooking or human interest. I have found that there is comedy and joy in almost every life situation if one takes the time to look for it. I also bring a sense of lightness and humor into my sessions with the amazing people I work with.
Bring on the giggles, guffaws and deep belly laughs. Find laughter in each day and notice the difference in your vibe and the ability to experience joy! Where can you create opportunities for laughter and joy in your life?
Photo Cred: Amelia Winchester Photography in beautiful Spain!
Have you noticed noticed any feelings burnout or extra fatigue lately? This can include, but not limited to: feeling overwhelmed, fatigue, anxiety, sluggishness, lack of motivation or just not feeling joy. You are not alone if you are feeling this way. I noticed my own need of more rest lately.
Whatever that may be important in your life, it requires energy. Whether it may be your family, growing your business, recovery from a past event, navigating the pandemic. They also require you to have regular self- care.
Implementing self-care into your life each day is essential. When we prioritize our wellness and well-being, we are more likely to feel energized, feel creative, and connect with our purpose. We can show up for what matters most from a more rested place.
With that said, this is not a reason to stop showing up in your life.
This is a nudge to continue to show up for the things that are important to you AND take care of your emotional wellness. You can continue to work towards your goals and take care of your emotional wellness.
So, where can you start?
A few of my own favorite practices that I do regularly: get outdoors in nature every day, take my dog, Ellie, for walks and hikes, and my yoga and meditation practice. Eating really good, healthy food and staying hydrated. Lately I have been able to visit the farmers market for fresh produce. So good! I am taking time to slow down and breathe more. Also, connecting with the important people in my life for good soul conversations and belly laughs! Oh and naps too!
Please reach out if you need additional support!
Is everything going to be okay? Many have asked this question to themselves during challenging times in their lives. To say everything will be okay, is meant to provide reassurance and hope. But those words can sometimes ring empty.
That’s because when you say everything is going to be okay, the hope is that everything is going to be resolved and there won't any major heartache or disruption.
Even if today’s problem resolves itself simply and easily, there will be other challenges tomorrow or the next day. Jobs are lost. Relationships fail. Illness happens. Loved ones pass. Sooner or later, every one of us will have moments of pain.
But that doesn’t mean you have to tiptoe through life, breath held, shoulders tense, wondering when it will be your turn for things to not be okay. It doesn’t mean you have to live in despair.
When you hit those inevitable moments of not okay, it means one thing: you are alive, you are brave and you are human.
In being vulnerable, you discover your own strength. In facing down your worst fears, you find your own power. In standing up to external opposition, you learn to silence the internal opposition that says you can't and you are not enough. You become the best version of yourself one choice at a time. You make mistakes. Things don’t work out. And you show up and keep trying anyway.
It’s that kind of everyday courage that changes lives. That matters. And it doesn’t come from everything outside you working out smoothly. It comes from claiming your own power right in the middle of the complicated, imperfect present.
You don't have to feel courageous to be brave and you don’t have to feel strong to have grit. Some of your most valiant decisions will come in the shadows and in the quiet moments.
You don’t have to be cocky to claim your power—in fact, it makes it harder. Remind yourself that regardless of what happens outside of you, you can still choose your response. You can create meaning and purpose and joy even when things don’t work out. That’s your superpower. You can build up truth, positivity, and hope inside yourself.
Being present means being brave enough to show up fully, even though it scares you to let people see that you are less than perfect.
Feeling like a victim (even when unfair things are happening), on the other hand, siphons away your power. If you tell yourself that you can only be okay when other people treat you well, or when circumstances unfold in an ideal way, you cut your own determination, strength, and resourcefulness out of the equation.
And those are exactly the qualities that can make things okay—not at some future, magical time, but right now, on this messy, beautiful, ordinary, irreplaceable day. When you’re feeling scared, the real reassurance isn’t that you will dodge every problem, and the real hope isn’t that you will never struggle.
Comfort comes from getting honest with yourself: You will make mistakes. Other people will make mistakes. Things will sometimes just go wrong. And all of that is okay. It's okay because you are brave enough to make your way through imperfect circumstances.
It’s okay because setbacks don’t define you or your future. And It’s okay because there is room in your great big heart for sadness and joy, discouragement and faith. You are strong enough to sit with pain, learn from it, and let it go.
Know that on the days when challenges loom large as well as the days when things work out, on the days when you feel scared and inadequate as well as the days when confidence comes easily, you are enough. Keep going. You have a beautiful life to live.
As I write this blog post we are about 4 weeks into sheltering at home and school closings. Updates are happening on a regular basis and new information, so much has shifted in our lives in just 3-4 weeks In addition, there is some uncertainty that many of us are thinking about.
There can be many ups and downs with how we are feeling.
One hour, I’m so incredibly grateful to be working and to be safe and healthy, as well as glad that friends and family are ok. Then an hour later I can feel sad for people who have lost family members, empathize with educators who have made massive shifts on the drop of a dime, and think about the state of the economy and the health of the men and women who work in essential services.
The next hour, I’m feel excited that the earth is healing and this is an opportunity for rest, reflection and making shifts that are important. I and enjoying the slower pace of the world and love working from home as well as being with my dog.
Then the next, I would love to go hang out with friends and have a delicious meal or go to the coffee shop for a few minutes, run with friends or go to the mountains. I am excited and looking forward to connecting with people in person one day and have hope we will get to the other side of this.
We Can Hold Fear and Hope—At the Same Time
Those of us who have more sensitive souls can experience feelings of fear, stress, sadness, and worry—while at the same time catching glimmers of hope and happiness right where we are. There is room for all of our feelings.
One thing we can do is carefully watch our thoughts. Our brains are going to be more tempted than ever to go down negative spirals, to dwell on all of the stress, fear, and heartache around us.
Our dominant thoughts can create how we feel and our experiences. We are all entitled to experience our own feelings and have our own experiences, however we have an opportunity to give our brains different thoughts when we find ourselves in a downward spiral. We can shift our thoughts to those that are more supportive and build our residency muscles.
Here are a few to practice if it serves you:
I would love to hear- do one of these resonate for you? Please share!
One of the most frequently asked questions by clients is “How can I stay grounded when there is so much happening in our world?” Our accessibility to news, the current political climate, changing weather patterns, ongoing violence, natural disasters, Hollywood crime, pandemic health concerns, a fluctuating stock market and more can leave us feeling unsettled and lacking the solid hold we wished we had on life. Unless we actively work on staying grounded, we will undoubtedly remain unsettled and unable to comfortably manage day-to-day concerns.
The essence of who we are and our body tells us when we are in overwhelm and misaligns us by creating a sensation of stress, anxiety, depression or another mental health concern. As a modern society, we are still taught that these are “bad” reactions to unsettling events, but in reality, these are messages from our higher self that something needs attention—something needs to be grounded in order for us to lift our spirits and thrive.
Getting grounded is the ability to be aware of the present moment, more mindful of your own mental and emotional self, and less influenced by other ideas or individuals.. Nothing outside of you can fully ground you, it must come from within. No job, significant other, child, hobby, alcohol or anything else external to us can realign our lives.
There may always be something going on in the world or our lives, so taking the time to get grounded is important. Following are several tips to help you stay grounded even when the world around you seems unsettled.
Breathe! The simple act of focusing on your breath can not only slow it down, it can send signals to the brain to help you relax. Try this: Take a slow, deep breath in as you count to four, pause the breath for a count of four, then release slowly while counting backwards from six to zero. Repeat this as many times as you need.
Focus on the present. Research indicates that only 10% of us think about the present, while nearly 40% percent worry about the past and approximately 50% worry about the future. By practicing presence, we can more realistically assess our situation at hand and respond to events rather than react to them.
Using discernment with new and social media. Social media and the internet has created an urgency to receive information as fast as we can, but it doesn’t always fact check what is real. In most cases, the details are only peripherally helpful in building the big picture, but they are often immensely draining if over-indulged. I understand about wanting to stay informed, use discernment and take breaks from social media and the news.
Get Outside. Spending time in nature can be calming and grounding. Taking a walk, sitting outside, cleaning out a garden can help you feel more grounded and balanced.
Do something that feeds your soul. I encourage my clients to find what brings them joy and also to intentionally set time aside to participate. All work and no play really does take a toll on our health. In many ways, we have come to value exhaustion over joy. Because modern living has disconnected us from our own self we have also forgotten that its most natural state is that of joy, itself!
When was the last time you did something fun, creative, or enjoyable just for the sake of doing it? There are many things to learn from those unsettled thoughts and feelings. Our health depends on our willingness and ability to become conscious of what we need in order to thrive. See what you can discover.
Have you ever questioned "where is my joy?" I believe we all have at some point. At times our joy can feel overshadowed by every day challenges, emotions, and experiences. Yet even then, joy can still be felt. There is space for all of it. During my own experiences of challenging times and heartbreak, I also experienced joy. Whether that may be a walk in nature, time with my dog or a good friend.
If you are needing some ideas to get started, here are a few suggestions for you to experience joy in your own life. You may also want to create your own list or add to this one:
1) Make yourself a priority. You deserve your own time and attention. There are 1440 minutes in a day; make yourself a priority and use some of those minutes for you. Whether that is getting in a yoga class, running a bubble bath, or reading a book. Do what makes your heart sing.
2) Try something new. Maybe it is a new coffee flavor or a new meal? Or an art museum or a new sport? Trying something new adds a little adventure into every day life. Sometimes that may feel a little scary at first. However on the other side of fear, you may discover complete JOY!
3) Move your body. Movement can wake us up and provide a boost of energy when we are feeling lethargic. Maybe that is going for a walk, having a dance party in the kitchen to your favorite music, doing some yoga or stretching. Make it fun for yourself. When we start moving and boost our energy, it's an opening to feel joy.
4) Affirm yourself. How many times have you started a sentence with, “I am ... ?” What comes after the "I am" is super important. A suggestion is to write down: “I AM... Strong. Worthy. Beautiful. Loving. ” or any other statements that resonate. Every morning, read them to yourself or out loud. In 30 days you may notice a big shift in how you are feeling.
5) Go into nature. Research shows that being outdoors for only 5 minutes a day can improve your mood, raise your self-esteem, and reduce trauma symptoms. Go outside. Touch the earth. Breathe in the smells. Notice the sounds you hear. Notice what's around you. Connect with the beauty that surrounds you.
6) Nurture Relationships. That may be calling a friend, meeting someone you care about for lunch or coffee. Share what's going on in your life and connect. Laugh out loud, as laugher is so therapeutic. Let yourself be silly too. It's ok to be an adult and play too!
7) Invest in you. Joy comes from within - no doubt. And the greatest way to create more joy is through healing, growth, and exploration of self. Feed your soul by reading a good book, take that class you are interested in, go on that adventure you seek. The more joy we create from within, the more joy we create in our life.
Feel free to share below ways you experience joy in your life, I would love to hear it you
Hi there! If you enjoy reading my blog posts, please go to my coaching website at www.lisafirullocoaching.com. I post there more regularly.
Thanks for reading! :)
Last week I was out on my morning run and stumbled across a huge branch on the trail. So I climbed over it and so gracefully got my foot stuck and fell down in the mud! So it had me thinking about having goals and visions then hitting an obstacle on my path and my own relationship with obstacles.
From time to time, we all have setbacks, blocks and obstacles on our path to achieving success and living the life of our dreams. We’re told that we just have to be determined, push harder, and strive to overcome these landmines.
But does it ever feel like you’re forcing a square peg into a round hole? Like no matter how hard you try, you’re completely blocked?
How I faced that branch on my path is typical of how I tackle roadblocks. I climb over them and push my way through them. Yes, my persistence does work sometimes and I reach my goal. I also sometimes fall down in the mud because I pushed too hard.
I noticed the times that I stopped forcing and started allowing is when things really started to move for me. This doesn’t mean I don’t take action steps and face the obstacles presented, it’s simply done with less push, force and angst.
Blocks can be a great teacher. If you pay close enough attention, you might just be able to create a breakthrough. Here are four ways that blocks can actually lead to success:
1. Blocks point out where things aren’t flowing for you.
When you can’t write anymore, your inspiration is gone for the day. When you can’t run any longer, your muscles are exhausted. When you can’t think anymore, your productivity for that meeting plummets. Blocks pop up in areas of our life where energy just isn’t flowing. It warns us that something just isn’t working here and it’s time to take a break, or go a different route. Sometimes that pause can help you reconnect to what your vision is, and sometimes we realize the original goal no longer serves us.
2. It feels unnatural to you.
Most blocks come about because we’re forcing something that was never a good fit to begin with. We’re trying to do things the way we’re told they’re supposed to be done or we’re trying to hide certain parts of our personality. So maybe traditional marketing isn’t your thing, but hosting fun parties is and focusing on connection is. Whatever the case, blocks point out when things feel unnatural and encourage us to be more authentic.
3. Sometimes the best way to get through a wall is just to walk around it.
We can be so obsessed with an obstacle that we forget why we were trying to overcome it in the first place. Maybe you want a book deal because it will help you get more clients. If the book deal isn’t working, that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to never get more clients. Forget the obstacle and find a new path to your ultimate goal. Many times, obstacles point out that one tiny part of the plan isn’t working, not the whole thing.
4. Lack of resources teaches you how to be resourceful.
When you’re unable to move forward, you have no choice but to get creative. The advantage of being pushed to the edge of the cliff is that we learn how to fly. Blocks teach us things about ourselves that we never thought possible and push us to blow our expectations out of the water.
So the next time you come up to a block in your life, consider that maybe it’s there for a reason. Maybe it’s there to teach you what comes naturally to you or where things flow for you. Maybe it’s there to help you figure out just how much potential you really have inside. Maybe it’s there to help you stop taking on other people’s blueprints for success and start building your own.
Once you realize what you can really accomplish, good luck to anything that tries to get in your way.
Licensed counselor, outdoor enthusiast, yoga lover and passionate about wellness.