How to Overcome the Winter Blues

It's winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere today (read: the shortest day of the year), and as we move head first into winter here in Australia, I'm feeling a slump in my day to day.

The darkness upon awakening (and let's be honest upon arriving home from work too) is leaving me less motivated than usual, and the grey season ahead seems unending. 

It may be winter causing it for me, but we all have these less than desirable periods - it could be a monotonous time at work, a lack of exciting social events to look forward to, or a completely unexplained stagnation.

Whatever may be causing it, here's some tips to help pull you out of the mire. 

Focus internally

The first thing I do is check in with how I'm feeling health-wise - am I eating well? Have I let my exercise slip? Am I sleeping well?

Lately I've noticed I'm out of my morning meditation/yoga routine, and I'm partaking in a little more red wine than I'd like.

I'm going to make a conscious decision to listen to my body and stay on the healthier side of the scale.

Look forward to plans

Having events to look forward to is a big part of happiness, so I'm making sure that, while I'm not overbooking myself, I do want enough on the calendar to keep me interested.

I've got a fun winter escape coming up with friends in Healesville and I'm also planning on a couple of hikes to enjoy this cooler time in nature (rugged up of course). 

Get cosy

While engaging plans are important, so is accepting the nature of the season. I do sometimes get the guilts for lounging around, but I'm working on embracing the slower pace and darker days.

There's nothing wrong with curling up on the couch with a tea and taking in a few episodes of the latest show - or, let's be honest, as I'm doing tonight, rehashing some of my favourite Sex and the City episodes. Bliss!

How do you get out of a slump? Do the changing of the seasons affect your mood?

How I Stay Healthy At Work

As I’ve mentioned here and here, I’m well into the principles of intuitive eating.

‘Healthy’ isn’t the restrictive word it used to be to me though.

Today it’s a way of eating and moving my body that makes me feel energised, light and able to make the most of my days.

I don’t want to eat bland, healthy food that leaves me longing for more, and nor do I want to punish my body with grueling exercise.

But I also acknowledge I don’t live in a bubble.

At work there is the temptation of morning tea cakes, free pizza for lunch and a vending machine that calls my name when I’m stressed and/or bored (how kind of it).

So in order to maintain my version of healthy, I have a few tricks I use at work that keep me feeling good.

Be armed with snacks

Not having healthy snacks around me is a one way ticket to eating foods that make me feel unwell.

I stock my drawer with nuts, fruit and popcorn most weeks. This makes sure that when I’m feeling the urge, I’ve got something I can grab and snack on that will not make me feel sluggish.

BYO lunch or rotate some healthy options

After working in the middle of nowhere for almost five years, I am pretty damn good at making my lunches. You can read more about my meal prepping tips here.

However, if I’ve lost cooking motivation or I’m out of lunch ideas, I have a few local healthy options (let’s face it, 99% of them are one of my favourite cuisines - Japanese) that I rotate.

I feel just as good eating those as if I had brought my own lunch in.

Loosen the reins so you don’t splurge on Friday

On Fridays there is a different feeling in the air. I often have lunch with coworkers and a chilled glass of white wine is calling my name by 4pm.

A few years back, this was usually a slide into splurging and sometimes a whole weekend of eating and drinking to excess.

However, these days I realise I need to have this much fun every day, in one way or the other.

If I treat myself in other ways throughout the week, I’m less likely to go crazy and feel blergh every Saturday morning.

Do it if you want to, then move on with your life

This is definitely my most important tip.

If your body wants a piece of pizza, or a cookie with your coffee or a pint of beer at Friday lunch, HAVE IT.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying those guilt-free, then moving on with your life.

Don’t obsess about it, or promise yourself you’ll be better tomorrow.

Simply enjoy the moment, listen to your body and move on with your life. Seriously.

My Social Media Purge

 

Around two months ago, I went through a total social media purge. It was spurred on by my goal this year to no longer stress about my weight, and involved wiping my phone clean of any diet / fitness / health-related accounts that were not creating positivity in my life.

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Feedly (my blog reader) were trawled for accounts along these lines, and I also deleted any apps that were bringing me down – namely, MyFitnessPal.

Motivation Turns to Demotivation

In the following weeks, the epiphany struck. Accounts I thought were ‘encouraging’ me, like Lorna Jane, Tone It Up and Tracy Anderson, were really just blasting my subconscious day after day with perfect meals, sculpted abs and twice-daily workout check-ins.

And you know what? The overarching feeling was that I was not good enough. Not even close to being good enough.

I wasn’t cooking clean enough meals or meal prepping enough food. Working out three times a week was not going to cut it, if I was going to reach these aspirational heights.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

Moments of Clarity

Since the social media cleanse, my mindset and outlook have improved remarkably. I am no longer absorbing messages of health and fitness perfection every time I look down at my phone.

I actually now feel a jolt when a random photo or article shows up in my feed of someone at the gym in perfect neon workout gear.

Your Turn to Cleanse

I think this cleanse could work for so many of you, and not just in the area of health and fitness.

Are you into fashion? Or interior design? Or travel?

Are the accounts you’re following in your interest area making you feel motivated and positive? Or are they making you feel less than, like you’ll never achieve the perfection beaming at you from your iPad?

Go and look through your social media accounts now and really assess the content you’re consuming. I think you’ll be back to thank me.

Ahh, much better.

Ahh, much better.

My Favourite Health and Fitness Instagram Accounts

And if you are into health and fitness, here are six inspirational accounts that make me feel great when I’m looking through my Instagram feed.

If you do purge, please leave a comment below and let me know any benefits!

Where I'm At: Interview Series - Nat Carter from New Outlook Fitness

 

Welcome to the next interview in the series, 'Where I'm At'. It's a voyeuristic, yet helpful look into the lives of women who are finding where the light plays within them.

Their daily rituals, ways of managing stress and advice to you, the readers, are captured in these interviews.

Nat Carter is a PT and fitness expert based in Sydney. I’ve been following Nat’s blog, Natalie Carter Talks Fitness, and her social media for a few years now. I was really attracted to her uplifting, realistic approach to health and fitness and am very excited to have her on the blog today. Nat works specifically with women to help them created leaner, stronger, fitter, more confident bodies and trains both online and face-to-face with outdoor training groups.

I’m pretty sure you’re going to love Nat too – her views on work/life balance and everyday living are very similar to the values of Where the Light Plays. Enjoy!

What is your usual wake up time?

First my alarm goes off at 5.30am then at 5.32am I physically get out of bed.

Weekends can be 7 or 8am. I’m not good at sleeping in.

How do you like to start your day?

I would like to start my day by having a coffee, lolling around in bed, then a workout, then breakfast, but my early morning sessions with clients mean my ritual is alarm, strong long back coffee, out the door, train them, small breakfast then train myself then breakfast number two, followed by more sessions and sometimes a second workout for myself.

Tell us about your commute.

I don’t really have a long commute. Everywhere takes me 15 mins each way. Long commutes don’t work for me – they are personally soul destroying.

I’m lucky I have the ability to work anywhere. I’m the proud owner of big black ute and I freaking love it. It makes me feel powerful on the mean streets of Sydney.

Do you like to plan your day ahead or allow some spontaneity?

I like both. There’s a few things like email, updating social media, writing, training and working with my clients that are part and parcel of each day.

But then I do like to mix it up each day – maybe a sail, a swim, wine and cheese, read a book and other “me time” activities. If you don’t get it by now, I’m a strong believer in work/life balance.

How do you spend your ideal lunch break to recharge for the afternoon?

Not having anyone telling me when to eat and how long I get on a lunch break is the best kind of work freedom I think anyone can have.

I eat lunch at home most days – I love it! Ideally though I could really get used to long lunches at really amazing restaurants, but I wouldn’t get a whole lot done that way.

What kind of workout schedule do you (try to!) adhere to?

I’m most productive from 6am–2pm, so I generally cram everything into those hours, including my own workouts. When you have a business it never really just stops, but the great thing I remind myself is my choices belong to me and me alone.

I used to work with clients from 6am–7pm, 5 days a week, and that led to burnout, little time for myself and made every day feel like Groundhog Day. Now I work less, earn more and feel so much better!

I keep my workouts different and mostly outdoors. I’m lucky I know what I’m doing (being a PT) so I can generally stay on track and motivated. Variety is the key for me.

How do you like to end your day?

Watching a nice sunset, wine, food and couch with my partner and the cat.

What time do you doze off?

I’m such a nanna, 9–9.30pm.

What do you aspire to every day but never / rarely actually do? (you can tell me, we all have them!)

Meditation and yoga! I feel so much pressure (mainly from Instagram) but I actually hate both of those activities so I think “why bother?”. I also hate doing what everyone else does just because it’s cool. I prefer reading, having a massage, being on the water or just being silent (I love being by myself).

Any advice for women trying to find ease in their every day? (Ed: I freaking love this answer)

Do what you love! Don’t feel bad if you choose to stay at home with the kids or if you want to be the corporate bossdog – go ahead! Remember you have the power to control your day.

Work with the clients you want to work with, the ones that bring out the best in you so then you can in turn bring out the best in them. Set up your day to get the best out of yourself.

Always do a workout – even if you think it’s too short or you don’t have time, just do it. You always feel like a powerhouse afterwards and you perform better during the day. You will never regret looking strong and tight – never ever!

Network with other women. A problem shared is a problem halved. Don’t bitch, but you get my drift.

Earn your own money! The freedom, joy…ah! It’s amazing!

Finally, can you give us your quick go-to recipe after a busy day?

Nothing is easier than a protein-rich stir fry. You think calling for takeaway is quicker but it’s not – this is!

Super Quick Stir Fry

  • Brown 150g of chopped meat/chicken/fish with an onion, ginger and garlic and move it around constantly
  • Add 3 cups chopped veg (colour always wins here) and keep moving it
  • Next a few splashes of soy sauce
  • Then a sprinkle of chilli flakes
  • Finish with a flourish of sesame seeds
  • Serve with rice, noodles or just on its own.
  • Simple, quick and keeps your waistline in check. Splash out with a small glass of vino or a few small squares of dark chocolate.

Thanks Nat! Go and follow her now at:

Blog - http://www.nataliecartertalksfitness.com/

Instagram (if you are a fan of wine, cats and sweaty face selfies, definitely go here!) -instagram.com/newoutlookpt/

Twitter - twitter.com/NewOutlookPT

Nat can also be found at New Outlook Fitness, her Sydney-based fitness company.

How I Save Time, Money and My Health: Meal Prepping

As resistant as I am to it sometimes, one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself, time-, money- and health-wise, is start meal prepping.

    

It kind of happened by accident. At my previous job, the office was in a less than desirable location, with only one cafe in walking distance. Yes, one. And we called it ‘the truck stop’. Think fried food, bad coffee and soggy foccacias. Appetising!

I had never really brought my lunch to work before this job. I knew I should be saving the $$ but it seemed fairly boring and tedious to me. Ah, how age makes us embrace the boring and tedious!

When I started at that job, I was super lazy with lunches. Two minute noodles, cuppa soups, dry rice cakes - let’s just say I was not looking forward to lunchtimes.

So I started to Google recipes you could cook in bulk and freeze. It took some time to get in the habit, but I can honestly say that (most weeks) I’ve never looked back. Below are my main learnings from a few years of meal prepping.

 

Make your list

Planning is key. Over time I have built  up a bank of recipes that I enjoy and can make in bulk for lunches. I always thought I could remember the tasty things I had made, but I’d generally end up googling new recipes from scratch each week, which wasted some time.

I’ve now got a running Google Doc that I add to as I find recipes I like, and each week (usually around Thursday or Friday, as I grocery shop on the weekend), I go into the document and see what looks good for the following week. This also includes any dinners I might be cooking at home.

Now I’m not completely strict, so I usually make one dish in bulk for lunch, have it for three-ish days, then buy my lunch for a couple of days.

I make a grocery list in my phone and then when I’m out and about on the weekend I pick up all the ingredients I’ll need.

Bonus tip:

If you’re thinking of getting into meal prepping, I’d also recommend grabbing some new tupperware containers. They’re fairly inexpensive and it’s more motivating to use new ones, rather than having to hunt around for random lids of old takeaway containers you’ve had for years.

 

Set the scene

I usually set aside around an hour each Sunday to get the cooking done. But, like most ‘good’ habits, sometimes we lose momentum.

If I’ve had a few too many vinos the night before or I’m just fed up with being a grown up (does anyone ever feel like that or is it just immature me?!), I bemoan the idea of spending time on a Sunday stuck in the kitchen.

When this kind of thinking strikes, I gently remind myself that it’s only one hour out of my whole day and I try and set a motivating environment.

I’ll make an icy smoothie to sip while I cook, I’ll find a fun Spotify playlist to listen to or, when I really need motivation, I’ll put on a Nigella cooking show and let her propel me forward.

And if I really can’t face it… see below...

 

Get a step ahead (inadvertently)

Like most habits, I try to allow for some flexibility in the meal planning. If a friend wants to grab dinner on a Monday night or we have a farewell lunch at work on a Friday, I don’t say no because there's a tupperware container waiting for me in the fridge.

If I won’t get to eat a meal I’ve made, or if I’ve cooked extra, I throw it in the freezer and watch the containers build up.

Then when we’re away for a weekend and I have no time to cook, I can defrost a few containers for the following week’s lunches.

Also, if we’re too tired to cook in the evening or my husband is out, I can pull something out and voila, dinner is served.

This also works on those Sundays when I really can’t face the cooking - I know something will tide me over from the freezer and give myself a break if I need it.

It does take some discipline and preparation, but I no longer feel guilty about spending money on lunches and I can make much healthier choices with the right planning.

Want a peek at my recipe list? Want to share some recipes you like to cook in bulk?