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?

Light Links: August

Spring is finally on its way to Australia. Longer days and sunshine do make a difference to my mood, no matter how I try and accept winter.

I’ve been trying to inject some more fun into my days this month. I’ve been making sure I schedule fun catch ups and self care early in the week, so I’m not always hanging out for the weekend.

Some of those self care occasions involve reading my favourite blogs. My favourite links from this month are below - enjoy!

Wondering how to simplify your days? I need to focus on #4.

I think Mindy Kaling is my hero. Here’s an essay from her on confidence (and her interesting view on mistakenly labelling people as ‘workaholics’). Plus Stephen Colbert loves her too = win. 

If you personally need some ideas on self-care, read this. I love the cute flow chart.

This one was very popular on my social media this month - what to do if you’re feeling burnt out and unmotivated

On that note, I’m off on holidays for a week! For all you planners out there, here’s some ideas on how to make the most of a day off.

And if you’re interested in holidaying like it’s 1999, read this:

“You bring a paperback book and a fancy new yellow Sony CD player. You have a drink, read a little and relax.When your friends show up, you snap a few group photos with a disposable film camera (there’s no such thing as a selfie yet) and hope they turned out O.K. It’s heaven."

How The Reminders App Helped Me Follow Through

I’m sure you have them - those tasks on your mind that you promise to do every day, week, month. Exercise, meditation, flossing?

Then suddenly it’s 11pm , the end of your day and you’re too exhausted to even consider them.

I have quite a few of these tasks and struggled with the disadvantages and guilt of never completing them. Little did I know the answer was under my nose the whole time.

I needed to remind myself … yup, it was that simple.

Rehab - I said no, no, no

I have a problem with my right hip.

Bizarrely it stems from being a giant child (ok, not a giant, but very tall) and standing badly in order to appear shorter than I was.

Years later the problem has presented itself as an uber tight hip flexor and a weak glute.

Cue hip pain, lower back pain and generally feeling about 20 years older than I am.

My rehab tools  

Luckily I have an amazing osteo who is sorting out the problem. Unfortunately he expects me to do exercises in between our appointments.

Cue I can never be bothered, or I just forget. Every day. Every week. I forget.

It was hard to know if I’d ever get better if I didn’t do the recommended exercises. So now, every second morning, I do my rehab. And every day I drag myself off the couch at 9pm and stretch my hip flexor.

After 2 weeks of commitment I can see a huge improvement. After a month, I should be pain free.

Avoiding exercise

This is how the mind chatter goes for me -

‘I’m too tired from work to exercise’;
‘It’s cold’;
‘I’m needed at home for <some untrue reason>’.
The fit ball theme is strong...

The fit ball theme is strong...

Since I’m pretty sure I’m never going to be a morning exerciser, I have to accept I will go to the gym after work.

And, like many of you I’m sure have also experienced, when you do the exercise, you end up feeling a million times better than when you started.

Usually I regain the energy I thought was lost after a long work day and I don’t really care that it’s cold out anymore.

So far the reminder is getting me there at least a few times a week.

Prying myself from my devices

The more articles I read on this topic, the more terrified I become. But checking your phone one last time, or reading an ebook (that usually leads to Googling something the book triggers) is just so tempting.

In the US, there was a recent study on iPad readers versus book readers:

iPad readers took longer to fall asleep, felt less sleepy at night and had shorter REM sleep compared to the book readers, researchers found. The iPad readers also secreted less melatonin, which helps regulate your sleep. They were also more tired than book readers the following day, even if both got a full eight hours of sleep.

I usually bargain with myself at 10pm when this message pops up, but most of the time I’m trying to stay consistent with putting devices away at least an hour before I go to sleep.

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As for the benefits?

I’m reading way more (hard copy) books. I don’t think I’ve been trying this long enough to notice huge improvements in my sleep (I’m a pretty good sleeper to be honest) but I’ll keep you posted.

What tasks could you use reminders for? Personally, I totally need to add flossing too. Maybe next week - nobody’s perfect right?

Lacking Motivation? How To Find Energy When You Have None

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From talking to readers of Where the Light Plays, I get the feeling many of you share common traits. Some of these include commitment to career, health and relationships, getting the most out of your days and weeks, and looking for efficient ways to complete and achieve more tasks and overall life dreams.

I can relate a lot to these qualities, but I am also aware that the momentum behind this drive can wane from time to time.

Some weeks we’re just not hitting the level we’re expecting to. Some nights after work we can’t face the out of hours plans we were looking forward to that morning.

Rather than being hard on yourself or wallowing in a lack of motivation, try these strategies for uncovering energy when you thought you had none.

Do something small

I recently discovered Alexandra Franzen and her mantra ‘Today is not over yet’. Take it easy on yourself when you’re lacking energy and settle on a small task.

Put the laundry on. Book that appointment. Email a friend.

Take a small step and know you’ve done your best. You won’t feel time is wasted and sometimes it can propel you to do other things. And if it doesn’t? Go back to the couch. You have my permission.

Set a timer

This reminds me of my older sister -

“Go and grab me <insert a random thing she couldn’t be bothered to get herself> from my room. I’ll time you”.

I’m pretty sure her strategy was for personal gain and utilising her baby sister as a slave, but a little competition never hurt anyone.

Think you can’t clean your house in 30 minutes? I dare you to try. Think you can’t get in and out of the gym in 40 mins? Time yourself! Whatever you’re dreading, set a friendly timer and get moving.

Create a reward

Yes, yes, more mind games. If you’re feeling depleted but still have a number of tasks that need doing, think of what you’d prefer to be doing right now.

Drinking wine? Having a bubble bath? Going out for dinner with your partner? You can have all that… just as soon as you get at least some of your to do list completed.

Try a different routine

If this kind of lack of energy is a regular occurrence, it might be time to take a wider view of your circumstances. Is housework on a weeknight just never going to work for you? Shift it all to Saturday afternoon. Are you anti-life admin tasks? I truly am!

Stop bemoaning adulthood and batch your taxes, budgeting, healthcare, etc reviews in together so they’re wiped out in one fell swoop. Monitor your moods and schedule recurring activities accordingly.

Look at the basics

Again, this is part of a bigger picture review. If you’re not enjoying sleep, exercise and nourishing food in equal proportions, you’re probably never going to live at optimum capacity.

When we’re busy, these aspects are often the first to suffer. However, without a strong foundation you can wind up exhausted and in no mood for either the necessities or more important things in life.

Put yourself first, recharge and the energy will come.

Like this post? Please share with your friends!


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!

The Top 3 Workouts To Try At Home

 
Can't face the outside world today? I know the feeling...

Can't face the outside world today? I know the feeling...

Did you wake up today with grand plans to go for a run? Did you promise yourself you’d get to that gym class straight after work today? Or did you decide to stay off the booze Friday night and finally get up for that 8am yoga class on Saturday?

Did your mind then start to play tricks on you?

It’s too cold, it’s too hot, I’m too tired, I worked hard today and deserve a night on the couch, I’ve earned a sleep-in.

You are not alone! I have danced this dance with myself numerous times and guess what? I have never regretted exercising. Ever. Really. I always feel better and almost always end up with more energy than I started with (unless I’m hungover - then I just need a lie down).

But, I have a secret. On the days when I really can’t drag myself out of the house, I depend on my trusty friend YouTube. Pulling on my ugliest, most comfortable gym wear and sluggishly crawling into the study is much easier than facing the world sometimes. And there is so much material to draw on...

Below are my three favourite YouTube options for you to try out. You can grunt, cry or lie down in the middle of the workout and the instructor will not judge you. Go forth and exercise!

Tone It Up

I found Karena and Katrina from Tone It Up about two years ago now. I was a little dubious to start with as they seemed very attractive and a little too chirpy (not always what you need on a lazy day). They also exercise in bikinis quite frequently.

I’ve come around now though. They have a huge amount of free resources online, and provide stacks of videos focusing on different body parts (arms/abs, legs, booty) and also have yoga, HIIT and foam rolling routines. The beach setting and their aspirational bodies also help.

Some of the earlier TIU videos are a bit hit and miss with timing and reps, but most of the recent ones are great. My current favourite is the KettleToning workout, combining kettlebells, yoga and toning. So good and so sweaty. Plus, they have formed a huge online community of women through their website, with many Instagram and Twitter accounts out there to keep you motivated.

Jillian Michaels

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“I want you to feel like you’re going to die”. My dear husband is all too familiar with Jillian yelling at me from the computer screen.

If you want a major workout, always go to Jillian. A heap of her videos are on YouTube on the BeFit channel. She is really tough and her abs will keep you persisting when you feel like face planting into the carpet. Luckily, she does provide different options for fitness levels in most of her workouts.

And, again, if you’re not listening to her podcast, do so immediately. She is informative, clever, hilarious and very different to how the media portrays her.

Yoga with Adriene

Yes, I’m cheating on Tara Stiles with Adriene. I love her! She has a relaxed, soothing approach to yoga poses, but also has a great sense of humour and likes making fun of herself.

I’ve only scratched the surface of her workouts, but she’s currently doing a 30 day challenge - great if you’re keen to spend January detoxing with yoga. And they aren’t basic or beginner workouts either, so good if you are a bit further along with your yogi skills.

Side note: I have also just discovered there are numerous Beyonce dance video workouts on YouTube. I’ll leave it to your discretion to participate, and look forward to your reviews…

Do you workout with exercise DVDs or YouTube at home? If so, what are your favourites?

 

Light links: November

 
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November has been pretty intense! I started a new job and am really enjoying it. I am learning stacks, have cut my commute in half and am working in one of my favourite areas of Melbourne.

But, I’ve really had to catch myself when it comes to placing pressure on myself.

Despite always telling my new team members this, I need to practice what I preach when it comes to overwhelm. I won’t know everything straight away and I need to accept it’s going to take time to get up to speed. Leave a comment with your wise words on how to admit this!

In the meantime, relax and enjoy some of my favourite links from the last month.

Probably the most powerful thing I’ve read recently – motivating yourself by adding the date of your death to your calendar…

A fascinating article on career burnout. So many striking statements about how our careers now demand constant availability, and how unsustainable that can be.

I feel like most of us insist on a disclaimer when it comes to spoiling ourselves, in the fear of coming across as self-indulgent. Here’s why you should definitely treat yo’self.

I love a top 10 and I love a Ted Talk. I know how I’m spending my Sunday evening. So many good topics here.

And a reminder for myself going into December. ‘We all want to be all the things and we just cannot be.’