Tuesday, 15 January 2019

combatting the winter blues

hello lovely reader, i hope your day is going well so far, and if it isn't i hope you find something to cheer it up.

today i'm going to talk about my struggle against the winter blues, which is something i've been wrestling with for many many years now. i'm loathe to say that i'm 'cured' because it's more like i 'manage' it, and if i follow just these couple of pieces of advice then i'm pretty much ok.

so let's start this story back in 2014, i'd been married a couple of years and my husband noticed distinctly that in the winter months i was a different person. i don't remember exactly what it was about these times, whether i was more prone to anger, would isolate myself more, was just a lot more depressive? but, to this day, he's always a little bit worried about how i'll cope as the days draw in. and my mother agrees, she also noticed this tendency in me (i'm pretty sure that's why she got a dog).

the other part of the puzzle was that my joints get particularly bad during the winter months - i always joked to myself that i needed to 'winter in Spain on doctor's order' like they would've done a century ago.

so, i went to see a rheumatologist about my joints a couple of years ago, and whilst she diagnosed me with 'insulin arthralgia', as a symptom of my Type 1 Diabetes, she also found out that my Vitamin D levels were extremely low. so, i was put on 10,000 iu's a day for a whole week to boost myself back up to normal, and then told i would need a daily dose for ever.

so, this is truly my BEST piece of advice for anyone suffering with the winter blues: get your Vitamin D levels checked, and/or start taking a Vitamin D supplement.

i have previously done an at-home test, called Thriva, which i would recommend to anyone. their baseline test is not cheap, but it will test cholesterol, liver function, iron, vitamin d and vitamin b12. i did this to check that my regular dose of vitamin d spray was working as i expected.

the vitamin d spray that i use now is a 3,000iu spray from BetterYou (UK/US) - it's not heaps expensive, but does seem to work and it's a much higher dose than a lot of the others. it tastes good too! if you haven't been diagnosed with a deficiency then i would recommend the Junior spray which is the UK government recommendation of 400ius (UK/US), or the 1,000ius is another lower dose option (UK/US).

i don't supplement hugely anymore in other areas, i try to get most of what i need from whole foods. but it's been medically proven that anyone living in the northern parts of the world need a little Vitamin D supplementation to keep them strong (see NHS, and BBC) during the winter months.

the other thing that i've been trying to do so far this year is to get outside, which you'll know if you read my last post about my 2019 intentions. even when it's super cold, we dress appropriately and we go outside. even for just a quick 30 minute walk around the block. it's important to have that regular practice throughout the year, because when the sunshine comes in the summer you'll want to get out in the sun as much as you can in good daylight hours to top up your vitamin d levels to a high level to last longer into the winter.

there's a great app called 'dminder' and it can tell you what the UV ratings are in your area at any moment in time, and can tell you when you'll next be able to get Vitamin D from the sun (45 days from today!!), as well as during the day how long you need to spend in the sun to get the amount you need that day / before you catch a sunburn. it's a fab free app!

plus the fresh air is also so important for your wellbeing, and the sunlight is great for helping set your circadian rhythms.

so those are my two best pieces of advice for anyone suffering from the winter blues:
 - get tested for Vitamin D deficiency and/or take Vitamin D supplements
 - get outside more! use the dminder app to get as much sun exposure as is safe.

another couple of extra things which i find help:
 - booking a holiday in the middle of winter, topping up those Vitamin D levels in a sunny foreign place will make a huge different to your levels through the rest of winter - however this isn't financially viable for everyone. we did this one year and it was a very happy year!
 - making sure that your lighting is warm and hygge (cosy). get some candles, light a fire, lay the lights low - follow the advice of wise Scandinavians who only have a couple of hours of light in the day. keeping things cosy helps tremendously.
 - i have never tried (but friends of mine have) a SAD lamp, but i will likely get one in years to come, because they're raved about.
 - get a dog if you struggle with the incentive to get outside!
 - eat healthily, don't let your health be compromised in other ways because you're feeling down. i know to be extra cautious in the winter months of incorporating veggies and fruit in reasonable quantities, and in nice warming, satisfying, wintery ways. and drink lots of herbal tea!

i hope this post is helpful! i'd love if you would share your tips, experience and advice in the comments below.

please note: i am not a doctor, and therefore none of this should be considered medical advice. this is not sponsored in any way.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

my intentions for this year

well, it's the tenth of January already, so this post is a little bit late... but better late than never?

firstly though, let me say that Christmas was hard (for obvious reasons / read this) for all of the family. so we did Christmas differently, albeit at a similar pace. in fact, i found the whole of December challenging - from putting up a tree, seeing a Christmas show, going to the Christmas market, singing carols at church - she would've enjoyed every moment and made everyone smile. i couldn't not see her face each day. i missed her and i cried a lot.

but, i knew that it would be hard so i also made sure to schedule in (in advance) a good deal of reflection time and time with my family, so i was dealing with my feelings and giving them space. i continued to look heavenward, to remind myself that Christmas isn't about family and presents and having a movie-moment, it's about a Saviour being born.

we also went to her grave on the 22nd, before most of the merriments began, to talk, to sob, to feel. it was so important to me that we went. i can't really explain why, but it helped hugely.

the rest of Christmas was caught up with family, food and movies... we sailed through it. i don't feel like we aced it, but we did the best we could i think. and sometimes the best is good enough.

now onto more positive things...

i usually have some sort of intentions for the year, and this year is no exception. i like the word intentions instead of resolutions, because it means i 'intend' to do it, not that i 'resolutely will' do it. so it feels far more realistic and i probably won't berate myself at the end of the year if i didn't 'achieve' them.

these also are really more of a carry over from things i was doing throughout most of the last year - things that worked really well for me balancing my life as a mama, and also as a wife of a very hardworking man...

1. buy second hand clothes most of the time.
when i moved back to the uk i found that transition quite hard, in some ways i was grieving Belgium - sounds weird but it's true. and it seems that i used shopping as a coping mechanism, because i went nuts in the january sales and then the midseason sales too. and the more nuts thing is that i didn't need anything new, it was just me making myself feel better by buying something pretty.

anyhow, i currently live just round the corner from about a dozen thrift/charity shops, and somewhere throughout last year i remembered how much of a kick i get from finding a really amazing second hand piece. something unique, in good condition and with a fab price-tag - it's a much better 'find' than anything you can discover in sales on the world wide web. so, that's been my go-to. and i'm determined to keep my clothing budget super low this year, as well as save the planet from the perils of fast fashion at the same time ;)

truly though, i feel most myself 'playing dress up', as the great Beth Jones would say...

ps. i kind of wanted to put an intention to take more outfit pics, so that i challenge myself more - it makes me feel so much better about myself when i make an effort, and i have a fun wardrobe to play with. maybe one month i will do a daily challenge and video it?

2. meal plan weekly.
i started meal planning quite early on in the year, i even made a whole video about how i go about it. but i've changed to be a lot more structured - i write the plan on Sunday, order the shop for delivery on Monday and then repeat the following week.

it has saved not just time and money, but also stress and tears by making sure that we all eat healthily and on time. if a week goes by without me meal planning it's not usually a good week, because we don't have yummy things to look forward to! if i didn't meal plan i wouldn't try new things either, because as a mamma that takes planning in advance. and then we wouldn't have had this Jamie recipe today...

3. faith journal as much as possible.
you all have probably realised by now that i love to faith journal as much as a can, and try to do even a small amount every day. there have been a good few weeks lately where i haven't made the time for it (we are hopefully moving house in the next couple of weeks!) - and i MISS it, i YEARN for it. it's my time with God, my time meditating on His good word, the TRUTH. i need it in my life so badly, and praise God that i can now say that, because it is my daily connection and my daily bread.

for more info, see a beginner's guide to faith journaling, and my favourite journaling supplies.

4. spend more time outdoors with my boy.
i went to the woods with my family last week and was horrified by how much i've become a city girl... so i will continue to make every effort to go outside and spend time outside, however cold, however hot. i will prepare myself wisely and get my feet out the door. this last year was hard with some anxiety i was feeling, so this next year, in this next phase of life, i will get out, even if it's for 30 minutes in the garden or kicking a ball around the park.

5. do pilates weekly.
i am pretty sure i've set myself this target for the last 5 years and for some reason i can never make it stick?! i think it just doesn't sit at the top of my priority list, but it ought to, because whenever i do pilates regularly i feel so much stronger and vibrant. i just do it at home, but i think i need to make a more special space in this new house for it, so i set aside space and time weekly for it. it only takes an hour, so it should be very do-able. any suggestions for getting exercise into your routine as a mama would be greatly appreciated!

6. clean first
this is going to seem bonkers to some of you, heaven to my husband and like "duh!" for others of you. but very slowly over the last few years i've discovered how much i like my house in order, how it boosts my productivity hugely and therefore i now value it highly in my daily rhythm. so much so that i like to get the cleaning and tidying done each day to a good standard, then it's much easier to stay on top of. i know.... duh!

so for this coming year, i want to continue to clean first once my boy goes down for his nap or at bedtime, because then all the other things i do with that time feel so much better.

so there you have it, i guess 6 intentions isn't many, and truthfully i only worry about one of them - i haven't done pilates yet this year and we're 10 days in! please send me tips!

anyways, i hope you're having a beautiful day x

currently listening to: the sound of silence from next door - they've been having their floors redone all week, and it's finally quiet.