Steps to Take Now Before Winter Blues

There is a change in the sky. It is no longer the blinding bright California sun we have seen for these five months of summer. The days grow shorter, the evenings longer, the pumpkin spice stronger.


Photo by Denys Zhylin on Unsplash


There are certain life events and seasons that carry with them a guarantee of stress. Knowing that list can help us prepare ahead of time, like knowing the stats of a team you are about to play.

Californians, used to their daily dose of Vitamin D provided by the sun itself, may find themselves affected by the seasonal change that comes with winter: less sunshine, fewer hours of daylight, cooler temperatures and cloudy skies. Low light stimulates the production of melatonin, the “sleepy hormone”, so important to our circadian rhythm. When we have more than normal, we eat a little a more, are a little less productive and a little more tired. Those things, which also happen to occur in states of depression, are part of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a state in which one feels a little to very, very low in winter.


Does the seasonal change affect you?


Photo by Lane Jackman on Unsplash


Whether major, minor or having nothing to do with weather, holidays are crazy, rain or shine. There are some things you can do to prepare yourself for what you know will be a more emotionally trying time.

First, ask yourself, how have you responded well to low-affect or stress in the past? Did you delegate? Connect with friends? Light candles to help the mood? Read a book?

Second, ask yourself, how did you respond negatively to low affect or stress? Did you shut down or lash out? Distract and procrastinate or overwork yourself? Self-medicate with gaming, alcohol, shopping or drugs?

In order to plan for the future, we need to know our strengths and weaknesses going into the season.


The strengths will tell you what you can lean on.

The weaknesses can tell you where to focus on growth.


In psychology, there is a selection of commonly acknowledged buffers that can both help protect you from depression and/or anxiety, and also help mitigate the damage when those emotions are inevitable (because sometimes life is just hard).

You often hear of the benefits of relationships and exercise. Those haven’t changed. Below are some less commonly discussed factors to factor in.


The outdoors

Williams James distinguished between two types of attention. Directed and fascination. Fascination, like contemplation in a Christian tradition, is an attention that expands the mind. Rather than the active engagement of direct attention, it sits back and observes. It is taken into the thing which fascinates it. This type of attention has shown restorative powers for both body and mind. We need it. We do not get enough of it. Even a window will help. Get a plant, get outside, go green.



As said earlier, SAD and mood changes related to winter occur because of changes in melatonin. Low light can cause low-affect. The answer is simple in this complicated world – more light. Light stimulates alertness and cognition. Treatment for SAD typically begins with sitting in a light box for an hour. If you are not in need of such direct intervention, but still need a boost, turn on some lights. Use light strategically in your house.


Smells of the season

Scent is directly tied to many long-term memories. Stores know that the typical holiday sounds and smells provide a mood boost for customers. Use this knowledge for yourself. Does it give you joy? Light a candle, boil some apple cider and orange peels or bake strategically when you are feeling low or even at the end of the day to transition to a more restful mood.



Since symptoms related to depression and anxiety tend to stall our thought processes, getting them going in a safe, unemotional way can help counteract the negative feelings. Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, board games, reading literature that stretches us a bit intellectually all help keep our mind active.


Plan now, benefit later. Happy Fall!

Review of Simply Tuesday

In A Million Little Ways, Emily P. Freeman encourages the reader not to fear if someone has the same message because you have a different way to say it. That way of saying it might be just the right way from some recipient, who would not otherwise be heard or been penetrated by the core message. Freeman’s book, Simply Tuesday, does just this with St. Therese of Lisieux doctrine of the Little Way. Does Freeman know about St. Therese or the little way? I do not know, and it does not matter. The message is beautifully put in her lovely writing style which takes a scene or a moment or an object from her personal life and holding that image in mind, she reflects on its meaning and its application to our life.

Not only is Freeman’s prose impeccable, it is filled with a gentle rhythm that makes her work a proper meditation on maintaining peace in a chaotic life, and quieting ambition in our typically hectic work. She allows her words and images to build organically. Her tactic of returning to images from previous chapters as she includes new ones connects each of the concepts of the book, going ever deeper in reflection.

Rev. Francois Jamart, O.C.D., summarizes the little way as this:

  1. We must fully recognize our spiritual poverty, our incapacity, and accept this condition.
  2. We must have recourse to God with blind and filial confidence, in order that He may accomplish in us what we cannot do by our own powers; for God is our Father; he is Love infinitely merciful.
  3. We must believe in Love and apply ourselves to the practice of love.

Spiritual poverty, described as smallness by Freeman is considered at length between the smallness of humiliation and the smallness of wonder. She invites the reader to embrace the smallness of wonder and the ordinary moments of our lives, which she encapsulated in the concept of Tuesday.

There is a bit of the lady bug philosophy, that when we learn to sit still is when ladybugs will come to us, that grace will come to us. God has called us to these moments, so let us sit and reflect and calm the rush of daily life.

In the third point of the little way, the practice of love, Therese emphasizes the importance of practicing love in the mundane tasks (because in our spiritual poverty or smallness, this is all we can do). You will find the same message throughout in Freeman’s work.

Does this cheapen Freeman’s reflections as something copied? Most definitely not. The message may be the same but the telling is wholly original. Therese wrote her little way as pieces of her autobiography and as a response to the direct request to write out this belief and practice. In that, it is not more ornate or poetically written than came natural to Therese to explain her ideas.

Freeman’s book is a verbal painting of the little way. This little way is at the heart of scriptures, wholly original and wholly tradition, and Freeman, by engaging the scriptures, with the help of others in her life, describes herself as being on this path.

This is the second book by this author that I have made my daily companion, an event of each day when I stop what I am doing and meditate on the chapter where a business card marks.

Reading her work, I have become more reflective and more appreciative of the small moments. It has helps me to act more intentionally and to move a little but further on the path of regaining peace and balance in my life. I heartily recommend Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman.