Out of all the things that people come to me for and what I coach people on, this topic remains a challenge for me. Maybe you know it as the Dip, the Blues or Winter Depression. If you’re familiar with this experience you know what it feels like. If you don’t know: getting out of bed seems impossible and keeping your eyes open after 9 in the evening difficult. Life gets extra hard. Getting excited about anything that doesn’t involve the couch or bed is rare. Spending the entire weekend rolled up in a blanket looking like a burrito ordering in food is common. All these symptoms remind me of a very low battery, but there’s a twist.
How does the Winter Dip feel?
Besides the profound tiredness, there is a big mismatch between desires and capabilities. The exhaustion is not accepted by the inner critic, who keeps pointing at all the things that need to be done. This increases the anxiety levels, the FOMO and the “you’re not doing enough” message plays on repeat. So if you think it’s a big chillaxing period, think again. I used to label it as a mini-burnout, because the body puts the breaks on, but the mind wants to keep on racing. And being out of sync with your body creates frustration and a feeling of losing control.
Why do some people feel the Winter Dip?
Some people are more prone to depressions in general, because of their biochemistry. But the general advice for keeping deep blue periods out of your life is simple: eat healthy, exercise, spend time in nature and socialize. And these last two hit home with me: I feel way better spending time under the sun, breathing fresh air, listening to the singing of the birds. Very little of that happens during winter season; it gets cold and rainy and nature is hibernating. I’m not made for the season. The cold hurts my bones and skin and when I look outside I don’t feel invited. So I end up feeling trapped, sad and longing for spring.
When does the Winter Dip hit?
The social gatherings before the end of the year put up a fight against the loneliness that’s coming, but for a lot of us this is where the conflict begins. Holidays are for slowing down, while we are experiencing December Rush. All the tasks that are left undone haunt us, we feel like a failure for not finishing our ‘lists’ and all the social gatherings feel like a nuisance because our heads are elsewhere.
Come January and February, I start feeling the impact of social isolation. Because of the weather and drained battery, I don’t leave the house unless necessary. There is no “I ran into my friends and spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the city”. There’s me, the four walls of my room and I.
Claustrophobia, nostalgia and a thick layer of defeat is the mix that hits some of us harder than others. Why?
I need hugs, smiles and connection. I need outside, dynamic activities and excitement. What do I do? Lock myself up and talk nasty to myself for feeling the way I do.
What to do when you have a Winter Dip?
First of all, be honest with yourself. If you’re experiencing a Winter Dip, odds are you have been burning the candle at both ends throughout the year. It’s normal to feel exhausted when you’ve been pushing yourself to the limit and draining your battery. The underlying core reasons? Un-human high expectations of yourself, a fear of falling behind, your deep desire to live an exceptional life. Take it from a person who’s been having Winter Dip’s since the age of 16 – the difference between burning out and being unstoppable is how well you reload. So if you feel tired, rest. And don’t beat yourself up over feeling tired.
Second of all, understand that nature is asking you to slow down. For a reason. So in stead of trying to fire on all cylinders and get disappointed, follow nature’s lead. The old leaves have dropped and the focus is on the roots. It’s the season for reflection and positive focus. This is where you grow, by actively standing still. Learn from your experiences in the past period by taking the time to look back and do some active introspection.
Last, but not least: get yourself the fundamentals for your happiness. If it means an escape to the sun mid February, make sure it’s planned and booked. If it means having game-nights with your friends around the kitchen table, be the one who throws up the ball and makes sure there’s popcorn. You are human. By definition you are resilient and strong. But that resilience and strength needs energy. If you’re feeling the dip, check how much energy you are gathering. And if it’s not enough, get some more!