Stress & Anxiety

An ADHD Guide to Surviving Ol’ Man Winter

Avoid depression and too much ADHD procrastination with these tips to stay happy, active, and productive in winter time.

Winter will surely be the death of me. As a matter of fact, I think the definition of winter should be “the process of getting knocked the (bleep) out for a season.”

How will winter kill me? Let me count the ways. It gets dark early. Even when it’s daytime the sun is kind of half-assed, just making an occasional appearance. The trees are spiny and bare. When the trees are in full splendor, the green leaves remind me that there is clean oxygen exploding from every pore and that I need to take the time to slowly breathe it in. When the branches are bare, it makes me feel like I’m hiding from the kids in the closet and that I am slowly suffocating a little bit. I live in California where it starts to get dark around 5 p.m. Dark tells my ADHD brain that “it’s time for bed,” not “Hey, let’s get those errands done we procrastinated all day.”

Bears know what’s up. Bears start eating a ton of food in the fall, and, by the time winter rolls around, they stick up the bear-equivalent of the middle finger to Mother Nature, crawl in a cozy cave, and take a nap until things get hopping in the forest again. Unfortunately, as humans, we have responsibilities that don’t allow us to take a three-month nap. This is unfortunate because 1) None of us with ADHD can sleep worth a darn and 2) Sometimes sleep is the only break we get from our noisy brains.

That means we have to watch our changing environment undergoing depression (for the sake of new life in spring) without becoming completely depressed ourselves. This isn’t easy for a bunch of brains that gravitate toward comorbid conditions like mood disorders and anxiety. Here are several tips I’ve found along the way for making it through winter “alive-ish.”

  • Make your home cozy. If you have to be stuck inside, you need to feel good about where you’re spending your time. A warm fire in the fireplace is a quick way to improve your mood, but if you don’t have a fireplace, you can also use table lamps to create a similar effect. Using table lamps feels a lot more comfortable than a light overhead, but make sure you choose bulbs that are warmer and more yellow in color, not the over-stimulating blue or white colors.

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  • Stimulate your senses. When I’m “caving” in my house, I love to burn essential oils like cinnamon, orange, and clove-warm and spicy notes that complement the parts of me that are being seasonally forced to stay grounded. Those of us with ADHD a high-sensory bunch, which we can use to our advantage. When our senses are pleased, it has a strong, positive effect on our mental health. I carry essential oils with me at all times for that reason.
  • Eat the right comfort foods. There’s a good reason we turn toward comfort foods in winter. Most of them are generally high in fatty acids, which gives us a nice little serotonin boost. We desperately need it because we have less exposure to the sun’s natural serotonin-boosting rays. I love a good bowl of mashed potatoes, but the carbs in the potato knock me out five minutes after I leave the dinner table. I like to mash cauliflower instead: same effect, less simple carbs, easier on the ADHD brain.
  • Take vitamin D. It’s that simple. It’s sunshine in a supplement.
  • Give yourself permission to slow down and rebalance. If you’re used to being outside and you’ve been feeling a little stir- crazy, think about the activities you crave when life is moving too fast-that book you’ve wanted to read, that project you’ve wanted to start. Allow yourself to get in stride with nature instead of trying to race ahead. It’s a race you’ll never win. Mother Nature has perfected this whole balance thing. We have to go with the flow, knowing, whether we like it or not, that Mama knows best.

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