Friday 18 December 2015

Are you familiar with the Scottish long, dark, cold and depressing winters where we become lazy, sluggish, tired and sleepy? We wake up in the mornings to a pitch black welcome. No birds chirping outside. No blue skies or white clouds to be seen anywhere. No warm sunshine with green luscious leaves or flowers blooming. No happiness because our body says it is still night time. So we all struggle just to get out of bed to start our day. That “five more minutes in bed” becomes the norm each morning when our alarm clock goes off. We snooze for five minutes, then maybe for another five. We stumble, we panic, we struggle, we maon and groan in the dark to turn on the bedroom light so that we can see what we are doing. All the while mumbling, “I want to stay in bed all day because it’s too cold and dark to go outside”.

This happens to the majority of Scottish people as they drag their tired and sleepy bodies out of bed to start their day in the dark mornings when our bodies are telling us that it is not ready to begin our day until we see sunlight! Children are also feeling the effects of our Scottish winters. They become less energetic, more sleepy and tired. They spend less time playing outdoors as it gets dark around 4pm in November, then around 3.30pm in December. By Janaury, we are spending so much time indoors that relationships between couples are put under excessive pressure. They are fighting over the most trivial things and this creates a huge distance between them. Children are so bored being stuck indoors so they misbehave and this drives their parents crazy so this becomes a vicious cycle. Our health and wellbeing is put to the test, pushed to the limit and this is called the “January blues”! Christmas and New Year has cost every household a fortune that shall put more pressure onto the adults. So this means there is a lot less spending and plenty of dreaded bills to pay for. Add all this to the colds, flus, coughs, fever, sore throats, lose of positive vibes and happiness that is present from being stuck indoors for every household and what do we have? Misery! Absolute misery!

Every winter since I was in my mid teens, I would struggle immensely to stay awake during the day, eat a healthy balanced diet and stay active. I had no idea as to why I was affected by the dull, cold, long and depressing Scottish winter back then, in such a way that my energy levels would be depleted so much. So much that I found staying awake until bedtime to be almost impossible especially after dinner, when I would sit, watch television and dose off. I also noticed my moods would be duller and I lacked motivation to be active and do what my mind wanted to do. My body was controlling my mind due to the lack of energy and this was affecting my happiness. I was unable to tell my parents about this as I knew they would know nothing about what was causing my condition so I kept it all to myself. So I just learned to live with it the best way I could.

It was many years later until I found out what this condition was, what it was called and how I could, using natural methods, handle it better so that I could be happier during the Scottish winters that caused me to be a totally different person altogether. I never saw my doctor about this condition because I rarely asked for advice or seeked any sort of help from my doctor unless, I was physically sick. I found information about my condition from the Internet whilst I was at home surfing it one night. I stumbled across a website, looked into it and I was relieved to finally find: a name to my condition, a solution to handle it better, regain more energy and lift my moods up! Bingo! Let’s do this I thought. So I ordered a “lightbox” from Lumie and tried it out.

This lightbox was the cheapest version I could afford at the time and it felt like I was alive again from using it in my first week from receiving it from the post. I loved waking up to this beautiful, warm “sun” shining at me as I woke up and get out of bed with “sunshine” during our dull, dark, cold and depressing Scottish winter mornings was a real bonus!  Oh what a huge difference this small lightbox made to my mornings getting out of bed! It was no longer a struggle to drag myself out of bed nor did I needed to fight with my body because the lightbox programmed my body to get out of bed with no struggles or fights. Then I broke it! Oh no! I broke it and wasted my valuable money. I felt so sad, upset and angry with myself for not taking good care of my trusted and useful lightbox.

I was diagnosed with mild depression around the same time and I became so vulnerable, weak, fragile, drained and  anxious. I was about to move into our permanent accommodation as soon as I had it decorated with the help of my big brother during my time off work which was my doctor’s recommendation. Having my depression diagnosed during the winter definitely did not help me at all with the recovery process. I was less active, ate more junk, slept more and became so anxious due to the lack of outdoor activities. I was going into a world of the unknown. I felt so weak and vulnerable and this was the first time I had been feeling so helpless and it was the responsibilities I had as a single mother to my three sons that kept me sane, driven, motivated and positive.  I knew I needed to be strong for my sons if not for myself. I knew that my sons needed their mum because their dad was not supporting them financially. This had put so much stress onto my health and wellbeing that it was creating illnesses one after the other. This winter was the most challenging one for me as a single mother yet! Thank goodness I had the help from my big brother, otherwise I would have had a nervous breakdown!

I coped and survived that winter yet I knew the winters ahead was as challenging if not more so. So I knew I needed to invest in a new lightbox and so I did. The lightbox gained more value from me this time round as I made certain that I would take great care of it so it would serve me well for years to come. It is still going strong this winter of 2015!

Being a single mother to three sons,  I know that maintaining my health and wellbeing is vital so that I can do what I need to do for all of us.  I am a very active, energetic and enthusiastic person by nature yet during the winter months living in Scotland, I feel tired, sleepy, lethargic and have mild symptoms of depression. I lack motivation to see to my needs, my sons’ needs and our lives suffer. I become so lazy, weak, vulnerable, idle, sluggish, slow, dull, bored, weary and I feel like a completely different person to what and who I am during the spring and summer.

Even a simple task as brushing my teeth at the end of the night felt like running a marathon to me during the winter. I would neglect to take care of my own needs. I was feeling worthless, sad, empty and had no sense of pride in my appearance or any sense of direction as to where I wanted to be at or what I wanted to do with my life. I felt I had stalled and remained stagnant. On a sunny day, I would feel happy to have the sun shine on us and I would become active just for the duration of that day. My sons would only get my full attention if and when the sun was out to do its job.

Having my big brother live with us definitely had huge advantages during the winter. He would pick up my youngest son from school whilst I was napping and recovering from my mild depression. I would be spoiled by him as he did most of our errands and he washed the dishes after dinner each night as I cooked and he didn’t. So I became even more sluggish and lazy especially after dinner. I did no exercises during the winter for a number of years until I was introduced to exercising at home in 2011. I began with doing squats, then onto the plank, lunges, then I was given a gym ball from a friend. I explored my options of what I could do at home and I found that the squats and planking was my favourite so I continued doing them. I also used some light dumb bells to start lifting and build the strength in my arms.

The dull weather plays a huge part in the moods of my day. For me, it’s like having pms everyday for the duration of our Scottish winter. I just want to stay in bed like animals who hibernate. I know I certainly would do just that if I had no children to keep me on my toes! I crave simple carbs just like I do during my pms days.  I crave so much of it yet I now make conscious choices of how much simple carbs I consume. I am more disciplined now than I was before I started my new “healthy and active lifestyle” back in June 2011. Before, I  would eat crisps, chocolates and nuts straight after our dinner as we sat and watched television on my bed. It was cosy, warm and perfect for our Scottish winter. The more I ate simple carbs the more I craved for them so it was a vicious circle. I was spending more than fifteen to twenty pounds to fuel my poor habit each week! It was unbelievable! To see the amount of sugar I was putting into my body was scary and frightening! My sleep was disturbed during the night and I would wake up to pee. Yet sleep would take over an hour to come back to me so I would toss and turn and then I would feel frustrated! This affected my daytime routine as I was sleepy during the day, tired and weak. On my days off work I would be a couch potato who just stayed in bed until I was needed by my sons.

I knew I was much more energetic on days where the sun shone on us. So I could literally run a marathon on those days compared to a dull, wet, wild, windy and rainy day. I also knew that my moods would be like a roller coaster from one day to the next. I was more friendly, bubbly, chirpy, positive, enthusiastic and I felt I could conquer the world on sunny days which is always a welcomed bonus for me.  I never could sit still and watch television if I was at home and the sun was beaming down on us. I would be getting my hands dirty with the housework, tidying up, washing my car, doing the laundry, de-cluttering, cleaning our kitchen, vacuum the entire flat, cook meals from scratch and anything else that I could do to be productive. On a dull, wet, windy, wild and rainy day I am a lazy coach potato who would just not budge no matter what if I was at home. I would stay in bed until afternoon when I finished my breakfast.  Then I would cook lunch and be idle. I could sleep again or I could be watching television or surf the Internet. If I was at work, I would be kept moving as my job was demanding and fast paced. So I would rarely feel my tiredness as much as I do at home. Yet as soon as I get home from work and had our dinner I would feel the exhaustion set in. That’s when I grab our snacks, munch on them and watch television in my bed.

Diet wise, during the winter, I feel more hungry for hot food. I could eat three main meals and three snacks then eat more snacks after dinner. Yet I never put on excess weight which is my fortune. I have my genes to thank for this! Hehe.  However, the down side to all my eating during the winter months is, I am shopping for more food than our spring and summer and this means my food bill is unbelievable sky high! Well, I never smoke or drank alcohol so that makes up for it!

My passion for cooking from scratch helps me to eat a more balanced diet whilst I am at home. I rarely go out for lunch or dinner as I know I can get a more nutritious meal from cooking at home. I also know I get to control what goes into my food and how much. This I have my parents to thank for because I was fed home cooked food each day since I could remember. Chinese people love to eat and they sure know how to make their food taste mouth wateringly scrumptious. I have learned a few tricks and skills since I started cooking as a teenager whilst my parents worked and I was a full time mum to my younger brother ten years my junior. I love to be creative with food and I play about with my own recipes. I am always curious about making my own authentic recipe that makes me feel proud to call myself “a cook”. The main disadvantage is I have such a tiny kitchen that can be a real challenge when I want to do my food preparations, bake or clean. So it was such a bonus when our tiny kitchen got a refit a few years ago as it created more worktop space for me to work from. That was heaven to me!

We are what we eat, so rubbish in, rubbish out. I am very conscious about what I feed my Ferrari body with. It gets the best food possible. I never eat microwave meals nor do I eat anything bought from our ” chippies”. I seldom eat anything deep fried or food from McDonalds, KFC, Burger King, Pizza Hut etc etc. I drink water throughout the day to stay hydrated and I never drink tea or coffee. I do indulge in chocolate biscuits, cheesecakes, bread and chocolates during our winters which I rarely eat during our spring and summer. I love to have something to indulge in whenever we are having our “movie night” at home as it feels like the “cinema experience”

so far this month, I have been experimenting with anything and everything that I can think of that helps me to:

  1. stay awake during the day
  2. eating a healthier balanced diet
  3. stay more active
  4. Sleep sound through the night
  5. be more productive
  6. do my exercises each day

What works best for me is to get a sound sleep through the night for at least seven hours then I am energised to tackle my day ahead. I feel happier, more positive, more focused on my goals and that is vital to me and my wellbeing because I want to continue with making great progress to achieve my goals. Getting a sound sleep means to me, that I stop using my electronics an hour before bed and set a calm atmosphere in my bedroom. If I eat a heavy meal or a big snack even three hours before I sleep, I am awake in the middle of the night which causes me to feel sluggish, tired and sleepy during the day. Two nights ago, I made myself a big wrap with smoked salmon, tinned sweet corn and cold meat with tinned tuna so I woke up around 3am still feeling that wrap in my stomach! I tossed and turned in bed after going to the toilet and it tired me out in the morning so I took a nap. I strongly dislike taking naps because I feel my day is wasted when I could be more productive.

My body at times just will not allow my mind to do what it has planned out to do. So I accept that whenever it needs to nap, it gets it’s much needed nap so that mind and body are connected and is working as a team. There are many times, when my mind and body are going through a power struggle. The mind is wanting to be productive whilst the body is telling the mind “I need to take a nap before I can be productive for you so just let me take that one hour nap and you will get what you want”! So it’s nap time for the body and the mind needs to accept it instead of resisting. There are times when the mind just cannot get what it wants, when it wants it and that’s quite alright. My mind and body can be like two children being immature and fighting like cats and dogs whilst they decide on what to do with the sleepiness.

This morning, I woke up before my alarm went off which was set at 7.30am so I was feeling happy and content because that means I had a sound sleep and I did feel it. I got just over seven hours of sound and deep sleep. My Lumie Bodyclock was shining as bright as the sun already so I felt great to be awake and all set to start my day. This morning was one of those mornings where my mind and body was connected and happy with each other so there was peace and harmony when I got out of bed which is so rare during our winter so something is working well and I felt surprised! Hehe

I changed my morning routine last week so that I could get more time to spend with my Lumie Bright Spark, (that I bought last year) “shining at me” before driving my youngest son to school. I also set my alarm clock to wake me up ten minutes earlier this week so I am getting the results I really want first thing in the mornings which means I am feeling so much happier. This means that I can be focused on my day and I get more of my list of “to do things” accomplished which is a definite win win! This matters to me because I suffer the consequences when I neglect to take care of my “to do list” and it makes me feel guilty which is the last thing I want.

Having fun also matters to me because my inner child needs to be taken care of too. She loves to have the time to do the things she loves to do and that’s when she feels happiest. When she is at her happiest, I feel (the adult) that I am taking care of my needs and wants more effectively. Having fun in our adult life also helps to defuse any negative or tense moments we are having. We can handle life’s challenges more positively, constructively and effectively when we can have a laugh, have a silly childlike moment and that brings out the best in us during the dullest times of any life’s hurdles.

I managed to stay awake during the early evening yesterday and the day before because I made a conscious choice to. It felt so different to taking that one hour nap between 5pm and 6pm. So instead of napping, I was being productive and learning something about my body and pushing it that little bit up the hill. It was strong enough to do what my mind wanted to do. There was no power struggle with mind and body as they were working well as a team and was connected. What a huge achievement this was to me! Well done me!

I want to continue with my current routine in the mornings yet my youngest son finishes school next Tuesday for the festive holidays which means my body can be lazy and stay in bed until after 8am each morning.  However, it is about making conscious choices and being consistent with the habits that I have put into place. So this means writing down a goal of what I want to achieve in the mornings in order to get what my mind wants. Then it is to be disciplined about achieving my goal each morning.

Let me finish this blog with these quotes below……

“When we know what we want and we want it bad enough, we will find a way!”

“For things to change, we must change!”