Things to do this autumn / winter – 2020/2021

The seasonal depression, lockdown grim, the political tragedy, and all that keeping us from fighting the ever-speeding global warming and inevitable extinction, everything is working in favor of us to really not enjoy this time of the year. You might feel hopeless and powerless, and it is perfectly justified since there is so little we can do to fix the situation.

Anxiety and anger over all those things can be a very powerful motor for actions of change. Unfortunately our options have been severely limited, and now all those negative emotions bring us down more than they power us up. Our lives are frozen in a standstill, and inaction is a fuel for depression*. Therefore we need to take the time to work on our mental well-being before we can rise and shine, and make the necessary changes.

*in this post when I use the term ‘depression’ I refer to seasonal depression/mood change, not to the mental illness. Always remember that these are not the same, and we cannot compare disabling mental illness to mood changes that could be lifted without medication and professional therapy.

I have prepared few nice things to try for yourself. Anxiety might suggest you ‘you do not have time for this‘, ‘this is pointless‘, ‘it won’t work‘. Maybe it is right, maybe it won’t work. But if you try, you might surprise yourself. Take one step at a time. Or if you wish, jump right into it and make it an intense day of self-care. This is all about you, your needs, your comfort, and happiness.

Music

I have started to read about binaural beats therapy, and decided to try it out for myself. It took me a while to find a recording that doesn’t annoy me, or gives me a headache, but the ones that I do enjoy I find very helpful.

It’s nothing that could replace actual therapy, it’s just one of the self-help tools. It was not proven to be effective, for some people it works, for some it doesn’t. In conclusion, it won’t hurt to try, but if it doesn’t help, you don’t need to try to force yourself to listen to this. For me personally those few recordings are helpful, it makes my time at work better, and my mood is improved as well. It’s especially nice to listen to when I am reading.

For best results use headphones with stereo.

In addition, I strongly recommend music that makes you want to dance. Just dancing a few minutes a day, rocking in your chair as you work, it all works well for stimulating the brain to grant you some endorphines.

I personally love best to dance to witch house. We are not allowed to have concerts and parties, but nobody will stop you from having a one person rave at home. Bonus points for fancy outfits and some makeup if you like. I know some people have issues with allowing themselves to dress up if they are not going anywhere – treat this as an encouragement to do so. I promise you will have a lot of fun with this. We need to put some extra work to make our days spent in constant environment more varied.

If you live with someone – ask them to join your dance party. Or dance alone in your room, if you prefer. Use headphones to maximize the personal experience. Anything, this is the time for you.

Reading

A good book is always a good idea to escape your surroundings and immerse yourself in something interesting. I am struggling a lot to make the time and just sit, and read. It’s one of my favorite activities, but the anxiety keeps telling me I should be doing something else instead.

To combat this, my love and I introduced a new night time routine – we go to bed earlier, and then just lay and read, and share our thoughts. Now it’s my favorite part of the day. It also helps you fall asleep easier, and reach the REM phase, as you are avoiding blue screen time before bed, which translates to better sleep overall. In winter time it’s especially important to keep a good sleep hygiene, since our day cycle is thrown off.

I have found few books that I would recommend for this season. I specifically chose books that touch subjects that are abstract enough to let you shift your focus from the immediate surroundings and the state of the world, to the more philosophical, appreciative about nature mindset.

An Ode to Darkness

by Sigri Sandberg

An interesting study of darkness, reported by a traveler who fought her fears on the far North. The author shared her view from both mental and physical perspective.

Nature’s Numbers: The Unreal Reality Of Mathematics

by Ian Stewart

Mathematic professor indulges us in the ways of math that is inspiring and inducing a sense of peace coming from the elegance of the patterns in the world.

Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds

by Bernd Heinrich

Ever wondered just how intelligent the ravens are? In this book you can gain insight in years of observations carried out by a naturalist and professor of biology.

Einstein’s Cosmos: How Albert Einstein’s Vision Transformed Our Understanding of Space and Time

by Michio Kaku

Michio Kaku takes on both biographic and scientific aspects of Einstein’s work, as usual providing excellent quality of explanation of complex concepts to curious people who have no formal training in physics.

Food

What would be a self-care day without proper nourishment. I am a big fan of functional food. I love all the products that are allowing you to take less supplements (for example I buy a lot of products that are enriched in magnesium, potassium, B12, etc.), and I enjoy fortifying my foods by myself. You don’t need to own a fancy lab to do it. I try to take every opportunity to improve upon my products. Here are some of my favorite things to drink or snack on. One of the excellent items to add to your food are adaptogens, that are essentially natural supplements that have been scientifically proven effective in bringing your body to balance. An illness is just a lack of balance. In these times especially we could use some boost.

Miso – the healthiest soup in the world

I consider miso soup to be the healthiest dish in the world. If you have access to the following ingredients, I strongly suggest trying it out. I came up with a cheap student version, that doesn’t strain your wallet too much, especially if you buy the items in bulk. I can enjoy a month of daily miso eating for about 80 PLN.

  • miso paste (fermented soy)
  • vegan stock cubes (I choose mushroom and veggie)
  • shiitake mushrooms (I buy dried bulk)
  • silk tofu
  • dried wakame
  • leek
  • mushroom & soy sauce
  • sesame seeds

Bring water to boil, throw in the stock cubes, and thinly cut leek. Add few drops of soy sauce. Then throw in the mushrooms, and let it boil for about 20 minutes (until mushrooms are soft). Add miso paste (2-3 tablespoons per medium sized pot), and stir it until it’s smooth. Finish with wakame, boil for few minutes until the leaves are soft.

Serve with crumbled silk tofu on top, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

The soup is very mild, warming, and filling. It contains so many beneficial compounds that I would have to write another whole post about it. Soy, mushrooms and wakame are essential parts of Japanese cuisine and are hugely responsible for their folk’s longevity.

If you struggle to find a good bargain on the ingredients or have any questions, message me and I will help.

Activities

The gyms are closed. Entertainment places are closed. Everything is closed, and you might be wondering what else is to do than to sit at home and rot. Good news, there are still many enjoyable things you can do. Especially now that it’s not recommended to stay in close proximity to others, parks and forests are an ideal place to meet with friends. So long as you are wearing masks as you commute there, and you don’t walk too close, don’t hug, etc., you are safe. Fresh air and contact with nature can only help you boost your immune system and general happiness.

My favorite thing to do is to grab my Favorite Human™, and/or perhaps a friend or two, and go for a walk to a park, with tea in the thermos and a bag full of bird food. Feeding the babies is entertaining and rewarding, as you get to observe them closer and closer, and notice how over the weeks some of the birds start to notice you right away and shyly follow you through the park to the feeding spot, and some become more trusting and come so close they can eat from your hand.

Once we were walking through Łazienki park at night, and when I looked up to stare at the trees I saw some giant, ominous shapes, right above us. It was quite a scare, until we realized those were the park’s peacocks. Never knew before that they sleep on trees as well.

The motivation to go out might escape you the moment it gets dark, but I promise that darkness allows you to explore a whole new aspect of the world’s beauty, and it would be a shame not to experience it.

It’s important to remember what kind of food is appropriate for birds – seeds, grains, but no bread (especially old bread). If you want to treat them you can also crush some corn waffles (natural, no salt). In pet stores you can buy a bulk of various seeds and other treats for birds, and then you can mix it up in a to-go jar.

A four-legged friend counts as two!

I hope some of this you will find useful, and you will find a way to enjoy this time, and survive the pandemic and political crisis in well-being and peace. We need to find a way to function in hard times, as it’s not going to get any better, and the climate crisis’ clock is ticking. A clock-bomb, if you will. Mental skills of survival is even more crucial than the physical.

On that note, belated happy Holidays and the New Year, from me and my Love!

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