Bevin's Blog I'm blogging the relentless pursuit of my joy

2021-10-18

Getting Out Ahead of Seasonal Depression

It’s that time of year again! Where I live we are losing three minutes of light per day! Rapidly approaching Winter, long nights already begun, big storms, cloudy days.

I’ve been dealing with seasonal depression / seasonal affective disorder my entire life! I didn’t identify it until I lived on the East Coast, and thought it was the cold and the dark that affected my mood.

My mom shared with me after I moved to Los Angeles and I realized I was still coming up against SAD that when I was little I was incredibly “grumpy” in the Winter. I was also incredibly depressed my entire teens and most of the time growing up so I didn’t identify the different, enhanced struggles in the Winter.

Once I had more mental health awareness, tools and self care I have floated in and out of different depression and anxiety struggles as an adult but the seasonal is easier to identify.

I deeply thought that moving to LA was going to kick my SAD. “What if all my self care from October through April wasn’t just to fight SAD, how great could my quality of life be?” I wondered naively.

Prevention is the best defense against SAD and I have some of my best self care tips for SAD to give you now. Enhanced by my further studies living in Washington State so close to Canada I can see it on a clear day.

I hope these help you to care for yourself more gently in the coming season and spark ideas for your self care. I am not a medical professional and all of this is presented as information only! Use at your own risk!

UV Light!

Also called “SAD Lamps” these mimic the UV rays of the sun, vital to Vitamin D production and feelings of joy. I use mine for 15-30 minutes in the morning. I love to sleep and I don’t like my sleep disturbed, so early day UV rays are better for all those natural rhythms. I have had several but my current one is a lil gal that sits on my desk and stores easily in my small home.

This is the lamp I use now. All of the Amazon links here give me a small commission (3% or so) at no cost to you, but I do encourage you to buy from small businesses when you can because your purchase with them feeds a family rather than putting Bezos into space. But if you’re buying from him anyway I love that 3% it helps buy get audio books. Anything you buy from Amazon after clicking a link to them on my website earns me that commission.

Go Outside!

Our human bodies need to be moving outdoors for two hours a day. I’m obsessed with the physiology of high performance since I weave it into Fat Kid Dance Party aerobics so much and when I learned this it made a lot of sense.

Our brains and bodies have evolved differently. Our bodies believe we’re still in the 1700s living that farmer life. Being outside and moving is what our bodies wanna do even when our brains don’t. That’s self care, doing what you don’t wanna do now so that you’ll feel better later.

When I lived in the NYC snow life, I’d go out at least 20 minutes at noon to get as much light into my walk as possible. Now that I have access to many acres of old growth forest I go for at least 1 probably 2 hours most days, even when the weather is yucky. It makes a big difference in my overall well-being year round.

I’m obsessed with Big Leaf Maples.

Movement

Tying into the outside time is also moving your body! Even five minutes of dancing helps raise your spirit.

Blood flow to the brain helps! If you’re a yoga person don’t skip the inversion. Legs up the wall is my fav chill inversion.

Supplements!

Turns out, I actually had a lot of nutrient deficiencies for most of my life that have affected my brain’s functioning and last Winter–2020-21–I had the easiest, least SAD affected Winter of my life. During a global pandemic in a very cold and dark place!

The right quality supplements made the biggest difference. I had off and on used supplements from the drug store that weren’t effective in a way I could feel. I now use a super high quality source from a company that has their own organic farms and high quality fish.

Fish oil made the biggest difference in my brain. When I have more cash I want to try doubling how much I take and see if it is even better in there. I truly hate eating fish so this is why I think finding the right supplement (that doesn’t taste fishy) has been such a game changer for me.

I take a memory vitamin with ginko and cistanche. Blood flow to the brain helps with mood!

My doctor has me on 2,000% of the RDA of Vitamin D and I take a mushroom based supplement for that along with calcium and magnesium to prevent migraines. Fat folks need more Vitamin D than thin folks!

And Vitamin D is what a lot of studies show keep you out of the hospital with that deadly virus that is going around. (In that vein I take a lot of Vitamin C and Zinc and wear a mask outside of my quarantine pod to support immunity.)

Lipstick / Getting Dressed

I’ve been working from home primarily since 2008. It can be really easy to never get dressed or look cute. But honestly, taking that shower, getting dressed and for me putting on lipstick makes a giant impact on my mood. Especially through the pandemic, as I get ready for my daily walk I usually add lipstick and straighten my bangs because it makes me feel good.

For you it might be a special essential oil or perfume, or doing your hair or whatever. Notice when you’re in a particularly good mood and assess how you can recreate those conditions for yourself on the blah days. It’s a lot easier to start all this SAD prevention before you feel too depressed to shower or groom yourself so before you get out of the habit of doing it and slide deep into that place, consider your best defense a good offense. If you want! There’s nothing morally wrong about being in that place either, you don’t owe anyone your mental health.

Essential Oils!

Mood boosting oils I love include orange, geranium, peppermint, patchouli and lavender for chill. Connect to your friend who sells them and support a small business. I like them diffused, in carrier oils on elbow pits and wrists, or if food grade in a lil hot chocolate!

Resting More!

Our bodies are naturally attuned to light and when it’s more dark they want to rest more! I think a big difference in my experience of SAD is not beating myself up for needing more rest! I think a lot of my depression was anger pointed toward myself for not meeting my unrealistic expectations of myself.

I have been meditating a long time, from a shitty inconsistent meditator to a daily sometimes three times daily meditator. What it’s done for me is conditioned me to be a neutral observer of my body and brain. I can notice, “Oh my body needs more rest,” without the cavalcade of negative thoughts and beating myself up.

I’m not a “busy” person, I am a highly prioritized person running two businesses. It could be nuts / I could be nutes but instead I’m measured and neutral about my body and her cues.

I prioritize my body and what she needs and letting go of beating myself up for not being “productive” took me many years and I’m grateful for that fruit in my life today. Self care is learning how to speak to yourself with kindness and compassion.

So I rest more! Winter means more puzzles and books and longer sleep. Though I have been grieving a lot this past year which also means my body needs more rest so I’ve already been long sleeping.

I finally left quarantine to go camping with my friends. I was as safe as I could be to prevent the virus but I did take my chances by hugging 12+ times a day. Touch hunger! Mimi gives great hugs and makes great care packages! DM her!

Connection!

Humans need connection! Like a physiological need! And yes I’m totally touch hungry living alone in the woods but I do make it a point to connect with at least 3 people a day (my new goal is 10).

A connection vs saying hi and walking by is all about intention and inquiry. Am I being interested or interesting in a conversation? They don’t need to take very long but it’s worth it. I genuinely notice a difference in my body and mood on days I’ve had my three connections.

If you live with other humans or have a quarantine pod that hugs, try hugging 12+ times a day. I recently read that’s what it takes to truly thrive!

Plant Medicine

I love plants that help me heal and return to myself and my connection to Source/the Goddess. I love using Cannabis to boost my mood (especially citrus strains) and I have been using psilocybin to prevent depression to great effect (including over last Winter). More on my podcast episode about my experience using psilocybin.

I hope these are helpful tips! I don’t have the resources to monitor comments here but if you have other ideas or want to nerd out about supplements with me send me an email fatkiddanceparty at gmail! Love you! Hope you invest in feeling better this Winter because you deserve to feel good.


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2014-02-20

Five Things I do Every Winter to Avoid Seasonal Depression

This post is part of my mini-blog series about self care. Click this self care week tag to read all the posts!

When I was a teenager living in sunny Northern California I completely resented the sunlight for being so cheerful. I was a surly, depressed and unhappy teenager who had been relentlessly bullied in my childhood and middle school years. I think it was to be expected.

11534524226_e726da4816_oThis is the present-day backyard at my mom’s house. My teenage bedroom window is on the right. It’s waaaaaay nicer in the backyard than it was 20 years ago. When I was home for Christmas I spent each morning of my 2 day stay in the hot tub.

What I didn’t realize that upbringing was doing to me was making me unsuited to any other climate. The first few years I was living on the East Coast I wasn’t really in touch with myself and my emotional well-being to understand that what was happening to me in February and March was seasonal depression, but as I’ve learned more about it and developed coping strategies I actually can see when it creeps up and I know how to stave it off.

Seasonal depression is about lack of sunlight. I am a creature who comes alive in the sun, even though I used to resent it so much and I can get wickedly sunburnt. But I sincerely appreciate it and definitely need it for my own well-being.

I was hanging out with someone who was so delighted by the warmish, bright day we had on Monday that she pumped up the heat in her apartment, threw open her window and laid down in the sunbeam. Naked. (The UV rays won’t penetrate glass so you need the exposure to the direct light.) I thought that was the most delicious way I’d heard to combat seasonal affective disorder.

12663409293_09c60c005a_z When I was visiting my mom for Christmas we went on a hike at Point Reyes for my birthday (which is Christmas Eve).

I thought it would be helpful to share my Winter regimen, which has five main components:

1. UV Therapy Light–I use a UV lamp (aka “Happy Lamp”) every single day for at least 15 minutes but usually 30. I flick it on first thing in the morning when I do my journaling and I sit right next to it. If I’m not journaling I’ll read or sit on my computer. It really works. The one I have now was a hand me down from a friend and I’m thinking of getting a travel one because mine is kind of big and hard to move around. I start my UV light work in late November and lasts until it feels like Spring is really happening. Here’s a version from Amazon that looks handy and small.

I also know some folks who go tanning (the bed kind, not the spray kind) and have said it is mood altering, but of course there is the skin cancer risk…

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2. Vitamin D–I start taking a Vitamin D supplement in October. Just one additional pill on top of my multi-vitamin.

3. Walking–I walk for 20 minutes every day and I try for that walk to be around noon when the sun is at it’s highest. Even in the snow. I try to do this all year long but I have a heavy emphasis on this in the Winter months. I have a dog so that really acts as an impetus to walking.

4. Exercise–I exercise year round as a way to assist my mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health. It’s the best thing I can do to take care of myself and in the Winter ideally I go to the gym three times a week. In October my gym buddy Avory and I were talking about upping our gym regimen because “Winter is coming…”

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5. Keep the blinds open. Part of my morning ritual is opening the curtains up in my room. I’m on the second floor, which is great for birdwatching but not so great for light, but those little bits of sunlight that occasionally peek through are important to me and it reminds me that there is a world turning outside and it’s not perpetual darkness.

I hope these help. It’s not too little too late, when I find myself off the bandwagon within a couple of weeks I can feel the effects of my seasonal depression strategies at work again.

2013-11-22

Thanksgiving Day Body Support

I have a few big triggers in my life and one of them is holiday events as a single person. (In fact, I realized when writing this post I’ve written about being single and child-free at the holidays several times, here, here and here.) Holidays are so loaded! It’s like here’s another time of year where you’re supposed to have a partner and that triggers all my feelings of not having this relationship I want. Plus all of the seeing family of origin stuff or not seeing family of origin and how isolating and hard it can feel at either end.

It’s hard to have a body at any old time of the year but especially given the trigger fest of eating and family and large meals and seeing people for the first time in a long time.

I was asked by Melissa A. Fabello of Everyday Feminism to be part of a Body Activist conglomerate on Twitter to provide support through a hash tag all day and evening on Thanksgiving!

I’ll be posting from the intersectionality of my work–about learning to love your body, being queer in the world, gender, and developing authenticity around family of origin.

All the information is below! Please signal boost!

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From the release:

#THX4SUPPORT: A Twitter-Based Recovery Support Event

Thanksgiving is coming. And while for many of us, that means the excitement of friends, family, and food, for many others, Thanksgiving comes with it a lot of stress, fear, and anxiety.

But you’re not alone.

And this Thanksgiving, we want to make sure that you get the support, resources, and community that you need.

This Thanksgiving, use the hash tag #thx4support on Twitter to:

Reach our team of eating disorder, recovery, and body image activists for one-on-one support or inspiration

Find awesome articles, videos, and resources being tweeted out by organizations and activists

Make new friends by finding people across the country struggling with the same issues. Start a support network!

The following people will be on hand to talk you through any feelings of negativity that you experience:

Melissa A Fabello, Body Image Activist: @fyeahmfabello
Wagatwe Wanjuki, Writer and Activist: @wagatewe
Arielle Lee Bair, Recovery Blogger: @arielleleebair
Kat Lazo, Media Literacy Advocate: @theekatsmeoww
Matt Wetsel, Survivor Turned Activist: @tiledsarenomore
Bevin Branlandingham, Body Liberation Activist: @queerfatfemme
Use the hash tag #thx4support or tweet us directly.

Are you an organization who wants in on the action?
Use #thx4support to tweet out related articles and resources!
Let your followers know that this support is available. Share this graphic!
If you have capacity, join in on giving support to people using the hash tag.

And what can individuals do?
Follow #thx4support and send inspiration to those in need!
Tweet out your favorite resources using #thx4support.
Let us know what kinds of ideas and questions you have by tweeting us!
Because we believe that recovery is possible. And we know that support can help.

—-

Struggling? The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) can help. Call toll-free 1.800.931.2237.

2013-11-12

Ways I’m Embracing My Imperfect Meditation Practice

People are always going on and on about the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health benefits of a meditation practice. I’ve been working on becoming a gold star meditator in fits and starts for years. If my meditation practice had a star it would probably be glitter, shiny and a little distracting.

First of all, I’m a shitty, inconsistent meditator with a lot going on in my head. But I have noticed that since I’ve been attempting to meditate for three years, I am a lot calmer and better at it than I used to be. The trying is the important part. I don’t do it every day though I wish I did. I’ve assembled a few of my meditation tips to encourage other people to seek their inner peace even if they, too, are shitty, inconsistent meditators.

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Calling the corners at Rebel Cupcake. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

I set up a place when I moved into my new apartment that made sense for meditation. At my old place I would sit at the foot of my bed right in front of my altar to meditate. I was never completely comfortable and discovered I liked meditating a lot better from a chair. So I bought a really cute armchair for $30 from a thrift store and set it right next to my fire escape window, where I have a few pots of flowers and herbs. I call it my “Feelings Chair” and every morning I write my morning pages in it and when I meditate I usually do it there. It’s pretty close to my altar (though it doesn’t face my altar) that I feel like I can get the energy from my little sacred spot in the corner where I do my meditating. It’s not perfect, but it works and that’s what’s important.

I really like Sharon Salzberg’s book Real Happiness, it’s like $10 and comes with a guided meditation CD. Very very good intro to many kinds of meditation. It helped me lighten up on myself about meditating. I used to get so frustrated that I couldn’t perfectly clear my head of all thoughts. She says, “The sky is not the clouds,” with regards to thoughts that saunter in during meditation.

Sometimes my meditation practice is just me staring at a squirrel I’m noticing who has a really beautiful fluffy tail, or some birds playing, or how flamey trees are when I’m walking Macy. I try to walk 20 minutes every single day in the Winter as a form of fighting Seasonal Depression, but I don’t always make it a meditation walk. (When I do a meditation walk, I do a version of the Sharon Salzberg prescription in the book I recommended, but mostly I just try to clear my head and focus on being on the walk.) Sometimes it’s a gratitude walk where I literally list things I’m grateful for during the entire twenty minutes (things get repeated).

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Backstage prayer circle with Ivan Coyote, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Felice Shays and Cal Truman (not pictured). Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

I also really love guided meditation journies streaming online. I started with the Oprah Winfrey/Deepak Chopra free meditation situation earlier this year and I’ve done a couple of others, but the Oprah/Deepak one two combo is pretty great. There is a new one that started yesterday. Once you sign up for one you end up getting notices for follow-up ones and now I’m subscribed to a few different online meditation sites for their free streaming meditations.

I’m trying out a video meditation series, which I’ve never done before, and might help folks get started. It really combines the peace I get looking at nature with guided meditation audio. I’m not totally wild about the content partners (not particularly meaty lectures) but the videos are gorgeous.

Lynnee Breedlove had a great quote on his FB the other day about what he thinks about meditation. He’s been a guru to me for quite some time, and he taught me a lot about the value of paying attention.

Meditating, it occurred to me. if god is love and the greatest way to love someone is to put your attention on them, and attention is awareness, which is consciousness, then all you have to do to experience god is pay attention (hard for ADD people, so we try to lengthen moments of attention with substances or brain chemical inducing behaviours, but such addictions cloud the attempt.) therefore consciousness/paying attention is experiencing/being god/godlike. So “all you have to do” to meet god/transcend is look at some one/thing, listen, and breathe. the more moments you can do this, the closer you are to god or the higher you transcend. simple, right?–Lynnee Breedlove

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Invoking the Goddess Lilith at the TRL Lilith Fair tribute show. Candle holder is Ashleigh Nicole Smith as Lilith and a helpful audience member who “Had a light for the Goddess,” as I requested. Photo by The Think Theater Queer Photography.

I like the idea that prayer is asking the Goddess questions and meditation is where you receive the answers. I had a lover who meditated differently–she treated it as a discussion with the universe and did a kind of question and answer. So when we meditated together I’d be keeping my mind blank and she’d be talking to the universe. But it was actually still really helpful to share energy in that way, and mutually pretty calming. Lots of my friends swear by group meditation or pair meditation.

I hope that some of these suggestions help encourage folks to do some meditating. Kelli Jean Drinkwater told me “Self care stretches time,” and I’m hoping that this Winter I can meet the demands of some impending emotional difficulties with an arsenal of self care and peaceful, meditative times.

***

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