10 Tips for Fighting Winter Depression from a Depressive

“January is almost over, you made it,” you think to yourself enthusiastically. “I’m over the hump!” Then the realization of a month of the incoming February grays hits you like gluten-free stuffing after Christmas dinner, hard. You can’t get off the couch. You feel like a human comforter. Best to probably call it a day.

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10 Tips for Fighting Winter Depression from a Depressive

I never fare well mentally in January and February. My skin feels dry. My clothes feel tight. The world feels confusing and meaningless outside my apartment. I went to buy my MetroCard for the NYC subway and when the screen came up asking if I wanted to “ADD TIME,” it catapulted me into an existential crisis. January has me coming undone.

This year, that feeling of inner turmoil is compounded by my anxiety surrounding the new “administration.” I know a lot of people are struggling with this (I know that because my therapist told me so). But we must press on. We must rise up from laying on the bathroom floor and say, “I can shower today!” I’m not a doctor (although I do know my way around MayoClinic dot com), so always check with a healthcare professional if you have serious health concerns, but here are some suggestions for a few life hacks that just might help pull you from the depths of your food-stained recliner.

1) Just Walk: Walking LITERALLY changes your brain chemistry. Pop on some headphones, lace up your sneakers and just go. You will feel so much better. When I am stuck on writing or need to work through a problem, I walk. When I am angry or sad, I do best if I throw on a ball cap and head out the door. (If you want to know the science behind why walking works there is a great book called “Surviving Survival” by Laurence Gonzales.)

2) Make a DID List: I am guilty of making these incredibly long to-do lists that are impossible to accomplish. Every day just feels like a barrage of stuff I didn’t finish from the day before coupled with new stuff to do, culminating in me feeling like a failure. So now I make a DID list. I write down every single little thing I did during the day and look at it. It makes me realize that I am making progress and accomplishing things. (PS - down time also counts as accomplishing something.)

3) Pamper: If you have that extra cash to do a spa day now is the time! You can also get a $10 neck massage at a nail place and it’s amazing how someone touching you just feels so nice and needed. Paint your toes and have a private dance party in your house while they are drying. I notice that even if I just buy a cheap face mask and throw on some super comfy socks, I feel like it’s a little mini vacation.

4) Time Limits on Binging: I’m a show binger. I’m also capable of watching multiple movies in a row. Oh the skills! The fact is that I really enjoy it and am not going to stop doing it. I need to completely lose myself in something and block out the world sometimes. It’s one of the only ways I successfully regroup; so I will give myself a time limit, bordering on almost offensive. I will tell myself I can have the entire day to do nothing but zone out. I give myself permission to hide from the world for 24 whole hours (and maybe that means watching shows with subtitles so I can’t look at my phone at the same time). Then I don’t feel guilty afterwards because I scheduled it, it’s out of my system and I actually feel rejuvenated.

5) Eat Real Food: I love junk food. And sometimes we all have to indulge. But it NEVER makes me feel better. It always makes me feel gross, the chemicals throw off my moods, I can see it on my skin. I always am less depressed if I take the time to cook. Throw a veggie in there. Boil an egg. Just get a vitamin into your body. When you are down, try to stay away from overly processed foods. They just don’t help. They are a moody mad at yourself trap.

6) Volunteer: Be a part of something you believe in, a part of something bigger. It not only serves as way to get out of the house and meet new people, it provides a sense of purpose. I also feel like it’s harder to cancel an engagement if I feel I’m letting someone down.

7) Friends: Call one. I mean actually telephone a human, don’t text. I know, crazy. Maybe even make a date for coffee or to go see something together.

8) Get Offline: The internet is both a gift and a curse. Especially now with the barrage of political sh&%storms happening, it is becoming harder and harder to separate ourselves from our phones. Take blackout breaks. No Facebook. No news. No Twitter. Trust me, when you log back on there will still be chaos brewing. Be in your own timeline for a few hours a day. I go to the library (a great resource) and check out books. (Who doesn’t love free stuff?!) Physical real books not on my phone, and try to read a little every day on the subway or before bed. Lose yourself in a story or a non-fiction that isn’t interrupted by incoming messages.

9) Get a Therapist: I know it’s money. I understand there’s a stigma around mental health. I get that it’s hard to find the right person. BUT, there are places that take sliding scale. You don’t have to tell anyone you are going if you don’t want to. And, if you hang in there and find your therapist match she/he will help you actually change your life. It’s sort of (really) a very big deal.

10) Be Nice: I’m wound up tighter than my Spanx just after the holidays, but when I am nice to people it always makes for a better day. I try to focus on all the things I’m grateful for and remember to say thank you. It sounds like a cheeseball move, but I believe it is imperative to happiness and right now, to the good of the world.

Now lose those sweatpants, shower it off, lotion it up (it’s dry out there) and move it on out Young Skywalker! The Force is with you!

Ashley Graham: A Body Uprising

Ashley Graham: A Body Uprising
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I’m a stand-up comic and contrary to how it may seem, I find it hard sharing certain personal details about myself. On any given night you could come see me perform at a comedy club in New York City and think to yourself, wow, that’s a really personal story she’s telling. (Ask my mom and she would definitely tell you that I divulge too much.) Apparently what I find to be “normal” things to discuss, others might think are private. The flip side to that is I feel very vulnerable about certain topics that many people have no problem discussing.

Here’s one that’s hard for me to admit: the first time I saw Ashley Graham in a TV underwear ad I cried. I cried like a child cries. I’m probably about to cry right now. I think the reason I find it so personal is because on stage, I need to be confident. I want young women to see me and think, I can do that! I can get up there and talk about things I believe in. I can be loud. I can be big. I don’t want to let on to how much of a struggle it was for me to give myself permission to be “too much,” both with my words and with my hips. I’m afraid to be a cliche, sappy or sentimental.

So often we see women talking down to themselves about what they look like. I don’t want to do that. I have noticed that, in my experience, if I make a joke about my body, it makes people stop listening to the words coming out of my mouth. It’s like the audience either feels the need to come over and say “Oh honey, we don’t think you’re fat,” “I love a thick girl,” or they spend the next 10 minutes trying to figure out if I am fat or not. I just don’t want it to be a part of the conversation. That’s not why I’m here. I have also noticed that if I bring up topics surrounding my body, people then feel free to come over and talk about my body, too. And I’m just not interested in that so I don’t open up the floor. I have no jokes about my body in my act anymore. I’ll talk about food addiction but I don’t talk about my figure, positive or negative. I would like to be a woman who has an opinion on things and it’s not about her looks (which seems impossible, but a girl can try).

That being said, Ashley Graham has changed how I see myself. It’s hard for someone like me — someone who loves sci-fi and Ben Franklin and pretends to not care about beauty expectations — to say that. But it is the truth. If you aren’t familiar with Ashley Graham, here’s a brief rundown. She stepped into the limelight in 2010 when ABC and FOX wouldn’t air an underwear ad she was in. (Apparently women over a certain size showing skin are far too racy, but in actuality it got people talking, so maybe those networks actually did us all a favor.) Since that ad ignited a firestorm of controversy, Ashley Graham has been on fire also. She has her own swimsuit line with Swimsuits For All, her own lingerie line, and she’s all over magazines, in a music video with Joe Jonas, was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, in Lane Bryant’s new campaign and now she’s on “America’s Next Top Model.”

She is really truly changing the way people see beauty because she is changing what we see.

I want to repeat that because I believe it bears repeating: Ashley Graham is changing the way people see beauty because she is changing what we see.

I cried when I saw her on screen wearing underwear because I had never IN MY LIFE seen someone of size reflected back to me in such a positive, confident and unclothed way. I cried again when I saw her runway show at New York Fashion Week because she was out there strutting her beautiful stuff with legs and hips like mine. I didn’t even realize how much it meant to me until that moment. I felt suddenly less abnormal, like “big girl” was no longer an insult. She openly talks about having cellulite and how people told her she would never be more than a catalogue girl. She dismisses the term “plus size” or “real model” because creating a separate category for anything makes someone else feel like the other. She uses the hashtag #BeautyBeyondSize.

It may seem trivial but it is not. What it feels like to finally see someone who is shaped like you represented in an affirmative and alluring light is nothing short of glorious. All of a sudden it makes you feel less “wrong.” It’s freeing. There has been an overwhelming sense that if we don’t look a certain way, then we aren’t allowed to be proud and we should apologize for our bodies. How offensive is that?! I know politically that’s not true but in all honestly it’s been hard for me to convince my inner self of it at certain moments in my life while lying on the bathroom floor. It’s stifling. It’s constricting. I’m so tired of trying to make myself smaller so other people think I’m acceptable. (But the sad part is, it was also so I’d think I was acceptable.)

Big girls do cry. And spend money. Ashley Graham has started an empire: fashion lines, huge online followings, and lectures on body confidence. Women are coming out of the woodwork to buy her brand and other clothing companies are following suit. Money talks. Groups of women who have never seen themselves represented are throwing their wallets down in support. It is my hope that this is only the beginning and we will see more types of women in all shapes, sizes, races and ages represented confidently in magazines, on runways and in film and television (which has been starting to happen).

Ashley Graham is changing how people feel about themselves, which equals changing lives. It’s hard for someone with my sarcasm level to say that. But I genuinely mean it. Ashley Graham made my life better. It’s a bust outbreak, a hip insurgency, a thigh uprising. Rock on with your big bad self!