New Castle News

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December 3, 2012

Lisa Madras: The joy of six — a half-dozen ways to beat the blues

NEW CASTLE — What lifts your spirits when life gets you down?

December is a busy time of year, and I've got a lot to do in the next month: cookies to bake, friends to visit, shopping to do, kids' Christmas concerts, and preparing for Santa's big arrival.

Problem is, as K.D. Lang so eloquently puts it, "I'm too busy bein' blue."

I so hate the fact that I had to hit one of my blue spells at this time of year. Normally I'm happy as could be from the first falling leaf until the new year ... and then I get blue. (That's mostly because I know I don't have any real holidays or vacations for the next six months, but it's not a real BLUE blue, if you know what I mean.)

But my moods are as unpredictable as western Pennsylvania weather, so I've had to figure out a few ways to pull myself out of a slump, lest I allow myself to wallow in it and face the very real danger of it becoming the norm. Actually, I know quite a few people who become depressed at this time of year, so for the purpose of helping out, I guess it's fortuitous that I slid down this slippery slope right now. So I'm going to share with you a few of the little blues-busters I've found to work pretty well.

1) Breathe! — Meditation is great if you can get a handle on it. For me, it's a hit and miss thing. If the monkeys are behaving, I can get a good relaxation going. If they're flinging poo at the moment, I know to move on to another technique. I learned a great piece of wisdom about meditating that really helps if you're the kind of person who always says they're going to do it but never seems to get around to it: Just put the pillow on the floor, then put your butt on the pillow. The rest will follow.

2) Talk it out! — I've made the most amazing friend a couple of years ago that I was afraid I was going to chase away with my ridiculous moods.  She always knows when I'm down, either by the look on my face or the tone of my voice, and no matter how hard I try to chase her away, I just can't shake her off. (I want time to wallow in my misery, after all!) By the time she's through with me, I'm almost always laughing so hard that something inevitably shoots out of my nose and passersby are looking at us like someone left the asylum gate unlocked. If you're blessed enough to have a friend like this, talk to him or her. Love like that doesn't come around very often.

3) Get soaked! — Steaming hot bath, bubbles, candles, and Sarah McLachlan on the the iPod. There isn't a depressed thought in the world that can survive that scenario. Give it a whirl.

4) Get moving! — This is the kind of advice that I'd like to punch other people up aside the head when they say it to me. But it works! It really, truly works! It doesn't matter how long I've been doing an exercise routine ... I still have to fight myself to put on the tennies and get moving EVERY SINGLE time. But the minute I'm on that elliptical with some Metallica or Slipknot blaring in my ears, I'm 10 feet tall and bulletproof.

5) Listen! — I've mentioned music several times already in conjunction with other activities, but music alone can make all the difference in your mood. I've made a playlist of empowering songs on my iPod and even if I just sit in my Lazy Boy and chill out, I've found that it's impossible to feel sorry for yourself when you're listening to Alicia Keys singing "Superwoman." (Even when I'm a mess/ I still put on a vest/With an S on my chest/ Oh yes, I'm a Superwoman!")

6) Stroke me, stroke me! — (Sorry, another song on my playlist.) But if you happen to have a pet (cats and dogs work better for this than iguanas or goldfish), then stroke away. I have two cats that are almost identical, so if one isn't available, the other one usually is. Sometimes I'm lucky enough to have both of them on my lap at the same time. Goodbye, high blood pressure! Goodbye, monkeys ... my kitties are the kings of the jungle here!

Whatever you choose to do to lift your spirits, always remember one thing: Most of what upsets you has to do with either the past or the future. (Unless you currently have your tongue stuck to a flagpole.) Focus on what's happening right here, right now. Just look around, and breathe. If you don't find happiness, keep looking for it.

Insist upon it. Grab it with both hands, and your heart, and never let it go.

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