There are going to be times in recovery where you’ll feel like you’re flat lining. And it might happen when there is nothing particularly devastating or even mildly upsetting going on in your life. The signs might go something like this:

You picked up a bunch of produce at the supermarket but just found yourself throwing it out because it was starting to look like something for the compost. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches have just felt easier to make when you’ve been hungry, or a slab of cheese straight out of the package in front of the fridge even though you bought it to put in omelets. The eggs have been sitting there for almost two weeks and you’ve eaten two. Just not in the mood to cook anything. You suspect something is off especially since you’ve made such an effort to become a healthier eater this year. Skipping breakfast, consuming more bread, maybe eating a box of cookies – what’s up with that? You looked at the box of arugula all week knowing it would go bad if you didn’t take five minutes to make a salad but instead you grabbed a slice of pizza on the way home and killed your appetite. Now the arugula is in the trash. Besides, you haven’t even been really feeling hungry. You just throw something into your mouth because you know you have to eat.

The list you keep next to the computer of stuff you need to take care of hasn’t changed much the past two weeks. A few more things have been added on but only one item was scratched off. Nothing is really pressing so there’s been no harm recopying the errands onto next week’s list. You know one or two have to get dealt with this week though.

There’s a pile of bills that needs to be opened. You’re surprised that there’s a turn-off notice and that something else is due in two days. Have they really been sitting there that long?  Crazy, especially since you have the money to pay them.

Thank God you’ve still managed to get to the gym even if you do skip part of your workout. You just don’t have the energy for it. Even the post-workout vitality is short-lived. By the time you get home, you feel like taking a nap. Every day lately you feel like napping. Then you sleep like shit, either wake up after only a few hours or re-set the alarm and sleep as long as you can get away with.

You know you need to get outside and walk for a while to get some fresh air – but its too cold, too rainy, too grey. Maybe you’ll do it later instead.

It takes everything to get to a meeting. You thought you wanted to see people but now that you’re there, you don’t feel like talking to anyone. Maybe someone has noticed how quiet you are and asked how you’re doing. “Okay,” you say, “Just tired”.  You wonder to yourself why you’re always tired lately. In fact, you haven’t felt like masturbating or having sex either. You’ve done it but afterward wondered why you’d bothered.

Most likely, if you are reading this and recognizing yourself, you’re experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (the SADs). It’s not just a winter thing – they’ve found depression like this can set in when weather goes from cold to hot as well. Of course, the best prevention is to be aware, vigilant, and stay the course of a balanced healthy routine from October thru April. Personally, I have an anti-SADS routine I try to maintain every winter but I can still identify with everything I listed. Lethargy sneaks up on you. Two days of crap weather and the next thing I’ll notice I haven’t been outside for more than a few hours in five days. The combo of indoor heating and cold drafts zap my vitality. But there is a way out of this flat-lining sensation.

Begin taking the opposite action to what you feel like doing. At first it will feel exhausting and you’ll want to cut yourself a break and slack off – don’t. Begin today. Take a shower and wash your hair, shave your legs/face/whatever you shave. Make an effort. Tweeze the  eyebrows you’ve been neglecting, put on powder, cologne, perfume whatever you’d normally do if you had a date. Make that level of effort with self-grooming before you leave the house. Eat breakfast and do the dishes right away. Make your bed and tidy up all your piles that are starting to make you look like a hoarder. Look at your list of things to do and figure out what you can do today – don’t try to do it all. This is about recreating balance and participating in your life. Open mail and organize your bills. Hit the supermarket and put enough fresh fruit and vegetables in your fridge to last four days and purchase them with a plan in mind so you know what you will use them for. When you return from the market, wash, dry, and cut them up. Now place them in containers so you can access them easily for cooking, salads, and a fruit cup.

Go outside for an hour a day. If that means enlisting the company of a friend, get on the phone. While you’re at it, make a couple dates for coffee or a movie, for a game of pool, or whatever you enjoy doing with a few friends. Now you have something fun to look forward to later this week.

Exercise 3-4 times this week – swim, workout, take yoga, a dance class, play hockey – whatever physical activity will get your blood pumping. If you don’t have money for a gym, jog or power walk.

If you have to nap, set an alarm for 15 minutes or a half hour. Better yet, use that time to focus on your breathing or meditate. If you haven’t taken up meditation yet, go on YouTube and search guided meditations and find one that interests you and give it a try.

Before you go to a meeting, ask a friend to meet you there who wants to hang out for a while afterward. Stay connected to people.

It will be hard to do all of the above but if you use this as a guide-map and follow it for a few days, you’ll start to pick up your old natural rhythm. Your energy will start to return and so will your appetite for nutritious food. Drink lots of water. Relax at the end of the day with a movie, a book, or a bath.  If you treat each day like it matters it will. I guarantee that within a couple weeks, you’ll feel a lot better. It won’t happen by magic though – you have to force yourself to get started. Soon the days will be longer, the smell of spring will be in the air, your libido will kick in and you will feel the joy again.




Patty is a nationally recognized certified recovery coach and writer. She lives in New York City.


Thanks for the great article..

I have been living in Denmark for three years, after lenavig sunny FL.My periods stopped. I developed acne (huh, in my mid thirties?!). I could not handle *normal* amounts of stress…Winter time in DK has less than 5 hours of light, IF the clouds part. In fact, the other weekend we had our first full day of sun in over 5 weeks.I started light therapy last October in an accidental kind of way. While working on my master’s thesis, I had a sun lamp beside me. I was toiling away writing for hours at night for several months.Then graduation came, and no more writing, so no more sunlamp. Then I got weepy, slept all the time, felt desolate…Went to my doc and we pieced together that my sunlamp made the diff. Of course! Sun keeps melatonin at bay, and if there is no light, melatonin rises and we go into hibernation mode. So I use it in the winter time for 30 minutes in the morning, looking at it with only 2 inches separating me and the lamp, and when I get home I sit with it about 3 feet away from me for several hours. When I travel for work, I cannot take it with me (it is large) and I feel the effects of not sitting in front of it within several days.As for the natural sun, it helps us make Vitamin D, a building block of hormones. Progesterone needs it, and if there is not enough vit D, not enough progesterone, no fluffy uterus therefore no periods. That I knew and started going to the tanning bed once every 5 to 7 days, and after 18 months of no periods eventually the tanning got me back to a 30 day cycle.There is an excellent book on the sun *Naked at Noon*.Makes sense… vitamin D is cancer fighting, helps the immune system. Scandinavia has the highest rates of certain cancers than any part of the globe, plus highest rate of Type I diabetes.As for Denmark having the highest suicide rate per capita than any other country, well, that is a cultural issue that no large amounts of vit D can solve…

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