Using self-care to fight the winter blues. 

What does it mean to be present with yourself each day? To make sure you’re giving the best version of yourself to others, you have to take care of yourself first — some experts even say this type of practice should be a way of life. 
By definition, self-care is health care provided to oneself without the consultation of a medical professional. Listening to your needs and tending to them sounds simple, but busy individuals often find themselves trapped in routines or caring for others. When they can’t focus on themselves, their tanks can run dry.

I Will Love Myself
When an individual’s needs take a back seat, the results can be brutal. Tree of Hope Counseling and Wellness Center owner Tricia Orscheln has more than 25 years of experience helping people help themselves. 
“Self-care is just as important as caring for others,” Tricia says. “Your body deserves to be taken care of, whether that be physically, mentally, emotionally, or socially. Without caring for our bodies, we would be unable to live, work, or play to our fullest potential.”
“Self-care is really about being in tune with what you love, what you’re passionate about, your character traits, then taking action — making those things happen a little bit throughout the day,” she says.

Everything I Need to Succeed Is Within My Reach
Tricia says the best way to stay in tune with yourself is by adding to your “mental health toolbox” with what feels good to you. Using these tools can reduce stress or anxiety and increase happiness and concentration. 
Do something you love every day, like watching your favorite TV show, dancing, reading, or gardening. You should also practice positive personal hygiene — it’s important for your socially, medical, and psychological well being, and it reduces the risk of illness and improves the way you view yourself. Other tools include tapping into your spiritual needs with prayer or meditation and maintaining healthy friendships and relationships. 
One of Tricia’s methods is the “daily vitamin.” The practice begins by making a mental shift at the beginning of the day. Step one: Ask yourself what you’re thankful for. Then, take a moment to let the thought enter your mind. Step two: Share your thought with someone else. Explain the purpose, and ask them to reciprocate their thought on being thankful for something back to you. 
“Now there are two positive energies working together to help set the attitude for the day,” Tricia says. “That’s just so healthy to jump-start your day and position your brain in a forward movement rather than saying, ‘Oh my Gosh, I don’t want to get up today. I do not want to go to work. I can’t stand my situation.’ All the negativity we sometimes
start the day off with — think of your tone, think of that energy.” 
When obstacles arise throughout the day, as they always do, the daily vitamin of your gratitude can help you choose where to spend your energy currency. 

I Can Adjust to the Seasons 
Reflecting on what you’re thankful for when obstacles arise can help negate negative thoughts. However, many individuals feel an unexplainable sadness as the cold weather sets in.  These feelings of depression in the winter months are common. You may be experiencing seasonal affective disorder. SAD is typically characterized by a person’s feelings of sadness, low energy, hopelessness, irritability, loss of interest or pleasure, loss of appetite, and sleep disturbance in the dark, cold months. Key factors to helping reduce SAD symptoms include limiting caffeine and alcoholic beverages, setting a good routine, and getting outside when it’s bearable.
“A lot of people in the Midwest experience SAD because our summers are really tough, and so are our winters,” Tricia says. “In one day in Missouri, we can go from hot, stormy, or chilly to beautiful. When you’re experiencing SAD, that’s very hard to adapt to.” 
With fewer hours of daylight, Tricia and other mental health professionals recommend trying a light therapy box (also known as happy lamps). These lightboxes imitate outdoor light and are nearly 20 times brighter than a household lamp. 
“​​Getting bright light or being outdoors can be helpful in combating the effects of SAD due to the sun’s ability to boost serotonin,” Tricia advises. “Serotonin is converted into melatonin to help the individual sleep throughout the night.” Some studies show the body produces more serotonin on sunny days than on darker days. Researchers believe lightboxes can help the body produce the serotonin it needs, increasing your mood when appropriately used, and thus helping fight those winter blues. 

I Give Myself Permission to Do What Is Right for Me
Adding self-care to your busy schedule doesn’t have to be complicated. Spending time alone, saying affirmations aloud, exercising, or saying no are all ways to uplift yourself. 
Tree of Hope Counseling and Wellness Center has many ways to help Jefferson City area residents create space for themselves. Their new Rejuvenation Stations at the Branch offers time alone to focus solely on you. 
“The three stations allow an individual to be alone with full capability to unplug and disconnect from the stress and anxiety of everyday life,” Tricia says. 
The stations feature an infrared sauna, BEMER (bio-electromagnetic energy regulation) equipment, and a massage chair. Each station offers a unique style of relaxation; the BEMER station, for example, uses electromagnetic pulses to regulate energy and blood flow in the body. The stimulation leads to feelings of wellness and rejuvenation. The infrared sauna station helps the body receive the positive health benefits of light along with a recharged feeling. The full-body inverted  massage chair reduces anxiety, tension, and stress. 

Self-care is an essential part of your health and wellness, and these are just a few options to add to your routine. Know yourself and create habits that work for you.
“People get very comfortable,” Tricia says. “They get into their own habits and routines. Self-care allows a person to change up the routine, to develop some new and improved structure in their life. That’s so healthy.”