This way to adventure!

Hi there!

I’m Emily. I’m a writer living an unexpected expat life fueled by coffee and adventure. Home is where my art is.

(Currently: Brussels)

Grey, Grey, go away.

Grey, Grey, go away.

Brussels isn’t exactly known for sunny weather and that’s even more true in the winter months when the sun can disappear for days on end. I’d been warned that it gets dreary — Joe survived last December’s slog-a-thon with a record-setting 10.5 hours of sunshine the whole month and lived to tell me about it — but I really couldn’t imagine just how blah it gets here. I thought that surviving winter in Minnesota for the past 11 years would have somehow prepared me for this. It didn’t.

I’ve noticed recently that over the past few weeks, I’ve been super sleepy, a little apathetic and craving carbohydrates like they’re going out of style. I’m no stranger to the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) so I made a point of remembering to ask my doctor yesterday what I could do to step up the mitigation efforts and work to stave off those winter blues.

Here’s what I’ve been doing and what I’m adding into the mix:

Vitamin D
Are you as bad at remembering your vitamins as I am? The study results may be mixed on whether or not Vitamin D actually improves SAD symptoms, but my doctor and I decided it can’t hurt to add in a supplement. And, if I put the bottle on the dining room table where it’s in my face, I might actually remember to take it.

Light Therapy
I have an excellent forgetting mechanism. Back in early October, my doctor recommended that I start using a light therapy lamp as soon as daylight savings time ended. It’s January and I’ve been…not awesome at using one of the two lamps Joe and I already have in the house. Yes, that’s right: I didn’t even need to order one and I still couldn’t remember to use it. (It’s now on the dining room table right next to those Vitamin D capsules…)

Exercise
There’s no doubt — scientific or anecdotal — that exercise can do wonders for one’s mood. It’s a struggle to get my butt moving when it’s so viciously grey outside but I find myself so much better off when I do. I’m ashamed to admit that my walking buddy’s holiday absence from Brussels means that I haven’t been getting over to the woods once a week like I had been. I am, however, committing to spinning class once a week. We’re fortunate at this post to have access to a nice gym at the nearby Army installation and even more fortunate to have a military spouse volunteering to teach classes. I’ve only taken class once so far, but the endorphin rush was something I could definitely get used to. Plus, the instructor’s focus on a positive mindset is absolutely infectious.

Just Doing It
It’d be easy to hibernate and I’ve been tempted to do just that quite a bit recently. Luckily, I married somebody whose GO mode runs more frequently than his SLACKING mode. He reminds me often that just getting outside and doing it (whatever “it” may be) is the fake-it-til-you-make-it that surviving a Belgian winter requires. Loading the bikes up on the trailer to bum around Leuven in near-freezing weather? Afternoon croquet in park with a friend in December? Why the heck not?! I’m not sure that acting “as if” is going to bring the sunshine but it certainly can’t hurt.

An Afternoon Espresso
Real talk: I’m a bit terrified of breaking Joe’s vintage espresso machine. But I’m learning how to get over that fear when the afternoon sleepies start singing their siren call. A well-timed caffeine dose seems to help push me over the hump and get me through the rest of my day.

When All Else Fails: Naps
I first discovered the power of a nap during my recovery from a major back surgery 6 years ago. I had never really been a napper beforehand but I learned that sometimes you just have to honor your body when it says “SLEEP!” These days, naps are up there on the list of a few of my favorite things. I try not to sleep too long so as not to disrupt my nighttime sleep and I’ve been experimenting a bit with coffee naps. Sometimes there’s just no other way.

What do you do to keep the winter blues at bay?

No, the kids are NOT alright.

Stepping into the new year.

Stepping into the new year.