We are in the second week of the new year, and so far things look very similar to how the year ended. The pandemic continues to overshadow our lives, daily activities remain changed, and social distancing is encouraged. Following the uncertainty of the previous year, this is not a great start to the new year.

The first quarter of the year is not my favorite time of year. The cold is in full swing, the weather is gray and damp, and to be quite honest, I am tired of being trapped in the house by the cold. I miss the sun, warmth and time outside. I am tired of dressing in layers, heavy coats, and keeping up with hats, gloves and scarves. Working out can be a chore, without the ability to break up the routine with hikes and long walks, workouts become boring, leaving the gym covered in a great sweat is uncomfortable.

I find little to look forward to during this time. And if I am not careful, I can find myself slipping into a state of funk. A place where I don’t care what I eat, how much I move or what I do. A very unhealthy place to be. The struggle is real, I mean, why not sleep in a little longer and skip the workout. Why not eat a second helping of comfort food?

For some, this funk can be much more serious. This funk can become depression. In my years of working with people, and in the mental health world, I can tell you there is NO SHAME in struggling with depression. It is an illness. Being diagnosed with depression, in my opinion, is similar to being diagnosed with diabetes or high blood pressure. For those who do struggle with depression, there is nothing wrong with you, you are not abnormal or weird. We must support those who struggle with mental health. We must normalize the diagnosis and remove the stigma.

In truth, we all struggle with mental health, we all experience moments and periods of depression and anxiety. For me, the winter is the worst. If I am not careful, my funk will take over and before I know it, I can be lost in a pool of depression. Yet, during this last, long cold spell, how do we stay motivated? How do we remain focused on our goals and hopes? And with all the layers, bulky sweaters, and coats, do the extra five pounds really matter?

For everyone reading this, I want to remind you that you matter, you have a purpose to fulfill in this world, and if you were gone, you would be missed. This past year has made getting out difficult, and at times impossible. Without socialization, it is difficult to remember how important each person is. If no one else tells you this week how amazing you are, how strong you are for overcoming your struggles, then allow me.

If you feel like your funk is more than a temporary state, if you have thoughts of hurting yourself, or feel an overwhelming sadness that just won’t leave, or any other feelings that are not how you normally feel, please reach out to a mental health expert, your pastor or priest, a trusted friend, or your family. And if your funk is just a funk, but you don’t want it to become more, reach out. I know this phrase is said often, perhaps too often, but we are in this together, we must remain together, helping each other overcome our challenges.

I love to hear from my readers. I would love to know what you are doing to keep yourself motivated during this time. I could use some new ideas. You can reach me at believestrengthpassion@gmail.com.

Sara Orellana-Paape lives in Lawton.

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