Easing the Winter Blues
For some people, the winter months are a time to embrace, whether it be a love of skiing or other outdoor sports, or a desire to snuggle up with a cozy blanket and a book by the fire. But, for many, the cold months of winter are a struggle to get motivated, find energy and, overall, a time of feeling down and depressed.
It is estimated that as many as 10 million Americans struggle with seasonal depression each year, while many more face the winter blues, according to Psychology Today. Bring with that the social isolation, fear, and despair brought on by COVID-19 and you might be feeling more depressed and hopeless than ever before.
The good news is there are ways to help yourself feel better and get through the winter months and on to happier, brighter times. What can you do to ease the winter blues and combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) this year?
1.) Understand when its time to get help
The winter blues and seasonal depression are similar but Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD) is more severe. If you find that you are always struggling with depression, low mood, irritability, anxiety, fatigue, lack of energy, hopelessness, and despair at the same time every year then you may have SAD. People with SAD may disconnect from family and friends, lose interest in the things they once enjoyed, have difficulty concentrating, oversleep, or have muscle tension or stomach problems.
If you have severe symptoms of SAD or are struggling to pull yourself out of a depressed state then consider seeking the help of a licensed mental health professional. A trained counselor or therapist can help you work through this time and develop healthy coping mechanisms.
2.) Get outside
Even if going out in the cold is the last thing you want to do, getting a little fresh air can do wonders for your mood and mental health. Layer up and go for a short 20-minute walk each day to keep unpleasant feelings at bay. You can also make it fun—go sledding, ice skating, or snowshoeing. Build a snowman with your kids or engage them in a snowball fight. You will be amazed at how good it can make you (and them) feel.
3.) Find the sun
Lack of sunlight is what makes this time of the year so challenging. It is also why we need to do our best to get as much sun as possible. Open curtains and blinds on sunny days and let it all in. Go for walks in the sun. Find a sunny spot near a window to read a book. If it is possible, consider taking a vacation to a warmer, sunnier spot during the worst of the winter months.
Another helpful tool for many SAD sufferers is light therapy. You can purchase special lights that help to mimic sunlight and use those a few minutes a day on the darkest days.
4.) Maintain a routine
It can be easy to let old routines fall by the wayside in hard times. Do your best to keep your routine to help prevent yourself from falling too deep into depression. Wake up at the same time as you usually do, eat at the same time, keep the same exercise schedule. As unmotivated as you might be, keeping this routine will help keep your mental health in check.
5.) Avoid overindulging
Whether it be alcohol, carbohydrates, or fatty foods, whatever you crave during times of unrest do your best to avoid overindulging. Yes, that donut or martini might provide a little mood boost to start but too much can leave you feeling crummy. Overindulging in unhealthy habits can have a big impact on your overall mental health.
6.) Connect with others
Humans need connection. Whether it be in-person, over the phone, Facetime, or even letter writing. We all thrive on connecting with others. So, as tempted as you might be to shut yourself off from the rest of the world and go into hibernation—don’t. Staying connected and busy, having meaningful interactions with others, are the things that are going to help keep you well.
7.) Practice mindfulness
Getting into a habit of regular meditation and mindfulness can help you to better regulate your emotions. We spend so much time worrying about things that happened yesterday or things we have to get done tomorrow that we miss all the things right in front of us. Being mindful can help us appreciate the little things, soak up the small moments, and not get as overwhelmed worrying about what is coming next.
You are becoming more resilient than ever.
There is no doubt the last few months have been some of the most challenging for many of us. Now, faced with seasonal depression you might feel like this is never-ending. But, the truth is, this won’t last forever. All of these challenges are teaching you to be more resilient than ever before.
If you are struggling with how to combat the winter blues or other struggles in your life, don’t hesitate to get help. The sooner you get the help you need, the sooner you can get back to feeling healthy and happy.
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