Fighting the dreary winter blues

I welcome the winter with open arms. I absolutely love the sound and smell of rain and wet grass, as well as an excuse to curl up and read a good book while sipping on my favorite peppermint tea and my favorite candle lit. However, I know that not everyone shares the same sentiment and that this time of year can be a challenge for many.

Being passionate about mental wellness and overall physical health, I am highly aware that this time of year can bring heavy feelings of dread and sadness. I have experienced it myself, and it can be tough to fight at times. Couple the gloomy weather with already existing mental disorders and conditions such as depression, anxiety, and/or SAD, and you’ve got some difficult days ahead.

I wanted to touch a bit on SAD. If you are not familiar with SAD, it is an acronym for Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is also known as seasonal depression, where a person tends to experience more depressive symptoms during the same season each year. The interesting thing is, it can occur during the summer just as much as it can during the colder and darker winter months.

Whether you suffer from SAD, or the colder winter months simply bring your energy level down and make you feel a bit more lethargic, it is important to remember to be mindful of your mental and physical state. Sometimes, we don’t even realize that we have been feeling a little sad, sleepier, moodier, or just plain down until someone asks if we are alright or we notice a change in ourselves. I like to remind myself that our day to day activities or our daily outlook does not have to change drastically due to the literal change in temperature and weather outside. With consistent effort, we can help ourselves by focusing on ways to cope and stay on top of our mental wellness game.

Here are a few simple but helpful tips to help combat the winter blues:

  1. This may be the most typical tip, but EXERCISE is so key! We tend to become comfortable staying stationary when we are cold and maybe also feeling down. It is so much easier to stay in bed longer in the mornings, and to avoid the gym or a workout class after work when all you want to do is stay home. Exercise will get your endorphins going, not to mention the increase in serotonin production which is especially key for our moods and mental state. It also doesn’t hurt to get a head start on the spring and summer months of wearing less layers and getting pool ready!
  2. Sticking with a daily routine can help to keep us on track mentally and emotionally. Sticking to a daily schedule as much as you can will help you to feel more organized and accomplished, thus reducing stress as well. Some examples might include eating breakfast at the same time each day, getting at least low impact to moderate physical activity in each day, or even calling a loved one such as a family member just to say hello on your commute can help to feel well overall. For me, establishing a fun bed time routine makes me feel fab! I love the whole process of brushing my teeth, washing my face, and applying my night oils or moisturizer. It is even a little odd how much I look forward to this process. It is definitely the little things for me.
  3. As much as good sleep is super essential and is something many of us tend to get more of during colder and darker months, it is also not a good thing to get too much of. This is especially true if it becomes a common occurrence. Getting a good night’s worth of sleep will help to make your day more productive, but getting too much sleep may impede the ability to focus or feel energized. It is almost like I feel more groggy or like I am less energized when I get more than sufficient sleep? If you are looking to feel more energized and productive, oversleeping will not be your best bet. However, there are also those that feel their best when they sleep more than 8 hours. Everyone is different of course, so just be sure you are aware of what is best for your body.
  4. One tip that has personally made a huge difference for me, is trying something new. Anything new. This can be a new workout class at the gym or at-home exercise, searching for or creating new dinner recipes, a new and exciting book, the possibilities are endless. Basically, the key is to make it something that you can look forward to each day. For example, I recently began attending classes at a local barre studio and I have fallen in love! It is something that is so new and different for me, and it is fun to challenge myself this way. I am both mentally and physically stimulated and it has been fun pushing my body in new ways and meeting new people. I am now tracking my progress each week as I see and feel positive changes in my body. Nothing beats that! It can be easy to stick to the same routine and stay home when it is raining, cold and dark, but the benefits to pushing past all of that and doing something new is a tried and true great way to fight the blues. This can be applied all year round of course!

With some effort and maybe even planning ahead, the colder months of winter do not have to weigh heavy on us or drag us down. We can have some great days and nights ahead as long as we are self-aware and we focus our energies on our minds, bodies, and spirit.