Self-Care and the Winter Blues
Winter is here.... And for many, so are the winter blues (or the start of them at least). Earlier mornings, cold, dreadful walks to work, to the car or to public transportation, damp socks, dry skin, dark days-You don’t want to get out of bed or leave the house because the idea seems just so so so uncomfortable.
So many of us struggle with the harsh effects of the winter months-both physically and mentally. We feel down, a little lazy, unfocused, anxious, tired and disinterested. The “winter blues” can creep in quietly and unexpectedly and quickly feel like they'll never end. While there is a light at the end of the tunnel (it's called April or May) there are also a few things you can do to make those long, low, unbearable winter days feel a little easier-And perhaps, even a little enjoyable, too. Whether you simply feel bad moods creeping in or already feel downright depressed, you can do something about it. And although all of us experience the “winter blues” differently, there are a few important things that EVERYONE can do to feel better.
One of the absolute most important things that someone who is experiencing sadness during the winter months can do is maintain routine (including work habits, keeping appointments, eating, sleeping, exercise, extracurriculars/social life, etc). It can be especially hard stick to a routine as the days get shorter and colder, as your body craves different things and as your mood and motivation starts to shift. And though your routine may need to shift slightly as the winter approaches, it is important find a version as close as possible to your normal routine that will work for you, the weather and your mood. For a free downloadable planner, click here.
During the winter months, getting to the gym, a yoga class or finding time to go for a run outside can be particularly challenging. The mornings remain darker longer and the sun is already down by the time most of us are done with the work day. As hard as it may feel, making time to be active, sweat and move your body may be one of the most important and effective ways to beat the blues since working up a sweat can help to stabilize and even boost your mood.
It can be easy to lose touch with friends and family during the cold winter months simply because it’s more difficult make the effort. Saying no, staying in and taking care of yourself is incredibly important but evenings in and cancelled plans, can add up and quickly turn into social isolation. Check in with yourself, with your body and with your mind. If you truly need some silence, solitude and self care, indulge. But if you find that there is something different behind your desire to be alone (anxiety, fear, apathy, lack of motivation) it may be best to push yourself to get out and be social.
The word Hygge (pronounced hooga) is a Danish word that means coziness or more specifically, embracing the warmth of the season. While it can feel difficult to find joy and excitement in the cold, wet and dark winter days and nights, finding ways to embrace the warmth of the season can make the cold feel like more of an opportunity. An opportunity? Yep, an opportunity to be in and enjoy the moment-To snuggle up by the fire (yours, your friend’s or the fireplace at your local coffee shop), to sip hot tea, cider, chocolate or mulled wine, to wear cozy knits and soft sweats, to bundle up and go for a slow meditative walk in the snow or to take a hot bath with essential oils (try orange, clary sage or bergamot for the winter months).
Invest in a Light Therapy Lamp
Light or dawn therapy is a type of therapy that uses light boxes or lamps that emit light that similar of a composition to sunlight. One of the main reasons we experience the “winter blues” is the lack of sunlight (with shorter and darker days). Daily exposure to sunlight or light produced by a light box, when daily sunlight exposure isn't an option (you can find a good quality light box here and here) is the treatment method most often recommended for those struggling with the winter blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) because exposure to sunlight boosts levels of serotonin in the brain-The neurotransmitter in the brain that's responsible for uplifted mood and a general sense of wellbeing.
Incorporate Supplements (and mood boosting foods)
The Vitamin D3 in sunlight is proven to have a positive effect on mood and when there is a lack of sunlight, there are naturally decreased levels of vitamin D in the body. Not only does vitamin D help in the absorption of calcium (which results in your body’s ability to release serotonin), it’s deficiency is linked to Seasonal Depression (and depression in general). Incorporating foods that contain higher levels of vitamin D folic acid and omega 3’s (eggs, salmon, spinach, lentils, mushrooms, oatmeal, etc.) can be effective in combating symptoms of Seasonal Depression and the winter blues because of their impact serotonin levels in the brain and mood overall. When foods are not sufficient, adding Vitamin D and fish oil supplements to your routine can be key in combating low moods in the winter time (or anytime).