10 Tips To Combat Your (Totally Normal) Winter Blues
It’s that time of year again where the sun sets before most of us get out of work. During these winter months, it can be easy to feel defeated by the cold weather and the early darkness. It’s important to keep in mind that feeling this way is absolutely normal and everyone struggles with it at some time.
Brighten your environment! If you can’t get out in the sun during your work week and sitting by a bright window doesn’t do it for you, you can also try a light box. Light boxes give off bright light that mimics natural outdoor light. This light can help seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and can positively affect brain chemicals to help improve your mood.
Practice guided meditation. There are plenty of apps and resources out there for you to give guided meditation a try. I’ve used Headspace before and the app starts off with short intervals of daily meditation working you through the process and even notifies you every day at the same time to help you stay on track. Guided meditation can help you feel more calm and balanced, help manage stress and rid negative emotions.
Try a weighted blanket. There are a lot of positive benefits of using a weighted blanket including reducing stress, anxiety, and insomnia. The pressure from the blanket weighing you down helps make you feel grounded from the serotonin released helping you feel calmer and settled before bed.
Move your body! Even if it’s only for a few minutes it’s important not to hibernate. Exercise can be very difficult in the winter months, especially if you’re feeling blue so make sure you make it as easy as possible for yourself. Lay your work out clothes next to your bed so they’re the first thing you see in the morning. Pack your gym clothes in your work bag so you can go right after you leave. Pick a very convenient gym location whether it’s right next to your work or home, it will make it much easier to show up than going out of your way. Set yourself up for success with moving. If the gym isn’t for you, call a friend and ask them to go on a walk or snowshoe or ice skate. Take your dog out for a long walk. It doesn’t have to be a hard workout to be effective, just getting your body moving can do wonders.
Commit to social activities and engage with others. Sometimes it’s so hard to get out of the house and engage with others but if you set plans with friends, even once a week, it will give you something to look forward to and also it could help you get out of your slump. If it’s more often a challenge to socialize than not, start small. You can call a friend to catch up or go in public and have small friendly chats with cashiers or others around you.
Lock down your social support system. It’s important to recognize and thank your social support system when they help you through difficult times. When you start to feel down it’s good to turn to them for reassurance and help with what you’re going through. People with a strong support system tend to feel less depressed and lonely. Your social support is vital to your mental health so make sure you let those people know you love them and you’re there for them in their times of need, too.
Set a sleep routine that works for you. Sleeping too much or too little can negatively impact your mood. Set an alarm and try your best to stick to your sleep schedule, even on weekends. Establish a routine in the morning and before bed so you know what you’re doing and there’s no added pressure. If you’re having trouble sleeping try the weighted blanket, sleep with cooler temperatures, a diffuser or some white noise. It’s important to get around 7 or 8 hours of sleep and establishing a routine will help you get the most out of your night's rest.
Laugh daily, even if you have to fake it. Humans are wired to respond positively to laughter and smiles. Laughing increases your endorphins and to let you in on a secret, you don’t even have to be enjoying yourself or happy but it still helps your brain! It can change your bodies behavior and emotions in a positive way because the brain starts to release dopamine and that produces the feeling of happiness. (This is a great time to try laughing at your co-workers not-so-funny jokes.)
Take a nice, cozy bath. Do you ever see those photos of legs in a bathtub with candles and want to dive in? It’s because it looks so relaxing and comforting. Baths can be very relaxing and if you’re not allergic, you should also add in some Epsom salts to help relax your muscles and lavender to relax your mind. Make yourself comfortable, grab a book, turn on music you enjoy, and soak it all in. Allow this to be a time where you decompress.
Try something new you haven’t done before. I know trying something new when you don’t want to do anything can be tremendously difficult so sign up with a friend! Have your support system be there with you to help you through it. Adventure and curiosity can help distract your mind from the blues you’re feeling and can help you break free from those negative emotions for a period of time. It’s really good to keep your mind stimulated and engaged, even when it feels difficult.
Once again, the winter blues are completely normal and everyone experiences them at some point. If you try these tricks and things don’t feel like they’re improving talk to your doctor or mental health professional to find ways the will work best for you.