For as long as I can remember, I've been very sensitive to the changing of the seasons - especially the change between fall and winter. It always seems to come upon me suddenly - I wake up one morning and it's like a switch has flipped in me. In actuality, it's probably that I finally notice a thing that's slowly changing, the way you don't notice your roots are growing out until they are like...there, in your face. That happened to me this week, and I knew; my winter blues were coming.
I struggle with depression, and the winter is always a hard time for me. I feel slow, tired, and sad; I feel disconnected from the people around me, and I tend to isolate myself. This is more common than it may seem; 10 to 20% of Americans experience symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. While I've never been diagnosed with SAD, I know myself and my depression well enough to know I need to take special care of my mental health during the winter.
Here are the 7 steps I follow to survive and thrive while I'm experiencing the winter blues.
A note: If you feel like you struggle with something like SAD during the winter, these tips can help you cope, but they are not a replacement for medical treatment or therapy. Please also talk to your doctor or a trusted adult if you are feeling depressed.
1. Exercise Regularly
One of the biggest things that helps me with my mental and emotional health is a consistent exercise routine - in particular, a yoga practice that I can do at home, mixed in with the occasional in-studio class and runs. Bonus points if you exercise in a room with extra light - research has shown that exercising in well-lit rooms adds extra mood-boosting benefits to exercise.
If you already have a regular exercise routine, great! Keep up with that momentum. If you're not in the habit, try to start as soon as you can before we get deep in the throes of winter.
2. Eat Nourishing Foods
In the winter, it seems like all I want is comforting carbs and sweets, but these foods cause sugar spikes and crashes, which aren't the best for stabilizing your mental and emotional health.
If you love pasta, still eat the pasta, but also consider adding in foods known for their mood-boosting benefits, like fatty fish and walnuts for omega-3 fatty acids, or leafy greens, oranges, and lentils for folic acid. Dark chocolate is also great reducing the symptoms of depression, so, y'know, here's your permission to drink all the hot chocolate this winter.
3. Make Self-Care a Priority
We are self-care fanatics here at CF, so it should be no surprise that this advice is here; making time to take care of yourself is super important all the time, but it's especially important during the winter when your moods might not be at their best.
Whether it's doing your nails, taking a bath with a bath bomb, putting on a face mask - whatever it is that gets you to your happy place - make extra effort to make time for that thing this winter if you're feeling down and sad.
4. Find Things To Do
In the summer, it seems like there's so much to do outside (Beach days! Music festivals! Open-air restaurants!) that you can't squeeze it all in. But in the winter, when it gets dark earlier and cold or snow may prevent you from spending time outside, you'll find yourself spending more time at home, and perhaps more time alone, which doesn't help if you're feeling those winter blues.
Try to find things to do where you'll be with friends, or, if you're going it alone, you'll at least be around people. Go to the movies, check out art gallery openings, go bowling! Don't stop having a social life just because it's cold out.
5. Be Creative
When I'm feeling down, doing something creative not only helps me to focus on something else, but it gives me an outlet to express myself or explore some of the not-so-great feelings I'm having.
This could be a multitude of things - writing a poem, drawing a picture, playing an instrument - but it could also be more structured things, like journaling, coloring in coloring books, or even cooking. Find the thing that makes you feel good, and do the thing. You do you, bb.
6. Talk to Someone
Oftentimes, one of the worst symptoms of my winter blues is an overwhelming feeling of loneliness, even when I'm around people all the time at work or school. I've found that making time to talk to a trusted friend, your partner, your roommate, even your parents or a therapist, can help alleviate this.
Now is a great time to call long-distance friends, catch up with your far-flung cousins, or make time to just, hang out with your nearby friends or your partner. Let them know how you're feeling, and be sure to check in with them - they may be feeling the winter blues, too.
7. Let the Light In
One of the biggest things that causes the "winter blues" is how little natural light we get during the winter months - trust me, nothing makes you sadder than waking up and going to work when it's dark, and then leaving work when it's dark again.
You can combat this a couple of ways - throwing open your curtains or spending time by windows during the day, if you can, or making time to walk outside during your lunch break, weather permitting.
You can also buy lamps that simulate natural light - studies have shown that spending just a half an hour with these lamps can help alleviate symptoms of depression.
If it's waking up when it's still dark that puts you in a funk, can also buy alarm clocks that simulate a sunrise. Trust me - these work like charm. They are the only reason I can wake up early to do yoga. Cannot recommend enough.
What do you think?
Do you get the winter blues? What do you do to keep yourself out of your funk? Would you do any of the things we've suggested? Let me know in the comments below!