When the season begins to switch to cooler weather, it can conjure up lovely hygge-packed images like fuzzy scarves and gloves, boot socks, yummy warm drinks, and cozy nights spent around the fire. But as we move deeper into winter, a different reality sets in—one of short days, grey weather, and an overall feeling of heaviness or darkness.
When we look at our lives from a seasonal perspective, this all makes sense. Spring is a time of birth and renewal, summer makes us crave lots of activity, autumn is a period of slowing down, and winter is a season of stillness and rest.
The problem is our modern existence doesn’t allow for much hibernating. We live in a go-go-go world. And when it’s cold and grey outside, we might find that our desires to sleep all day, overeat, and withdraw from the world interfere with living our best lives.
So, these seasonal changes frequently exacerbate mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). And guess what, friends? This year we get to throw the fear and social isolation of a global pandemic into the mix!
Needless to say, mental health experts have warned that this winter could be particularly gnarly for us. But don’t lose hope—they’ve also provided some tips to help us combat the dark days ahead. Let’s take a look.
Try Light Therapy
For those suffering from SAD, studies show that using light therapy can actually improve depression. It does this by helping to regulate our circadian rhythms that get thrown off when the sun sets as early as 4 or 5 pm.
By turning on a light that’s bright enough to mimic sunshine (10,000 lux, or 20x brighter than a typical indoor bulb), your body is able to stay alert when it needs to. You can easily find them on Amazon. Just remember to turn it off when you’re ready to start your bedtime routine.
Get Your Nutrients
Vitamins and minerals have a big impact on how our cells function, and when we’re deficient in certain nutrients it can intensify feelings of anxiety and interfere with our sleep patterns.
Two big ones to focus on are vitamin D (which we most readily get from the sun—makes sense doesn’t it?) and magnesium. Also take a look at your folic acid and B vitamin intake.
Exercising, particularly first thing in the morning, can stimulate a cortisol spike and endorphin rush. Which could go a long way in improving our mood and alertness.
No need for a marathon run or two-hour CrossFit sesh. Short bursts of activity are extremely effective as well. Also focus on some stress-relieving exercises, like yoga or a brisk but relaxing walk. And I know it’s cold out, but walking outdoors has the added benefit of increasing your vitamin D levels.
Change Your Perspective
With the pressures of the last several months and the feelings of anxiety and social isolation, it’s no wonder we’re all struggling right now. But taking the time to recognize why we’re down in the dumps is the first step to doing something about it. This isn’t all in your head. And it will come to an end.
One of my favorite ways to shift perspective is to write a gratitude list. This could be in your phone or a dedicated journal; could be an entire page or just five things. Take the time to write down what you are grateful for, right here, right now, no matter how mundane or silly. There’s no faster way to shift a mood, I promise.
Reach Out for Support
Finally, do whatever you can to mitigate these feelings of loneliness by reaching out to friends and loved ones. You may be feeling isolated, but you aren’t alone. We’re all in the same boat right now.
If you have fears and feelings you need to unpack, you best believe your BFFs do as well. So pick up the phone and talk about it. And start making plans for all the fun stuff you’ll do together when the weather gets warmer and the world starts making more sense.