What To Do About Winter Blues

Anxiety, Depression

| Written by Bridgette Vina, MS, LAC

The holidays are over, school and work have resumed, and the bitter cold has hit hard. Less sunlight, increased risk of illness, and isolation due to the cold all create a recipe for decreased mood. Many clients report an increase in depression symptoms during winter and after the holidays. Oftentimes due to the holidays our diet is thrown off and regular routine has been interrupted. Many people struggle with holidays and may feel drained from the increase and pressures of social interactions. Others may notice a decrease in mood due to the lack of upcoming gatherings and ability to plan outings due to weather conditions. 

Seasonal Depression Disorder (SAD) is a diagnosis for people who report an increase in depression beginning and ending around the same time each year, often identified from November to March. SAD symptoms can mimic symptoms of clinical depression such as fatigue, irritability, low mood, and increase in anxiety symptoms.  Whether you experience the end of holiday season blues or symptoms related to SAD, the following list below are ways to help manage winter related depression symptoms and/or post holiday blues.

1. Stay active to boost your mood.

Oftentimes in the winter people stay at home due to the cold. Many are less likely to take a walk around the block or go to the beach due to the cold. Exercise is proven to increase our endorphins, a chemical in our brain that makes us feel happier and can increase our energy levels. Youtube offers many free at-home workout activities that can be done such as body weight, yoga, or High intensity interval training. All exercises listed above do not require owning gym equipment, but only require an open space to move.

2. Increase access to sunlight to increase your mood.

The sun sets early in the winter and our access to light is limited. Sunlight helps increase mood by increasing our serotonin levels. Ways to increase access to light are by keeping blinds open at home and encouraging light to come in through windows. Another option for those who may work during hours that the sun is out and not have a window in their workspace is light therapy. Amazon offers multiple light therapy options for your home or work space.

3. Take care of your body to combat SAD

Diet and rest have a big impact on our mood. We all have seen the eat a snickers commercial and often use the word “hangry” to describe someone who hasn’t eaten in a timely manner and has an increase in irritability. Holiday schedules and vacations may throw off our typical routine and disrupt our diet and rest. Improving our sleep and eating a balanced diet will help improve immune systems and help prevent illness.

4. Regular fun can help combat SAD

Winter time is a big time of year for people to stay in due to the cold and slow down on planned activities. Many people often find themselves staying on the couch watching television. It is important to find alternative activities that you find fun to increase your mood. Keep up on activities that you enjoy or take up a new hobby. Some winter friendly events or hobbies are attending the movie theaters, learning a new craft such as knitting or drawing. Read that book that has been sitting on your shelf for the last few years. Audiobooks are a great alternative if you find it a struggle to find the time, or to focus and sit still to read. If you have a library card an app called Libby offers you all the audiobooks, magazine and electronic books at the tips of your fingers. Maybe you want to learn to cook or try a  new recipe. Winter can be a great time to explore new hobbies.

5. Always have compassion for yourself, even if your mood isn’t where you want it to be

The winter months are hard and we can be even harder on ourselves for not being as productive as we would like or have been prior, having low motivation and having feelings of sadness. It is important to be kind to yourself. Remind yourself you are doing the best you can.

If you or a loved one are struggling with symptoms of depression or anxiety or a lack of motivation do not hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional. A therapist can help you explore feelings and help you find coping skills to increase mood.

Bridgett aims to set a safe, secure environment where my clients can create the life they want to live. In a world that often feels to be full of judgment and gives a list of dos and don’t, I invite you to explore what you want out of life, who you want to be and how to challenge the criticism from yourself and the world around you. You are worthy of a life worth living.

Check out Bridgett’s professional bio here.

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