If you’re anything like me, the grey skies and cold weather are only enjoyable for so long. By the time winter hits, I start missing the warm sunshine of summer and keeping myself positive and healthy can be a challenge. Although the holiday season for most people is a fun time filled with celebrations and social gatherings with friends and family, for many people, it can be a time filled with sadness, loneliness and anxiety. Especially with the stress of one of the busiest holiday’s of the year. It’s important during these times that we don’t forget to take good care of ourselves.
I’ve created a simple list to keep on hand and add to as I personally experience down times during the winter season. I figured I would share it for those who might be struggling with the same thing. Take what works for you and scratch off the things that don’t. Everyone is different - find what works best for you!
1. Take a vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and improving brain development and function. The most natural way to get Vitamin D is through the sun, however, in winter this can be difficult. Luckily, it’s easy to pick up a supplement at any local drug or grocery store. Talk to your doctor before taking any supplements; he/she will be able to recommend a dose that will be most effective given your current levels.
2. Exercise. This is something we all pretty much know is beneficial for our health. Getting those endorphins pumping. It’s hard to get moving when you feel down or it’s too cold or rainy to go outside. Find a workout video on YouTube or do sit-ups while watching your favorite TV show. If you live near a yoga studio, try taking a hot yoga class. If you’re stuck inside (or are just too lazy to leave ;)), try a gentle home flow. There are tons of great videos specifically for anxiety and stress on YouTube. Have you practiced the restorative flow I have posted on my channel? I’ll link it below.
3. Meditate. In the winter time, we tend to become more introspective and self-aware, which can definitely be a good thing. But in excess, this can lead to anxiety and overthinking. Sometimes just being still and connecting to your breath can help release the heaviness and negativity that creeps in during this time of year. If you’re new to meditation try a beginner’s guided practice. Or practice a full-body scan with breathing exercises to allow yourself to feel more grounded.
4. Spend time with supportive and caring people. This is a great way to lift your spirits and avoid social isolation. Call up your friends and plan a get-together or spend quality time with family. You’re not alone. There are tons of people who find this time of year to be difficult. Reach out to someone and find a support system. It can be helpful to let the people close to you know and understand what you’re going through so that they can help and support you more effectively.
5. Drink warm tea. One of my favorite things to do in the winter is to wrap myself up in a big blanket, find a good book to read and curl up with a warm cup of tea. It’s so simple yet so relaxing and comforting! I love to unwind in the evening with a caffeine free tea; my favorite is Yogi Tea Kava Stress Relief.
6. Get outside. Weather often makes this difficult during the winter, but find a moment to step outside, even if it’s just for a few minutes— step outside your porch or talk a walk around the block. Fresh air can provide energy and the smells and intake of oxygen will increase the amount of serotonin (the happy hormone) in your brain.
7. Buy some plants. Although a few pretty plants aren’t going to cure someone with winter blues, green plants can definitely make you feel better and reduce stress, especially if paired with full-spectrum lighting. Plants also help to clean the air. They make the atmosphere healthier to breath and the cleaner the oxygen you inhale, the better it is for you — mentally and physically.
8. Listen to positive, upbeat music. Music is an incredible way of changing your mood. Turn it up and dance it out! Seriously, put on a pair of fuzzy socks and go slide on some hardwood floors. I have a “Feel Good” playlist on spotify that never fails to put me in a good mood. Give it a listen to :).
9. Journal. Writing and journaling are both great ways to get to know yourself better. You can record and keep track of your mood to see if there are any noticeable patterns. Pay attention to the times you tend to feel the most down and make it a habit to do something positive during that time.
10. Make time for yourself. Go get a massage, take a bath, watch Netflix. However, you like to relax or unwind, make sure you find time for yourself and engage in activities you enjoy. It’s important that we put ourselves first so that we can recharge and avoid becoming energetically drained.
11. Create a morning/night routine. As tempting as it might be to sleep in on dark mornings, it’s best to stick with a regular sleep schedule. Get in the habit of waking up and going to bed at the same time each day (even on weekends). Establish a routine wake-up time and a soothing bedtime ritual. Try to aim for at least seven hours of sleep every night.
12. Eat healthy. Ever heard the saying your gut is your second brain? It’s true! Recent studies have even dubbed depression as an inflammatory disorder mediated by poor gut health. So your diet does have an affect on your mental health. Biggest tip for eating more healthy? Plan ahead. When you’re feeling down sometimes it’s hard to find the energy to cook a hearty, nutritious meal. Plan ahead by already having your fridge/pantry already stocked with healthy food. You can scroll through Pinterest for inspiration to try new recipes! Make a list before going grocery shopping. (Eat warm, comforting foods for a quick mood-boost. Try to stay away from sugary, starchy foods.)
13. Be kind to yourself. Try not to get upset with yourself but instead, allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling and tend to it in a nurturing and caring manner. Learn how to work with your emotions, rather than suppressing or avoiding them. Know that just because you’re experiencing a certain mood or feeling now, it won’t last forever. Be easy and compassionate with yourself and remember self-care.
14. Stay hydrated. Water helps keep your skin glowing and healthy in the harsher weather and helps remove toxins and waste from your body. It can prevent headaches and reduce joint and muscle pain. Try adding a slice of lemon, lime or cucumber for increased flavor. Keeping a water bottle on hand at all times is really helpful.
15. See a doctor. Don’t be afraid to ask for professional help if you feel like you need it. This can be extremely beneficial. I know this isn’t always feasible finically, but you deserve to have your mental health well taken care of. Especially, if you are experiencing severe symptoms, it could be a sign of something more serious than the “Winter Blues”, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.)
Please know you are not alone and there is no shame in reaching out. Sometimes taking good care of yourself means letting someone else help.
For more information and research, check out this page from The National Institute of Mental Health.