Winter, for some, can be a joyous time of holiday celebration, family gatherings, or time off from college. For many people, however, with winter comes the winter blues. Whether you are missing a loved one at a holiday dinner, feeling the financial stress of gift giving, or simply prefer to have your toes in the sand, the new season can require that we give ourselves some extra TLC in order to get by. Here are some tips to help you get started:
1) Let There Be Light: The Vitamin D that we get from so much exposure to sunshine in the warmer weather has a positive impact on our overall mood. With winter days being shorter and darker, it can be helpful to get yourself out for a walk to catch some rays on a regular basis. Even just a short stroll with your dog or a friend can make all the difference. For those with limited mobility, opening blinds and curtains, sitting by the window, or using a “light box” can be extremely helpful to your mood.
2) Eat Well: Setting aside the usual focus on “diet” where weight loss is of most concern, start to pay attention to how the foods you eat affect your mood. Certain foods, like candy or carbohydrates may give a short lived feeling of euphoria or relief from stress, but in the long run, they hurt more than they help. These same foods can contribute to sluggishness and worsen anxiety and depression for some people. When you pay attention to your body, you can come to learn which foods help your mood and which foods hurt. Use that knowledge to your power and choose with care!
3) Move Your Body: This tool may already be under way if you have started to implement daily walks outside to increase exposure to light. Exercise and other forms of physical activity have been known to decrease stress, improve mood, and create a sense of mastery and improved self esteem as you make progress! There is no wrong way to take this one on. For some, training for a triathlon may be appealing, for others, maybe restorative yoga. If you feel discouraged because you do not have a gym membership and prefer not to exercise outside, check out your local library for a selection of fitness DVDs with tons of options! It is important to consult with your physician if you have any health conditions or concerns that may be impacted by exercise. It is always better to play it safe and ask first.
4) Do What Makes You Happy: Put on your favorite comedy, get coffee with a friend, or volunteer at your local animal shelter. Think back to the good times and ask yourself what has brought a smile to your face without fail. Sometimes it is a place you can visit, other times a hobby to reconnect with. It is important to know that everyone is different and what makes you smile may be unique to you- so this is not the time to compare! Find the things that make you laugh and stick with them- especially in the colder months.
5) Ask For Help: If you needed your dress hemmed, you would go to a seamstress. If your throat was sore and red, you would go to your doctor. Just as simply, it can be helpful to reach out to a mental health professional when you are struggling with the Winter Blues or symptoms connected to Seasonal Affective Disorder. For some, the answer to their problem can be participating in therapy with a psychologist, clinical social worker, or mental health counselor. For others, speaking to their doctor or meeting with a psychiatrist to discuss if medication would be appropriate might work best. If you find yourself having thoughts of suicide, go to your local emergency room or call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.
One of the most important things to remember about struggling with depression and anxiety in the winter (or anytime of year) is that you do not need to face it alone! Reach out to people in your support system (like family, friends, and partners) or call us at Cypress Counseling Center to talk about setting up an appointment for individual therapy. Here at Cypress, we treat a range of issues and concerns for adults, adolescents, and children. Our friendly front desk staff is always happy to answer your questions and assist you in whatever way they can! Don’t be a stranger. Stay warm and stay well this winter!