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Monday, January 9, 2017

Small Ways to Fight the Winter Blues

Now that the holiday season has ended, many of us are heading into that dreary time of year when it can be hard to maintain a positive disposition. Whether you struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder or just have a mild case of the winter blues, here are a few strategies that can help lighten your mood in the winter months (and beyond!).

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First, a disclaimer: as someone who has struggled with anxiety, PPD, and PTSD, I cannot say enough how much I recommend therapy / counseling for anyone going through a period (whether short or long term) of emotional/psychological struggle. In fact, I would recommend therapy to everyone on the planet if I could- all of us struggle in one way or another and there are few things better than a good therapist to help you develop strategies to manage those struggles. If you try some of these small strategies and they don't make much difference, or if you already know your struggles are bigger than the scope of these little tips, go find someone- you won't regret it!

For those pesky, seasonal "winter blues" though, I have found these strategies very helpful!

1. Vitamin D

A few years ago I started taking a vitamin D pill every morning from November until March (or so), and I have found it makes a significant difference in my mood. It's a simple way to get more vitamin D during those dark winter months! Here's the one I use- my doctor recommended 2000 IU and I find this brand available at most of my local stores- but you should ask your doctor to see what they recommend for you before starting.

2. Inspirational Mementos/ Visuals

There are a lot of ways to do this, but the basic idea is to keep visual, concrete reminders of things that make you happy / grateful / inspired handy. I've got a small box of inspirational quotes and family photos that I keep in my purse, a display of treasured mementos from my students/friends and family at home and at work, and a folder stored at home and work with more letters and gifts that remind me that others care about me. Even just printing off an inspirational quote and hanging it on the wall where you'll see it every day can help! You can read more about how each one works and how to make one for yourself, by clicking on each of the pictures below (the folder idea comes from Sally's Sea of Songs):

3. Set Up a Morning Routine

If you don't have one already, setting up a morning routine can make it a lot easier to get going each day, especially when it's still cold and dark outside when you're trying to get out of bed! If you have a morning routine but you're finding it hard to get out of bed, try changing or adding something to get you more motivated- maybe a new creamer for your morning cup of coffee, or adding some time to read a fun book for 15 minutes in the morning, or a short stretching or exercising routine. You can read about my morning routine below if you're looking for more inspiration:

4. Get the right amount of sleep

This goes both ways- after parenting twin infants, one of whom was a terrible sleeper, I am a firm believer in the importance of getting enough sleep. So set aside your worries and tasks at a certain point (the last 2 suggestions will help with that) and just go to bed. With a good morning routine in place, you can be confident that you'll be able to start the day off right and figure out any neglected tasks tomorrow. But I've also found that getting too much sleep can be a problem for me in winter- when I'm feeling down or anxious, it's easier to hide in bed than to get up and get going. Try to wake up around the same time each morning. A good morning routine will help with this too!

5. Phone a Friend

Of course one of the best things to do is some quality time with people you love! See if you can set up a regular meeting time, whether it's in person or on the phone, with a close friend or relative. As an introvert, I find myself making excuses for why I'm too busy to get together with people, but when I make a commitment to someone and start spending time with them regularly, I see the difference it makes! Join groups for people with similar interests in your community and/or online. Talking to people who can relate, and who are there to listen when you need to vent, can make a big difference in your mood! If you can't find (or afford the time or money) for face-to-face meetups (exercise classes, crafting parties, book clubs....), there are TONS of Facebook groups you can join for pretty much any people group you could possibly imagine.

6. Write It Down

Besides the change in weather, the other reason winter months can be difficult is because of the growing list of things to do paired with the lessening motivation to get out from under the cozy blanket and do the things! I find myself often stressing myself out because another thing I forgot to do keeps popping into my head. Writing those things down, no matter how big or small the task may be, takes the idea out of the spinning wheels in my brain and onto paper, and also makes me less worried that I'll forget it 5 minutes later! You could use something as simple as a stack of sticky notes that you keep handy, or get a notebook or planner to help you organize the information. If you're looking for planner inspiration, here are some places to get started:

I hope you found some fresh ideas to help you fight the winter blues this year! What are some things you do to keep moodiness at bay? Leave a comment down below- I love hearing from you!

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1 comment :

  1. These are all great tips! I agree, I would have everyone attend therapy as well if I could. Like I've said before, we need to start viewing our mental health in the same way we view our physical health. Speaking of physical health, I've noticed a huge decline in my mood since winter started, and I suspect it mostly has to do with the fact that I've stopped doing my daily walks because of the cold weather. I may need to bundle up and go out walking anyway!