There are many things to look forward to when winter arrives: snow, weekend ski trips to the mountains, the holidays, and beautiful winter festivals. However, the winter months can result in a change in mood or energy for some individuals.
The winter months clearly have colder weather and shorter days, and for some it may be common to begin and end work/school days in darkness. A few symptoms people may report include feeling off, low mood, overeating (especially carbohydrates), less interest in socializing, and problems with memory and/or concentration. Although many people experience some form of the ‘winter blues’, it is important to identify the symptoms and seek ways to manage them.
This recent snap of cold weather has me wishing I could be on a beach in warm weather, and I am sure many of you have also contemplated the same.
Escaping to somewhere warm and tropical is fantastic, and it is also important to find daily ways to manage any seasonal symptoms. However, since not everyone can relocate to a tropical paradise
during the winter, here are some recommendations to maintain a positive mindset and well-being:
My core suggestions to all clients if they’re struggling with ‘winter blues’ is to ensure first and foremost they are finding ways to manage physical health through exercise, healthy eating, and good sleep. Exercise helps with ‘happy hormones’ and is beneficial for mood. It is not always realistic to get to a gym, especially when it is dark outside, but even taking a quick stroll outside can help.
The cold air is great for managing anxiety, and if you have been inside all day, a stroll outside will be a welcomed escape to the outdoors. Good sleep can help with management of anxiety symptoms, and healthy eating promotes overall good health. It is an important practice to check in with your family doctor if you report any symptoms that are unusual or atypical, or if you are making any changes to your health in the form of eating, exercise, vitamins, etc.
Mindfulness can be beneficial for mental health for the management of anxiety and depressive symptoms. I will often suggest strategies such as meditation, prayer, breathing and/or grounding exercises. Even doing as little as 10-15 minutes a day can help. Our senses are powerful tools, and incorporating mindfulness strategies can help slow things down and allow an individual to focus. One of my favourite grounding strategies is the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 exercise.
I ask clients to find a real place they have been to, and a place where they feel calm and relaxed. Utilizing their senses, I have clients imagine the place: 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you smell, 2 things you can touch, and 1 positive feeling you feel in that moment.
Another core component of well-being is social support. The colder weather can be isolating, especially when road conditions are poor, or if people are struggling with mobility issues. It is important to take time to connect with loved ones such as family, friends, and neighbours. Make a list of trusted people you can talk to honestly and openly if you’re struggling. Knowing there is someone to talk to is helpful to manage difficult symptoms.
Depression does not discriminate against people or time of year! If you have concerns regarding prolonged symptoms, or thoughts of death, suicide, or harming others please book an appointment with a professional who can help, such as a family doctor or mental health professional.