Combatting the Winter Blues
We are now in the depths of winter and with the joys of Christmas out of the way, particularly with the pandemic still looming, it can be difficult to see the positives. It’s cold, dark and can be slightly miserable, so it’s only natural to feel a bit down or lonely. However, with springtime in the not too distant future (along with a mass vaccination programme to stem the tide of COVID-19) there is definitely hope of improvement. Here are a few things you could try to help banish those winter blues in the meantime!
The shorter, darker days that winter brings can contribute to seasonal sadness or depression (SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder). Light therapy using a SAD lamp or light box can compensate for the lack of exposure to sunlight and for many, has been found to lift their mood when treated over time. SAD lamps work by replicating natural daylight, which is said to encourage the brain to produce serotonin (aka the feel-good hormone) and also help adjust your circadian rhythm (the body’s sleep-wake cycle).
Find out more here or speak to your GP, to see if light therapy might work for you. Or try and use a bright light in your room for those gloomier days.
Make the most of the daylight as much as you can. Keep blinds or curtains open and sit near windows when you’re indoors. Heading out on a brisk walk will not only help you get a little vitamin D, but the exercise could also help to boost your mood and combat the winter blues. Many people end up deficient in vitamin D in the winter, so consult your GP to see whether taking supplements could help.
Are the new daylight hours affecting your sleep pattern? Perhaps the cold mornings are making you sleep in longer? Or the earlier sunset is making you feel tired more often.
If you’re having trouble getting to sleep, try turning off your tech well before bed, or even switching to night mode to reduce the blue light from your screens. Blue light is known to suppress the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone), which can disrupt your sleep cycle, making it harder to fall and stay asleep.
Try doing something relaxing in the evening like taking a warm bath or cosying up with a hot chocolate and a book to clear your mind. Meditating or mindfulness can also help.
If you are having trouble waking up in the morning, perhaps try an app like Sleep Cycle. You can set a half hour window in which you’d like to wake up, and the app uses your microphone to work out when you are in your lightest stage of sleep to gently wake you up, so you feel naturally rested.
There’s nothing quite like being too cold to move, to reduce your motivation to do anything or stop you being productive. Keeping warm can also help to keep you well. Having the heating on all day can work out expensive, particularly as we are now spending more time in our homes than ever, but there are other ways to keep warm, besides layering up! Perhaps investing in a heated blanket to warm your bed up, or using two fleece blankets, one underneath and one on top of you, to create a cocoon under your duvet. Try to eat at least one hot meal a day and make plenty of warm drinks. If you don’t like tea or coffee, try hot water with lemon and honey or a hot chocolate. In our house, we huddle in the kitchen whenever anyone is cooking as it’s the warmest place in the house! Lastly, get up and move about when you can.
Eat a healthy balanced diet. Everyone likes to overindulge around Christmas – chocolate selection boxes for breakfast are pretty normal in our house! However, eating lots of unhealthy foods can leave you feeling fatigued and irritable. Likewise, neglecting healthy eating can make you deficient in certain vitamins that you need to stay happy and healthy. Whilst treating yourself is fine of course, try to stick to an overall balanced diet and make sure your body gets all the nutrition it needs.
Spending more time inside alone, combined with seeing people seemingly filled with festive joys can contribute to feelings of loneliness. Although we can’t meet our family and friends as much as we’d like to at the moment, try and take time to chat to people if you are feeling down. It’s important not to bottle things up. If you find it difficult to talk to those close to you, speak to your GP, or get in touch with a charity who can help, such as CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably)
Lastly, try and look to the future. The weather will get brighter and warmer, the pandemic will pass, and things will start to look up soon. Although it can be difficult to make solid plans at the moment, set yourself some hopes and goals and begin working your way towards them! You can beat those winter blues!
If you need help or just want to talk, here are suggestions of professionals and organisations experienced in supporting young people