I definitely enjoy indulging in all-things cozy this time of year. Putting on a pair of luxe pajamas, snuggling up with a even more luxe faux fur blanket, and sipping on a hot cup of tea is what I live for! Honestly, the holidays really make the end of Fall/beginning of Winter my favorite time of the year. But, without sounding too melodramatic, once the Christmas decorations are packed away and family and friends have said their goodbyes, the short days, lack of sunshine, and seemingly endless cold is enough to make a person want to run away to Hawaii until mid-April! Enter the Winter Blues . . .
Whether you endue a mild case of Winter doldrums or clinical Winter-onset depression, known Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), during this time of year, our moods can often resemble the landscape we see — cold, dark and nasty.
Luckily, there are a few ways to ensure you’re prepared for the worst of Winter to make the next couple months a little more bearable.
Keep reading for my tricks for boosting your spirits, staying healthy and surviving the brutal Winter.
What is SAD?
Our lives naturally slow down during the Winter months. The days become shorter, light becomes scarce, and some of us respond by planting ourselves in front of the television or bundling up under the covers to stay warm. But how do we know when a seasonal slump is a more serious issue?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as the Winter blue or seasonal depression, typically occurs in the middle of Fall when the days get shorter and increases during the Winter months (though some people can also experience SAD during Spring or Summer).
Researchers have yet to uncover the specific cause for SAD. “But they think it may be caused by a lack of sunlight,” according to an article on WebMD. “Lack of light may upset your ‘biological clock,’ which controls your sleep-wake pattern and other circadian rhythms,” and “cause problems with serotonin.”
Some of the symptoms include feeling grumpy, moody or anxious, fatigue, social withdrawal, lose of interest or concentration in your usual activities, and increased appetite.
Sure, everyone has days during the Winter when they feel sluggish or unmotivated. But if your symptoms are causing disruptions in your life, then don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional. WebMD says if your symptoms occur for days at a time and/or you’ve felt the same symptoms for the past few Winters, then you might need to open up a conversation with your doctor.
However, before you start reaching for any medication, there are a few things you can do that will help with the normal ups and downs of the Winter season.
After the rush of the holiday season ends, a lot of us go back to our daily grind and start to experience feelings of loneliness. But “it’s been shown that socializing is good for your mental health and helps ward off the Winter blues,” according to an NHS article. So pause Netflix and call your friend back to confirm that coffee date.
Making plans with friends and getting out of the house does wonders for my mental health during these frigid cold months. Even inviting friends over for a casual night in and ordering pizza is always a nice change of pace.
Get cozy af.
In the same NHS article, “being cold makes you more depressed” and “it’s also been shown that staying warm can reduce Winter blues by half.” So take a cue from Scandinavians and embrace the cold by adding a little hygge to your life. The Danes use Winter as a time to slow down and enjoy being at home, reflecting, and spending quality time with friends and family.
By changing your mindset to embrace Winter rather than resist it, you can actually enjoy this time of year. Keep warm with hot drinks and warm food, and splurge on a pair of cozy pajamas and slippers.
Take a group exercise class.
Hitting the gym is a hard sell when the temperature plummet, and it’s very tempting to spend the next two months curled up on your couch. But inactivity only exacerbates our negative moods. Getting into a regular exercise regimen is a great defense against the Winter blues, that can help improve your mood and boost your energy.
And while any sort of exercise will make you feel better, I find going to a few classes to be the most invigorating when I’m feeling the Winter blues. Not only are you getting yourself out of the house, but it’s a chance to get social.
My favorite is hot yoga — I love the energy in the room of people flowing and om-ing! Plus, the heat also makes me temporarily forget that’s it’s freezing outside! If you don’t have the money for a class, grab your roommate or invite some friends over and try out some of these mood-boosting workouts.
Try getting outside.
We spend a lot more time inside during the Winter and, not only is all the sitting unhealthy, it’s isolating and not mentally stimulating to spend hours in your house or apartment. However, getting outside (no matter how cold!) can improve creativity, concentration, lower stress levels, and reduce symptoms of SAD.
So when the sun is shining, I force myself to go outside to soak up some vitamin D, even if it’s just for ten minutes. There’s something so peaceful about the solitude and space outside during this time of year. On days where it’s cloudy or super cold out, I’ll open up the shades to let some light in.
Take a trip.
If you’re lucky enough to work from home or have flexible office hours, why not get away from it all! A few years ago, my family and I took a cruise the week of Christmas to Cozumel, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Being able to escape the cold weather and grey skies for a few days was sooo nice! Whether a week long vacation or a short weekend road trip, you’ll return with a much better attitude which helps getting through the last few weeks of Winter.
Traveling somewhere warm, or even somewhere different, can be a great way to boost your mood. And during this time of year, vacation prices are often lower. Lots of airlines have great Winter deals to warmer destinations both domestic and international. So, if it’s in your budget, do a quick search and book a ticket for a quick (or long) refresh!
Even if you have to wait until Spring or Summer to actually take your trip, some studies have shown that people got a greater boost of happiness from the anticipation of the trip than from the trip itself. So use the heart of Winter to plan something to look forward to for the warmer months if you can’t really take a trip right now.
Create a self-care routine.
This has been the key to successfully getting through the Winter for me personally. Adopting a regular self-care routine during the Winter months can really help to remedy a low mood.
I like to make myself a cup of hot tea as soon as I get home from work. Then I take off my makeup, put on a hydrating mask, and so some light stretching. After blogging for about an hour or two, I’ll light my favorite lavender candle, tidy up my room a bit and do some light meditation to fall asleep.
So ask yourself, what can I do to make myself feel good? Adapting nurturing habits, such as eating a healthy dinner, taking a warm bath, or some light stretching, can all take the edge off feelings of anxiety and depression that are associate with the Winter blues.
Embrace the season.
Seeing Winter in a positive light will keep your spirits high! Instead of avoiding the cold, look for the best Winter has to offer. I know, it’s easier said than done. But use this time of year for rest and reflection – – a season of long reads by the fire, indulging in flavorful teas and soups, and getting close to those around you. Enjoy the opportunities while they last, because, after all, they’re only here for a few months.
It is totally normal if the cooler months make you feel tired, agitated and depressed. It’s not your fault at all! Breathe deeply, plan a healthier lifestyle, and be kind to yourself. And don’t beat yourself up if your symptoms don’t improve right away. Consider these changes so you can start managing seasonal affective disorder, and if you still find yourself in a slump after a week or two, never hesitate to seek out professional help.