The dates in our calendars transition to the 11th month of the year and with it comes the November chill in the air and anticipation of the holidays ahead. Winter has arrived. And for many, this seasonal shift can be met with trepidation. As the temperatures get colder and the hours of daylight shorter, you may be feeling anxious, isolated, exhausted, numb, lonely or melancholy. You are not alone.
People often joke about the “winter blues” but there is truth in the pain underneath these jokes, because the impact of the darker, colder months on our mood can be extremely profound.
Feeling “low” in the winter does not make you “bad,” “wrong,” or “weak.” It’s human! But by bringing awareness to the ways in which our emotions may be influenced by our circumstances we can reclaim some power over our perspective and responses.
Feeling down is valid and allowed, but knowing that the winter weather may be a particular struggle can also help equip us to be proactive in thinking about what we might need during this season to lessen that ache, or offer a new perspective? When winter comes knocking, how can you answer the door with grace and compassion?
- Take Vitamin D. Vitamin D nutrients help to keep your bones, teeth and muscles healthy. The human body creates Vitamin D from direct sunlight when outdoors. From late March until the end of September, humans receive their recommended Vitamin D from sunlight, but during the winter months we don’t make enough Vitamin D from sunlight. So, many people find it helpful to take Vitamin D tablets or supplements to keep themselves healthy and alert during the winter!
- Purchase a sun lamp. If you’re financially able to do so, many people report improvements to mental health by using a sun lamp to mimic natural outdoor light. Research about the positive impact of Vitamin D and sun lamps for seasonal depression isn’t conclusive, but most doctors suggest we have nothing to lose by trying to use them during the winter months as some studies link them to improved mood. The light from the lamp is believed to have a positive impact on serotonin and melatonin, helping to control your sleep and wake cycle as well as reduce anxiety.
- Get outside. Try to experience as much daylight as possible by planning small activities that require you leaving the house (especially helpful when working from home) and being proactive in laying out the “bundle up” clothing needed to get you up and out of the house. Could you meet a friend for coffee? Take a mindful walk in the morning or over your lunch break? Head to your sisters’ house to do a virtual yoga class together? Volunteer at your local soup kitchen?
- Make a list. On this list write down the things in the colder, winter months that may be particularly fun to look forward to. For me, it’s gingerbread flavored lattes, holiday markets and talking walks to look at holiday lights, festive gatherings with friends and family and scented candles.
- Prioritize connection. In winter it can feel very easy to isolate yourself (who wants to leave the house after dark!?). But it is very important to stay connected with friends and loved ones (either in person or virtually via Zoom, Facetime, etc.) to remember that you are not alone. If you’re feeling sad or the particular weight of winter, please don’t be afraid to reach out, let others know how you’re feeling and ask for help! Connection is one of the ultimate remedies for the winter blues.
Holidays aside, the general cold and darkness that blankets us in the winter can feel like a heavy burden. I hope the above tips provide you with some warmth, peace and comfort this season.