5 Strategies to Fight the Winter Blues

December 9, 2014

5 Strategies to Fight the Winter Blues

By: Stephanie Simpson

The winter season brings holiday cheer and a time to make lasting memories with family and friends. It is a time of year filled with joy, anticipation and wonder. However, for many of us, the hustle and bustle of the holiday spirit is overshadowed by feelings of sadness and dread.

The “winter blues” are characterized by feelings of mild depression, hopelessness, fatigue, insomnia/hypersomnia, and low energy. If you notice that you are experiencing one or more of these, know that you are not alone and there are strategies to help boost your mood this time of year:

Exercise: It is a known fact that the chemicals produced during high intensity exercise result in an increase in energy and an elevated mood, often lasting several hours. This is not only a great way to battle seasonal weight gain, but a long term tool to boost your metabolism.

Watch your nutrition: It seems like everywhere we turn this time of year, we are faced with a sweet temptation just begging us to dig in. It is during this time it is important to focus on that phrase “everything in moderation.” Don’t beat yourself up over that piece of pumpkin pie (or two) but try to limit your consumption. Overeating often leads to guilt and lethargy. If you find yourself indulging more than you should, step up that time at the gym, increase your water intake, and before a holiday event where you know there will be temptation, fill up beforehand on health food choices.

Avoid urges to isolate or withdraw: When we feel sad or down, it is not unusual to feel unmotivated to leave to house or socialize. Holiday parties and family gatherings can be fun, but for those struggling with a more negative state of mind, these events can produce high levels of anxiety. Once people begin to isolate themselves, it can create a cycle of withdrawal that actually worsens the mood, worries loved ones and becomes difficult to stop. If you notice that you are experiencing symptoms of the “winter blues,” check in with yourself daily: Am I avoiding commitments? Did I leave the house today? Am I declining invitations to spend time with people? If you notice yourself isolating, start small with a trip to the store, or call a friend and ask to have coffee.
Make time for mastery/enjoyment: Our mood is improved when we carve out time to do things that we are good at and things we enjoy. When we don’t allow ourselves enough time to take pleasure in what makes us happy, we are actively neglecting out self-care. If you are pianist that has neglecting your instrument, be sure to dust off the keys and return to your passion. The holidays can also become all about the kids—be sure to have fun WITH them, but parents, also allow some well-earned time to enjoy yourselves.

Get outdoors: The winter season is often accompanied by some frigid temperatures, but whenever possible, bundle up and get outside! Sunlight provides us with Vitamin D, and studies have shown that it actually improves our mood. In the winter months, the days become shorter, giving us less time with the sun and leaving us more vulnerable to mild depressive symptoms. Increasing our exposure to the sun is a natural way to combat sadness during these months, so open the curtains and layer up outside to boost your state of mind.

If you notice this pattern corresponding with the seasons, beginning and ending at the same time every year, you may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder, or (SAD.) If you or someone you know is struggling with mood instability, please contact Associates in Psychotherapy at (866) 220-8371 for a consultation.