How to Cope with the Winter Blues

It isn't uncommon for the changing of the seasons to have an impact on our emotional wellbeing, especially here in the PNW when it gets dark earlier and winter rains seem to fall for months on end.

Another aspect that often plays a role in the winter blues is that with the winter months come the holiday season. In a perfect world, the holiday season is a time of joy, healthy and happy family coming together to celebrate, exchanging gifts with those you love, and being cozy with bellies full of delicious food, In reality, the holidays are often a source of sadness for those who do not have family or friends to share their time with, for those who are grieving the loss of their loved one/s, for those who are without a home or food to eat, and for those who have difficult memories of previous holidays. Many are grateful and relieved that the holidays are passed. Many are drowning in debt from holiday expenditures and self-imposed pressure to buy gifts for everyone. Whatever the case, the Winter season can be rough and the more emotional armor we have to feel good, the better. Here are some ways to cope:

Healthy diet and exercise: While winter months are often more sedentary and can be an easy time to enjoy holiday treats and comfort foods, such foods can leave us feeling drained of energy and bogged down. It also contributes to low self-esteem. Studies show that a diet consisting of whole foods and minimal sugar reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Exercise: I can't emphasize this one enough. What I can emphasize though, is how hard it can be to feel motivated to exercise. Exercise is an amazing way to feel more confident, energized, and emotionally stable. And this doesn't mean you need to run 10 miles every morning, you can start with some morning stretches, then work your way up to a walk around the neighborhood and so on. Process, not perfection!

Do things you enjoy: Makes sense, right?! We do things we enjoy for that very reason. The last thing a depressed mood wants us to do is enjoy ourselves. It wants us to lay in bed all day, feel terrible about ourselves, and wallow in our sadness. So, even if it takes every last bit of energy you have to engage in an activity that brings you joy, by all means, do it! Here are some ideas in case you need help getting started: Work on a puzzle, paint or draw a picture, dance, search Pinterest for DIY projects, clean house (that really does make a lot of people happy!), cook a meal that you are good at making, go for a walk or hike, listen to your favorite songs, watch a funny movie, take a hot bubble bath...

Get outside (rain or shine!): Fresh air is so important. Cool and dark winter months mean spending more time indoors. Try spending at least 10 minutes per day enjoying some fresh air. If you need to bundle up, do what you need to do and get out there!

Take vitamin supplements: Talk to your medical provider for recommendations.

Make time to be social:

A common thing to do when we feel down and depressed is to become withdrawn and isolate ourselves from others. It is common for people to fear that they will be a burden to others if they are sad. It is also common for a depressed mood to cause us to feel tired and unmotivated. Finding balance between spending time alone and spending time with others can often lead to improved mood. The point is, you never have to be alone with your feelings. Call a friend or family member. Go somewhere with a lot of people and people watch. Volunteer your time somewhere. Those are just some ideas. You get to decide what works best for you!


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