Combatting the winter blues

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As I sit here, with the early morning winter sun streaming through the window, the prospect of winter doesn’t seem so daunting. But I know, on days where the warm sun is replaced by dark grey cloud, winter can seem never ending.

If like me, you yearn to see the sun and feel its warmth during the winter months, then this time of year can be difficult to get though whilst maintaining a positive outlook.

Although Christmas can generate thoughts of warm fires, joy and comfort for many, there are also many who do not celebrate Christmas or do not particularly look forward to the big day. Also, with Christmas likely to be very different this year, you may find yourself not feeling the relief the festive season provides in the same way as you normally might.

Feeling blue during winter is extremely common and something which makes sense when we think about our ancestors.

If we go way back to ancient history, winter would have been a time when food was more difficult to come by. It would make sense for us to sleep more to conserve energy and eat more when we could, to get us through periods where they may be little food. Eating more and feeling more tired can make us sluggish and reluctant to do much, including activities we would normally enjoy.

In the modern world, we force ourselves to maintain a similar lifestyle to the one we did in summer (all be it with a few more mince pies). We still get up at the same time each morning, even if its pitch black, and we still place the same expectations on ourselves to be productive, even though we find ourselves struggling to do so.

So, what can we do to get ourselves through winter and into the spring without feeling quite so run down?

Here are a few ideas:

1. Invest in an alarm clock that wakes you up with light.

Being jolted awake by a piercing noise is extremely unpleasant, especially on cold, dark mornings. In contrast, when we are aware that the room is getting lighter (as it does in summer), we gradually become more awake.

Waking up gradually means a more natural and pleasant start to your morning, putting you in a better mood. You are also more likely to start the day off on a productive note and get out of bed without having to hit snooze 5 times in a row when you wake up naturally (although no promises!).

2. Consider getting outside around midday and taking a vitamin D supplement.

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to increased anxiety and depression. So, it’s not surprising that people seem to struggle more when they are spending less time out in the sun (which is how we get vitamin D).

If its possible for you to leave the house, getting outside in the middle of the day when the sun is at its strongest could help boost your vitamin D levels. But remember, the amount of time you need to spend in the sun will depend on the sun’s strength, how much of your skin is exposed, your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight and how much vitamin D you are already getting from the food you eat. So, even though going for a winter stroll for half an hour won’t do you any harm, you may still not be getting as much vitamin D as you need.

You may want to consider topping up your vitamin D levels with a supplement to make sure you are getting enough during the winter months. Just be careful not to go over the recommended daily amount if you do choose to supplement. You should always do your research and consider talking to a doctor before taking anything.

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3. Stay hydrated.

We can be more reluctant to drink water in colder weather and more likely to reach for a hot caffeinated drink like tea or coffee instead. But staying hydrated is vitally important for maintaining your energy levels. If drinking water is unappealing during winter, try alternating your tea and coffee with a non-caffeinated hot drink like hot chocolate, camomile tea or peppermint tea.

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4. Attempt tasks in small bites.

Our attention span is likely to be reduced if we are feeling groggy and a little bit down. This can make it harder to summon up the will power to complete tasks that we would have completed with ease in the summer.

If you find yourself regularly putting off a task, consider breaking it down into smaller, bite sized chunks. Much like an advent calendar, (where you open one square each day), doing a small part of a bigger task each day will mean it takes you longer to finish than if you did it all in one go. But you will eventually get there. The same cannot be said if you never summon the will power to do it all at once.

5. Laugh.

Laughter is a huge mood booster, try planning some activities that will get you properly laughing (not just half smiling like you do when you see a funny meme). Try watching stand up on Netflix, pulling funny faces at your younger relatives on FaceTime, forcing your friends to play Zoom charades or dancing around your living room to some cheesy tunes, whatever it is that gets you laughing, do it.

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6. Reach out for help if you think it may be more than just the winter blues.

Like I’ve said, feeling a bit fed up during winter is perfectly normal, but this year will likely be more difficult than most winters for many people. If you feel as though your mood is lower than normal this winter, it is worth considering talking to a counsellor about the way you feel.

Having counselling is nothing to be ashamed of. Now more than ever, people are emphasising the importance of speaking out and getting help. People who would have possibly never considered the idea of counselling before, are starting to do so. These are challenging times we are living in, and the best way to get through them is to give yourself the respect and support you need.

I will always be here if you decide to explore the option of counselling. You can contact me on: 07588 117305 or at: sophie@sbcounselling.co.uk .

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