October 17, 2022

Worried about feeling down as winter approaches? These self-care strategies can help

I relate to chipmunks this time of year. I too feel called to retreat to my burrow as my mood plummets along with the temperature and a deficit of daylight hours leaves me mourning the summer months.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, fittingly shortened to SAD, affects people worldwide, with many more coping with milder symptoms of seasonal-related mood disruptions. Experiencing feelings of discontent, sadness, low energy levels, and lack of interest in activities is common as we make the transition to winter.

Since entering hibernation is unrealistic for us humans, here are five simple self-care strategies that can help make the winter blues a little brighter this year.

  1. Look for the gifts. Shift your perspective from what is lacking to what is abundant. Rather than focusing your attention on the chill in the air, notice how it feels to put on a pair of wooly socks or a cozy sweater. Perhaps the simple act of lighting some candles can contribute to a sense of joy when lamenting the darkness. By intentionally practicing gratitude we can shift our perspective to positively influence our mental well-being.
  2. Get social, even when you don’t want to. As tempting as it is to embrace the comforts of solitude, isolation contributes to depressive symptoms, while connecting with others actually improves our emotional health. Make it a point to dedicate some energy to family, friends, or community. If leaving the house feels like a struggle, invite people to you, set up a standing Zoom date, or consider participating in an online forum of like-minded people. eM Life’s Mindful Daily practices are a great way to engage with a remote community.
  3. Move your body to move your mood. Being active is a proven way to boost your mood. You don’t need to invest in ski equipment or join a fitness program to reap the benefits of movement. Gentle, low impact activities are great ways to de-stress, relieve tension and re-balance negative emotions. Try bundling up and going for a mid-day walk to soak up some natural light, or practicing other forms of mindful movement indoors.
  4. Be the support you need the most. Supporting ourselves with self-compassion is a powerful thing, proven to help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression. A useful habit to develop is the mindful check-in. Ask yourself, “What is it I need right now to feel well?” Is it a home-cooked meal, or a hot cup of tea? Maybe it’s catching up on some just-for-fun reading, or doing absolutely nothing at all. Learning how to tune into your true needs is a critical step to identifying what would be most nurturing in the moment.
  5. Finally, give yourself permission to be human. Some days feel harder than others—it’s part of our shared experience. Allow yourself to slow down and take the time you need to recharge your batteries, without judging yourself. Instead of beating yourself up for not being productive, tame the voice of your inner critic by introducing it to positive self-talk. Note that while it’s perfectly natural to take some time to lay low when navigating difficult emotions, it’s also a good idea to seek support if you find your mental health is not improving.

Written by Annie Slaby