5 Ways to Survive the Winter Blues
“Winter Blues” is a pretty straightforward phenomenon that most of us are familiar with: this idea that our moods tend to tank a bit in the winter. Between January and March it’s tough to keep our moods elevated. Other than taking a Sabbatical to Mexico, what’s a person to do? Here are a few ideas:
- Embrace your inner igloo! Winter is meant to be a time of hibernation—it’s a time when nature shuts down and gets ready for new life in the Spring. So if you’re feeling a pull to hibernate, by all means do it! Instead of cursing the weather, roll with it! Make hot cups of cocoa, cuddle in fuzzy blankets, let yourself sleep a little later to take advantage of the great sleeping weather, have movie marathons. When we simply accept what IS, rather than fight against it, there may be peace and pleasure there that we didn’t even know could exist.
- Connect with the outside world. For some people, the abundance of social events in the Summer and through the Holidays immediately followed by the stark contrast of winter isolation can feel like too much. So if that’s you, get out! Make plans with friends, instead of taking a solo run outside, join a gym where you can be surrounded by people, get a monthly book club in your calendar or sign-up for a sport so that you have something to look forward to on a regular basis.
- Get moving! Exercise has tremendous benefits not only for our bodies, but for our mood as well. Thanks to endorphins that are released when we are physically active, we might immediately or shortly thereafter experience a boost in our mood. And you don’t need a fancy gym membership to take advance of this chemical hack! Run the stairs at work for part of your lunch break, take a brisk walk around the block, do some jumping jacks or burpees as soon as you get home from work. Anything that gets your heart pumping for even a short amount of time (10-15 minutes), will give you that endorphin bump that is bound to make you feel good.
- Increase your Vitamin D. Most people are remarkably low in this vitamin as a baseline, but even more so in cold weather climates where they experience long and/or harsh winters. Get outside on sunny days, even if it’s cold. If more sunlight isn’t an option, talk to you doctor about starting a Vitamin D supplement. And if you don’t mind throwing some money at the problem, a light box isn’t a bad thing to consider! According to the Mayo Clinic, light therapy boxes are effective at reducing symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder and even more effective when a light box is combined with therapy or medication. As always, please consult with your doctor before making any of these medical choices on your own.
- See professional help. If you’ve tried everything though, and/or your sadness is getting in the way of living the kind of life that you want or functioning like you need to, it’s time to ask for help. For instance, if your symptoms are most of the day and most days of the week, or if you’re having serious trouble in one or more areas of your life (like it’s difficult to get out of bed most mornings), these are signs that you need outside assistance to move through this difficult period. There are many websites that can help you find a therapist that would be a right match for you. Jump online and find one. You’ll be glad that you did.
Available for Interviews: Dr. Colleen Cira, Psy.D.
Dr. Colleen Cira received both her Masters and Doctorate from The Illinois School of Professional Psychology and is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the State of Illinois. She’s the Founder and Executive Director of Cira Center for Behavioral Health, PC, a boutique group practice specializing in Women and Trauma with locations in Chicago and Oak Park.
She was named one of the “Top 100 Women in Chicago Making a Difference,” by Today’s Chicago Woman. Dr. Cira is a trauma and anxiety expert, clinical supervisor, writer, speaker, consultant, activist, wife, and Mommy to two little ones.
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