Let's Talk About the Winter BluesFeb 11, 2022
Although we're well into winter, I wanted to post my annual list of things I’ve found help keep me afloat during the dark winter months:
Use a Happy Light: chemically, my brain has a hard time shutting off melatonin production when it’s dark and overcast which leaves me feeling sleepy, heavy and foggy all day. My “happy light” mimics blue sky and tells my brain its daytime. I typically have the light running in the morning for 15 minutes while I’m making school lunches but sometimes also need to run it again around lunch time. You can find a newer version to the one I have here.
Get outside every day: this takes discipline when I’m super busy, but during the dark winter months getting outside – especially on a sunny day – is often the difference between feeling fine and feeling miserable.
Move every day: getting my heart rate up not only helps me feel awake, but it also helps burn through the anxiety that often comes with my winter blues. Normally, I like to take 1-2 recovery days a week, but during the dark winter months I exercise every day to stay afloat. So I exercise in short, intense intervals to get my heart rate up quickly but not put too much wear and tear on my body.
Make things cozy: taking advantage of the things I like about winter and doing my best to luxuriate in them helps me feel just a little bit more like I’m thriving, and not just barely surviving. Enjoy a cup of high quality hot cocoa, light a fire in the fireplace (even if you’re the only one home to enjoy it), make your favorite soup and warm your hands on the bowl, etc. I just bought a warm, super soft throw blanket and am actually looking forward to curling up with it on the sofa during some nasty winter weather.
Go tanning: most tanning salons offer an inexpensive “Vitamin D” membership during the winter months. It’s typically 1-2x a week for just 4 minutes at the lowest setting, and some winters this has been really helpful for me (other winters I haven’t felt like I needed it). Yep, I know that tanning salons are TERRIBLE for your skin, but some winters the pros have outweighed the cons. The good news is that you get to decide what is right for you, and I get to decide what is right for me!
Get blood work: I’m often vitamin D and vitamin B12 deficient, both of which can affect energy and mental health. My doctor recommended I supplement and all my bloodwork has come back great since following my doctor’s recommendations. I have definitely done better during the winters when my B12 and vitamin D levels are normal.
Travel somewhere warm & sunny: not realistic or do-able for everyone, but planning trips to sunny locations during January & February help me so much. I usually try to schedule two different trips to soak in some sun, and at least one (or both) is a visit with friends or family to keep it budget-friendly.
Go see your doctor: sometimes all the tips and tricks in the world just aren’t going to keep you afloat and you need medication to support healthy brain function. I have a dear friend who goes on an antidepressant each fall and weans off every spring because for her, winter brings profound seasonal depression. Medication may need to be a priority in your How-to-Survive-Winter game plan.
Here's to hoping you find something in this list that is helpful, and that together we can survive another winter!
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